These notes are burning a whole on my desk. ;) So, even though they are too early for next year, I’m going to go ahead and post my links for our study on Christmas Around the World.
Every year, we take the month of December pretty easy. There are always way more activities than there is time to do them. One of our family traditions is to attend the local community theater production of Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol.” My kids and I have been attending the matinee showing dedicated to the local schools for the last three years, and it never fails to disappoint. This year, I have been co-teaching a drama class and we were proud to put on a production of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” with two performances and our home school group went Christmas caroling. As you can see, this year proved no different in the amount of activities that we participated in.
In conjunction with this unit, I taught a Christmas Cooking Around the World class for our home school group. Those who attended had a ton of fun and appear in some of the pictures posted below.
The first country we studied was Mexico. In Mexico, Christmas is a community event and the last two weeks of December are vacation days for everyone. We learned about the custom of Los Posados. In this tradition, neighborhood children recreate the travels of Mary and Joseph in their attempts to find a place to rest. Each home in the neighborhood will take a turn hosting on a different night. Children knock on the doors of three different houses asking for lodging and at the first two, are turned away (There is no room in the inn). At the third home, the children are invited in and a party ensues. Often the party involves a pinata. Children in Mexico do not receive presents from Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Eve, families attend what is known as a Rooster Mass in their local churches. This midnight mass goes far into the night and early morning hours. When it is over, families gather together and eat foods like Tamales and drink atole (a thick hot chocolate). When the fun is done, individual families return home for a day of rest. Children will finally receive their gifts on the day commonly known as Epiphany (January 6). This is the day that the church celebrates the coming of the Wise Men to visit the baby Jesus and children pretend that their gifts are also from the wise men.
To learn more about Christmas traditions in Mexico visit: MexConnect
Learn about the Christmas flower native to Mexico and read The Legend of the Poinsettia at Why Christmas.
To recreate your own Mexican Atole, visit All Recipes.com
The next week we learned about celebrating Christmas in Sweden. A Swedish Christmas begins on December 13th with Saint Lucia Day. On this day, the eldest girl of the house will dress in a white robe with a red sash and wear a wreath on her head with lit candles. She will then go about the house carrying a tray of baked goods and coffee and wake the other members of the family. Other young girls in the house will be her attendants and the young boys may wear a tall pointed hat with a star on it. Another holiday tradition includes making ornaments out of straw, to remember that Baby Jesus was born in a manger. And, did you know that our idea of a smorgasbord comes from the Swedish customs of creating a buffet and “pigging out?”
This was also the first country that we shared with our home school group. For class we made Pepparkakor, a Swedish spice cookie similar to a ginger snap. Unfortunately, I am unable to locate the recipe that we used (I wrote it down and forgot to bookmark it), but here is another one for you. This is almost identical to the one we used.
Most of my information on Sweden came from Santas.net and The History of Christmas .
The next culture that we studied was Hawaii. While not another country, Hawaii has customs unique themselves and others shared with the other islands of the south Pacific. Remember when reading and trying to pronounce Hawaiian, pronounce everything. Merry Christmas is said “Mele Kelikimaka” (may-lay keh-lee-kee-mah-kah). In Hawaii, Santa arrives in board shorts on a surfboard. And one bad delivery of evergreens from the mainland, means that you will decorate a palm tree instead of a Douglas Fir.
For cooking class, we made miniature Sweet Potato Haupia pies. To make this dish authentically you should use a sweet potato native to the islands like the Okinawan Sweet Potato. This vegetable is a deep purple, similar to that of eggplant. It has a mild flavor and creates a beautiful purple cheesecake. Haupia (hah-oo-pee-ah) is a coconut milk pudding that is poured over the top of the cheesecake. Now, I live in a small town in the completely landlocked state of Nebraska and was unable to find Okinawan Sweet Potatoes so we used normal sweet potatoes and our cheesecake had a very pretty pale orange color and was very rich in flavor. One final note before you recreate this recipe…be sure to shake your can of coconut milk! As it ages, it will separate in the can and the milk fat will solidify. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this, but it is harder to use as we found out. Recipe for Sweet Potato Haupia Pie (Sweet Potato Cheescake)
This picture is what our mini pies looked like.
The second picture features two students “patiently” stirring the Haupia mixture and waiting for it to thicken.
For this lesson, we also spent time looking at videos on YouTube. Here are a few of our favorites. This first video takes images from Christmas celebrations around the island and put them to the song “Mele Kalikimaka” by Bing Crosby. The kids found the surfing Santa to be hilarious. This second video also features pictures from the islands and puts them to a hilarious Hawaiian version of “The 12 Days of Christmas” called “Numbah One Day of Christmas”. (WARNING: The song does mention beer. If this offends you or is something you do not want to share with your kids consider yourself warned.)
Our fourth week of December was supposed to be spent learning about Russia, but illness and a busy schedule prevailed. However, I would still like to share with you my plans for learning about Christmas in Russia.
Due to the Communist take over, Christmas was not celebrated in Russia for much of the 20th Century. Since 1992, Russians have been relearning about the true meaning of Christmas. For class, we were going to make Koliadki cookies. These cookies are made to pass out to carolers that come to your door. It was also my intent to make paper nesting dolls. There is an excellent pattern at Activity Village .
Information about Christmas in Russia
Koliadki Cookies Recipe
Well, that about sums it up. I would like to leave you with a few more ideas and websites.
Santa’s Net is good source of information about Christmas customs around the world.
The History of Christmas is another excellent source for all things Christmas.
Greatcom.org is a website where teachers can post lesson plans and this link is to another Christmas Around the World lesson plan outline.
Maybe, you would like to do your own Christmas Around the World study but cover more countries with less depth. This Advent calendar is a great place to start. Each year the people at Woodlands Junior School create a new online advent calendar. Each day you can visit the site and click on the date. You will be taken to an introductory page for the country where you can try to take a guess based on the clues given. When you think you know the answer, click and you’ll be taken to a page that gives you more information.
And, from Teaching Mom.com, comes this schedule/lesson plan for Christmas Around the World. It features a different country everyday, with links for recipes and craft projects.
I hope and pray that this will bless you the same way that it has blessed me. And that, whenever and however you decide to celebrate Christmas, you will remember the most important gifts of all. The Savior who came to earth as a baby and His precious gift of salvation.