Christmas Around the World

Hello Friends

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.

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Thanksgiving

I love this time of year.  There are so many things to be thankful for, one of which is the opportunity to home-school my kids.  And I really do enjoy pulling together resources that will make their lessons stick.  So, here I am, just as promised, with a cornucopia of websites.  God Bless!

Crafts: I really looked for crafts that stood out.  These sites had the best ones.

BETTER HOMES & GARDENS — From the magazine company comes this web page with some great crafts.  Some are edible and some are just for decor.  I am sure that you will find something you like.  But watch out for noisy advertisements on the page.

Wild Turkey — I wanted to offer some advice on this specific craft from Better Homes & Gardens.  We did a craft like this a couple years ago, spelling out “Give Thanks” with different media we found in the yard and in the house (leaves, popcorn, feathers, cloves, noodles, etc.)  This can get very messy.  And, to display, you need to be sure that it is completely dry.  Use a thumb tack, not tape or poster putty, because it becomes very heavy on the front.

ENCHANTED LEARNING: Leaf Garland — Enchanted Learning is a great site for resources and ideas, but some things are only accessible to members.  This leaf garland, however, is open for all to use and has the potential to be saved for future use.

DLTK — DLTK is always one of my favorite sites for printables and crafts, and I especially like these Thanksgiving lace-ups.  They provide a great opportunity for your kids to learn hand-eye coordination.

FAMILY FUN — This magazine is so much fun and I am glad that they keep all of their projects online.  Be sure to check out the section on appetizers.  My favorite is the Fruit Gobbler.  He is an excellent craft and a healthy snack for your kiddos who get tired of waiting for the big dinner to get done.  And he is an extra cute centerpiece to boot!

123HOLIDAY — This page has some very basic crafts, but the one I most want to point out is the “Spice Turkey.”  It is a great chance to incorporate another one of the senses into your crafting.  Your sense of smell!  Check it out.

THEHOLIDAYSPOT — The holiday spot is an excellent source for all holidays and Thanksgiving is no different.  This page offers some great ideas for a tablecloth and placemats.  Letting your child help make these more permanent crafts will let him/her feel like they have helped to make the meal special and, each year when you bring it back out, memories of the time you spent making it.

FREE KIDS CRAFTS — I had to include your basic Thanksgiving chain after I heard how my pastor’s wife does theirs every year.  Each year they keep a prayer notebook and are careful to markdown how God answers each one.  Then, when it is time to decorate for Thanksgiving, they write each answer to prayer from the entire year on a link.  As the chain gets longer, it is a reminder of God’s faithfulness.  The chain stays up through December and becomes part of their Christmas decorations.  This website has cute fall printables that you can add to your chain.

Printables: Sometimes you just need something to fill in the gaps, or to give your child something to do on their own while you fix dinner.  These printables will do just that.

MAKING FRIENDS — This website has some very cute printables.  The include paper dolls, word searches, and coloring pages of funny looking pilgrims.  They are sure to get your kids attention.

PEPPERMINT LANE —  This site offers coloring pages that are both educational and just fun.  They are easy enough for your little ones to enjoy while still being intricate enough not to bore the older kids.

MINISTRY-TO-CHILDREN — Ministry-To-Children offers this great printable coloring page of a tree with leaves to add for things for which you are grateful.

History:  Thanksgiving is a perfect opportunity to bring history to life.  There is a real, concrete reason for the holiday and most of us know it.  Make sure your kids do too.

PILGRIM HALL — Take a virtual tour of Pilgrim Hall.  Built in 1824, it is the nation’s oldest continuously operated museum and features a large collection of Pilgrim possessions, including William Bradford’s Bible.

SHERWOOD TIMES — This site offers well-written history that is easy to understand and features quotes from Puritans and some lesser known facts.

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC FOR KIDS — Good read-able history with some great living history pictures.

PLIMOTH PLANTATION — The website for the living history village of the Pilgrims.  There is history, games, and videos.  If you visit soon, you can sign up for the live webcast on November 16, 2010, sponsored by Scholastic.

SCHOLASTIC — Full of history and lesson plans, visit Scholastic to sign up for the November 16th Virtual Field Trip.

THE UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA — The Mayflower Compact!

THE WILLIAM BRADFORD WEBSITE — Learn all about Pilgrim, William Bradford, from one of his descendants.

JOHN CARVER — Learn about the first governor of Plymouth Colony.

MILES STANDISH — Learn all about this military advisor to the Puritans.

PILGRIM OR PURITAN — What IS the difference between a Pilgrim and a Puritan?  Find out at this website.

MAYFLOWER HISTORY — At this website you can read letters written to and by the Pilgrims, as well as beginning your search to find out if one of your ancestors was a Plymouth Colonists.

Miscellaneous: These websites may fit more than one category or none at all.  Regardless, they are still sites you should check out.

THE HOLIDAY ZONE — This is a great all-around site.  You can find history, arts, crafts, printables, and lesson guides.

THE KIDDY HOUSE — Another great all-around site where you can find just about anything about Thanksgiving, including links to other harvest celebrations around the world.

NYCTOURIST — One of our family traditions includes watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.  Learn all about it here!

HISTORY — I have made it a point to check this website for the History Channel on all of my unit studies.  They have great videos and the kids enjoy being able to watch a movie on Mom’s computer.

NATIONAL WILD TURKEY FEDERATION — A lesson on turkeys just to make your Thanksgiving study complete.