Christmas Around The World For Children
Do you work in an educational setting for children, or are you the parent, grand-parent or "significant other" of a child? If so, you are well aware of the kids' excitement level for the Holiday Season. Fun and engaging activities can help hold their attention (and our own) and have a positive impact on the whole Holiday experience.
A Christmas Around the World thematic unit is a great way to engage children and to introduce them to the concept of cultural diversity.Print up some pretend tickets and passports, log onto Google Earth and project with a Smart Board or projection screen and zoom in to your destination.
Kids will love learning about other countries and cultures. Set up an interest center with books about other places. Any old travel post cards or travel brochures would be great. Ask friends and family, or send a letter home asking for help from parents with photos, souvenirs, travel brochures and post cards.
A thematic unit is a series of lessons that revolve around a central theme or idea. The theme is incorporated into areas of basic skills (Math,Reading and Writing). The central theme is typically a Science or Social Studies concept.
State standards for curriculum instruction in Social Studies in the early years typically include students being able to locate topographical features of the earth's surface, naming continents and exploration and acceptance of differing cultures. Math and Language Arts activities included should align easily with state standards in all states.
If you are a Home Schooling parent, just a parent or grandparent hopefully something here will be useful. Be sure to provide access to a globe and atlas. As you study each country's customs incorporate map skills into the activities.
Christmas in Mexico was originally called Three Kings Day and was celebrated on the sixth of January. In more modern day Mexico it is celebrated on December twenty-fifth like much of the rest of the world. Lots of big fiestas, or parties are held.
The most prominent party is the Posada, or Parade of Mary and Joseph. Children dress as Mary and Joseph. Joseph leads Mary, riding on a donkey, as a choir of children follow and knock on doors pretending to find a room for Mary to rest and give birth. Afterwards the children celebrate with a Pinata.
A sweet ring-shaped loaf cake called a Rosca is baked with a ceramic baby Jesus doll inside. Whomever gets the slice with the doll baked inside must throw a party for all on the following second of February.
Poinsettias are a popular Christmas flower in Mexico. Using red construction paper the children can follow directions to cut and fold as follows:
- cut a square of red paper by folding and "squaring off" the 11" by 7" sheet.
- cut four inch long slits in each corner.
- label corners A,B,C,D as shown
- fold the labeled corners to the center and secure.
- Add yellow and green tissue wads to the center.
Older children can follow directions and make the poinsettia on their own. For younger children or children with developmental delays simply wadding the tissue paper centers is a good fine motor skills practice.
Relate to Math: recognize attributes and differences of a square and rectangle.
Make a pinata! The video has good clear instructions. Let the class work together to make one pinata. All that is needed is a large punch balloon, newspaper and Elmer's glue and paint for decorating. This is a great cooperative learning activity if you assign three to four (older) students to groups, supply them with the materials and let them go "on their own" to produce the product.
A good positive behavior intervention: Begin your thematic unit with Christmas in Mexico and let the kids earn tokens to exchange for the goodies to fill the Pinata. Play the Pinata game the last day of school before Holiday break!
A whole class project!
Germany is noted for the contribution of the Christmas tree. In Pre-Christian Germany the tree was called Paradise Baum or Tree of Paradise and thought to be a symbol of the Garden Of Eden. Then in the 16th century the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther is said to have lit the first Christmas tree with candles after being inspired by a walk on a starry night.
Early Christmas Trees were decorated with fruit and candles. After hearing the story of the first Christmas tree have children cut out ten green paper "hands" after tracing their own hand. Arrange in a tier on another paper with one hand at the top then rows of two,three and four hands. The "fruit" on the tree can be painted acorns.Children cut one inch white strips of paper for candles. Help younger students by having pre cut yellow flames for the candles.
Math skills: The number 10, ascending order, measuring.
Saint Nicholas Day
The sixth of December is celebrated as Saint Nicholas Day in Germany. On the Eve of that day children set out their shoes and Saint Nicholas, the Patron Saint of Children, goes door to door to fill the children's shoes with either goodies or twigs, depending on their behavior.
Have students compare and contrast Saint Nick Day with the USA Christmas Eve. Lead the younger students in completing a Venn diagram. Older students may be able to complete independently if they are familiar with Venn diagrams.
Have the children trace and cut out the soles of shoe patterns from brown paper.Tracing and cutting are skills that very young children need to develop. Glue twigs on one and pictures of goodies cut from magazines on the other to illustrate this Saint Nicholas Day tradition.
Dickbauch in German means fat stomach and is the name given to Christmas Eve. Legend is that those who don't eat well on this night will be haunted by demons. Lots of regional dishes are served such as suckling pig , sausages and macaroni dishes. On Christmas Day Roast Goose is traditionally served along with Christsollen (a kind of fruit cake), Marzipan (an almond sugar paste), Lebkuchen (similar to gingerbread) and Dressden Stollen (a traditional German bread).
After discussing the foods older students can research on-line for images and recipes. As a Language Arts activity have students write a Holiday dinner menu using foods from their own family traditions.Young children can use inventive spelling as emerging literacy. Older students can use a dictionary for the spelling.
Twenty years ago there would be no signs of Christmas in China as it is basically a Non Christian nation. Today there are many Christmas decorations; however the main holiday in China continues to be the Chinese New Year as the majority of the Chinese are Non Christians. Flowers, chains and lanterns made of paper adorn artificial trees. Bowls of oranges and tangerines symbolize wealth. The elderly are revered with portraits displayed.
Have the students make tissue paper flowers by folding sheets of tissue paper accordion style. Secure the middle by stapling. Then using fingers, pull apart each sheet and fluff them out.
For a Language Arts activity discuss how the Chinese have great reverence for ancestors. Have them draw and color portraits of a great grandparent or grandparent and write about them.
Children will be amazed to see the difference in the Chinese language ideograms as opposed to a phonetic alphabet. Write a few on the board for them to copy on colored construction paper. Then fold them into a cylinder shape and staple. Cut various slits in the paper lantern, fringe the bottom, and add a handle.
Math: geometric solids, cylinder
Paper chaining provides a great opportunity for little ones to practice counting and patterning skills. Depending on developmental levels provide pre-cut multicolored strips or have students cut their own. Guide them in creating a color pattern in their paper chains.
United States of America
America is known as the "melting pot" of the world, or as some have cleverly dubbed the "salad bowl" of the world. Different cultures work to retain their own identity for more of a salad bowl effect as opposed to a melting pot.
In America the Big Claus (Santa) is all the rage. He is a Fat Jolly Old Elf that knows when you are sleeping, bad or good, and he makes his list and checks it twice. Bank tellers, teachers and supermarket cashiers sport Santa hats all month long. Children line up in shopping malls from the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas Eve to sit upon Santa's lap, tell him their Christmas wishes and have their picture taken.
For Language Arts and for helping to maintain the true meaning of the Season reading aloud the book The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is a must. It is a great lesson in Faith without breaking the Constitutional Law of Separation of Church and State that public school employees in America must adhere to. Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, a true story from the New York Sun in 1897 is another wonderful philosophical lesson.Read both of these and discuss meanings appropriate for the age level of the children you are working with.
There are a multitude of ideas available for Santa art from hats to ornaments. One of my favorite involves recycling old burned out light bulbs. Paint the light bulb's "skinny" side red for the hat Paint the rest of the bulb white. Add rosy cheeks, googly eyes for the face and a red circle for a cherry nose. Glue a small white pompom on top of the "hat". Then glue a narrow ribbon for a hanger.
Santa From the Sea
If you have access to gathering oyster shells at the coast a really cute Santa ornament can be made from these. Be sure to use the ones that are older and faded out by sun and time as fresher oyster shells can be replaced into river beds for regrowth of new oysters. The shell is divided into three sections: hat, face and beard. Paint the hat, or top of the shell with red acrylic paint. Paint in a pink face in the middle and finish off with a snowy white beard at the bottom of the shell. Add googly eyes, a white mustache, and a pompom on the top. Glue on a yarn hanger and you have a great Santa ornament from the sea.
Video and Lyrics for Up on the House Top
The foundation of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, is the celebration of the revolt of the Maccabees against Cyrean-Greek forces that occupied the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 165 BCE. As there is a large population of Jewish-Americans it is important for children to become aware and respect the culture.Oil is an important part of the celebration.
After ridding the Temple of invaders the Victorious Ones found what appeared to be one day's worth of oil to be burned for the light. Miraculously the oil is said to have burned for eight days, thus the eight day celebration of Hanukkah. The Menorah, a candle holder of eight candles, is the principle symbol for Hanukkah, and during the eight days of the celebration of this beautiful and meaningful festival one candle is lit each night and there are celebrations with family and friends. Great emphasis is placed on being together with family and friends.
Jenn Savage on Mother Earth Network shares some great projects for a Hanukkah Wreath using painted blue toilet tissue rolls and Popsicle sticks as a Star of David. There are also directions for a milk carton dreidle and links to menorah crafts. The children will enjoy learning to play the dreidel game and singing the Dreidel Song This is a good game for Math concepts of counting, addition,subtraction and even odd or numbers.
Latkes are an important Part of the Hanukkah celebration. They are cooked in oil, the important symbol of the ancient miracle of Hannukah. They are fun to make and delicious. Cooking is a great activity for measuring skills. Consider cooking Latkes if you have access to cooking equipment in your early childhood class room. At home, they are a breeze to make and sure to please the whole family. Made with potatoes and onions, they are a tasty way to explore the Jewish culture!
Kwanzaa is a beautiful holiday celebrated by much of the African-American population. Created by Doctor Maulana Karenga, Professor and Chairman of Black Studies at California State University, the celebration is based on research that he conducted on African "first fruit" harvest celebrations.Songs, dances, African drums and storytelling are some of the activities enjoyed.
Kwanzaa is based on seven principles with seven symbols. Each night for seven nights a different principle is discussed and one candle is lit on the Kinara (candle holder) beginning with a black candle in the middle. Kwanzaa colors are red,green and black.
The Mkeka (mat) symbolizes the historical and traditional foundation to stand on.Young children can make a Mkeka from construction paper.Have the child fold a black sheet of paper in half. Show children how to cut slits that will run parallel through the paper when opened up. Then children cut one inch wide strips of red and green to weave through the slits on the black paper.
Older children may research each of the seven principles and prepare oral presentations.
Craft ideas for Kinaras and other Kwanzaa projects are available from Kaboose Crafts for Kids.
- It is a good idea to bring your unit to a close on the last day of school before winter break. That is the point at which excitement is the highest and holding the childrens' interest is the most challenging. It also provides a great opportunity to invite parents and other relatives to promote school involvement.
- Have a decorated artificial tree displayed with the paper chains, flowers and lanterns. Represents China. tip: battery operated tea lights can be purchased at Dollar Tree to insert in the lanterns.
- Perform songs Feliz Navidad, O Tannenbaum, Up On the House Top and The Dreidel song. Mexico, Germany, USA, Hanukkah
- Cook Laktes and serve on plates sitting on the Mkekas. (Hanukkah and Kwanzaa)
- Play the dreidel game (Hanukkah)
- Play the Pinata game (Mexico).
Songs to Learn
The children will enjoy learning to sing songs in a different language. Here are the lyrics to Feliz Navidad (Mexican) and Oh Tannenbaum (O Christmas Tree, German)
Prospero Año y Felicidad.
Prospero Año y Felicidad.
[ Lyrics from: http://www.lyricsmode.com/lyrics/j/jose_feliciano/feliz_navidad.html ]
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas
I wanna wish you a Merry Christmas
From the bottom of my heart.
Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,wie treu sind deine Blätter!Du grünst nicht nur zur Sommerzeit,Nein auch im Winter, wenn es schneit.O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum,wie treu sind deine Blätter!O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!Wie oft hat nicht zur WeihnachtszeitEin Baum von dir mich hoch erfreut!O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!Du kannst mir sehr gefallen!O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!Dein Kleid will mich was lehren:Die Hoffnung und BeständigkeitGibt Trost und Kraft zu jeder Zeit.O Tannenbaum, o Tannenbaum!Das soll dein Kleid mich lehren.