Every year during Christmas school, I choose a few different countries, and we learn about some of their Christmas traditions. We also learn how to say “Merry Christmas” in that language, read a story from that country (if we can find one), and do a craft, (or make a recipe), related to that country. And every year, we have “Christmas in Germany” day. It’s one of my favorite Christmas traditions to delve into Germany for a day (or sometimes two!).
We started with a book that I have yet to make it through without choking up–Christmas in the Trenches. This is a fictionalized account of the 1914 Christmas Truce along the front lines of WWI. It’s a beautiful story, and knowing that it’s true makes it even more meaningful. The book came with a CD, so we also got to listen to “Silent Night” in both English and German.
As long as we were talking about wartime Christmases, we stepped back from Germany for a moment to learn about the story of “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” I found the background for this carol in Christ in the Carols, which is a devotional book. I’ve never actually used it for that purpose, but I enjoy reading the history behind some of our beloved Christmas carols. Learing about how Longfellow came to write the words to “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” provided a good opportunity for us to talk about how sometimes things look very bleak (as was the case during Christmastime in the Civil War and WWI), but if you have faith, you can find hope in the midst of any situation.
We also talked about the legends surrounding the Christmas tree, including the one where Martin Luther is believed to be the inventor of the modern Tannenbaum. This led nicely into our craft–beaded Christmas tree ornaments. I found a kit at Michaels, and while it wasn’t on sale, it was reasonably priced, and the beads in the kit were so pretty, I had to pick it up. We had fun stringing the beads (even though there were some missing from the kit that we kind of needed), and they look very pretty reflecting the lights on the Christmas tree.
The Kingfisher Book of Classic Christmas Stories is a beautiful, hardcover treasury of stories, some legends from around the world, and others feel-good favorites. Today we read “The Elves and the Shoemaker”–a German Christmas legend. Turkey and Bunny have enjoyed every story we’ve read out of this book over the years, and I always look forward to picking it up–we’ll be reading from it several more times this year.
Our last activity in school today was watching a DVD about German Christmas markets. It’s kind of an odd choice–it’s from the TV show The Seasoned Traveler, which is geared toward senior citizens who enjoy traveling. Still, it gives a great overview of Christmas markets, both in Germany, and around Europe (and even my beloved Chicago Christkindlmarket!), and even though we’re not the show’s intended audience, it’s still enjoyable (and educational!) to watch.