As I mentioned in this year’s Christmas School reading list, our focus this year is on Christmas in England. Our main read-aloud is, of course, A Christmas Carol. In addition to that, I’ve divided our studies up into six basic sections:
- Christmas in Elizabethan England–This was a tough era to cover, mainly because I couldn’t find a whole lot of information on it. Shakespeare made only a few passing references to Christmas, from what I could find, and they weren’t particularly happy references. I decided that the focus of this lesson would be on the Boar’s Head Festival, since the festival would have been fairly well established by that time. It also ties in well to the festival we attended this year, and we can even use the programs from that festival to guide our discussion of the different parts of the event, in particular, the “Boar’s Head Carol,” as well as “Good King Wenceslas.”
- A Georgian/Colonial Christmas–In contrast, this is an easy period of time to cover, especially following last year’s “Christmas in American History” lessons. We won’t be looking specifically at England for this lesson, but at how English colonists might have celebrated Christmas in their new homes. The beginning part of Christmas in Williamsburg does and excellent job of showing what an English-American Christmas was like.
- A Victorian Christmas–There’s so much information here, it’s hard to know where to start! The focus of this lesson, though, will be on the traditions that we still have today that are a reflection of the Victoria era, like decorating Christmas trees, and lavish gift giving. The central focus of this day will be A Christmas Carol, of course, as it’s the perfect Victoria Christmas story. While we’re taking all of our Christmas School this year to read it, we’ll be watching our favorite film version of the story that day (the Muppet version, if you’re wondering!).
- An Edwardian Christmas–This was the other time period that was a bit of a struggle, because it’s really a short amount of time, and it’s not that different from the Victorian era. The only reason I even made it its own topic was because I found a lovely picture book at the library entitled An Edwardian Christmas. This is the same day we’ll be learning about St. Lucia, though, so it’s OK that we’re a little light on Christmas in England that day!
- Wartime Christmas–We’ll be looking at Christmas in England during both World Wars…not only directly war-related events (Christmas in the Trenches, the story of the “Silent Night Truce”), but works that were written during, and possibly influenced by, the wars (Letters from Father Christmas and A Child’s Christmas in Wales). Even though we’ll be delving into Santa territory with the Tolkien book, this is especially timely, as Turkey and Bunny have both recently read The Hobbit, and Ryan is reading The Fellowship of the Ring as a family read-aloud in the evenings.
- Christmas in Modern England–In addition to watching a few of the Queen’s recent Christmas messages, we’ll also be reading a Christmas story starring a favorite character in English children’s books–The Jolly Postman. While I don’t like to bring Santa into our house too much, I like this book because it does introduce a modern British storybook, and because the Jolly Postman stories are clever and well-written.
In addition to these time periods, we’ll also be learning about some Christmas legends from the U.K., including a story from Ireland, and the legend of the robin, which may or may not be English in origin, but is a popular story in that country. We’ll also be looking at and listening to some English Christmas carols. (We will be doing crafts, as always–they just don’t really have anything to do with Christmas in England!) And, of course, we love any excuse to have a tea party, so this time around, we’ll be having a Christmas tea, complete with Christmas cookies, holiday jam on English muffins, and ginger tea.
This will bring a nice end to the very British year we’ve had…then again, we have the birth of the new royal to look forward to next year, so maybe the fun doesn’t have to end!