Another Christmas Dinner

On Christmas Eve, we had our traditional dinner of appetizers, dips, and desserts. Christmas Day ended being a little funky, meal-wise, so we ordered pizzas. Our big, fancy Christmas dinner was finally enjoyed today! I chose an English theme (since this has been a major “Rule Britannia” year for us), and the menu I settled up on included roast beef, brussels sprouts (a very important Christmas dinner staple in England), roast carrots and potatoes, cranberries, and, for dessert, a French cake popular in England, the Bûche de Noël or Yule Log Cake. We also enjoyed drinking wassail, which is another of our regular family Christmas traditions, but fit in nicely with the theme for the day!

Wassail, hot out of the pot:


Standing rib roast with a rosemary-garlic rub, served with a horseradish cream sauce:


A trio of roast vegetables–brussels sprouts, carrots, and potatoes:


Spiced cranberries:


The feast:


The table:



Christmas Crackers:


In addition to a paper hat, everyone’s Christmas Cracker came with a toy:


As well a joke:


The Bûche de Noël:


Happy Christmas!

2012-13 School Year–Week Fifteen

Christmas School kicked into full gear this week! We kept working on math (Ladybug finished her kindergarten math workbook…I don’t know what she’s going to do next!), and writing, but everything else we did was Christmas-themed.

On Monday, we learned about Christmas during the Elizabethan period, and made a favorite craft…stained glass Christmas trees. It’s been a few years since we’ve made them, and it was the first time Ladybug got to make one, so it was a lot of fun!


Tuesday’s theme as a Georgian/Colonial Christmas. Since we read about the use of pomanders at that time, I got out the cloves and an orange, and we made one  of our own. Bunny and Ladybug have decided we should always have one around, because it smells so good, and I can’t say I disagree with them!


Wednesday we learned about Christmas in Victorian times, and how those celebrations influenced how we still celebrate Christmas today. We read The Christmas Bird, which is a Christmas legend explaining how the robin got its red breast. Robins are a popular Christmas decoration in England, maybe because of this legend, or more likely because, during the Victorian era, the postmen wore bright red coats, and people used to call out, “Here comes the robin!” when they saw one. We made a robin craft, as well. I’m pretty proud of this one, because although it was simple, it was my invention. We used brads to make the wings and feet movable, and decided to glue the robins to a blue background to make it look like they’re flying.


On Thursday, we moved on to the Edwardian era, which, to be honest, isn’t that much different from the Victorian era. We did enjoy looking at An Edwardian Christmas, which has no words at all. It was amazing what the children could infer from the pictures, and the small details they picked up on! Sometimes, it’s nice to just look at a picture book, and let the illustrations tell the story. We also read about St. Lucia on Thursday, since it was her commemoration day.

We moved into a more modern era today, learning about Christmas during World Wars I and II. We’ve read Christmas in the Trenches pretty much every year that we’ve been homeschooling, and it remains a family favorite. To be honest, I had never even heard of the “Silent Night Truce,” before reading that story, but I think it’s one of the most amazing war-time stories I’ve ever heard. We also read some selections from Letters from Father Christmas. The last letter Tolkien wrote fit in especially well with today’s wartime theme.

Our big craft was making a gingerbread house…only the second time we’ve tried doing so. I was smart this time, and actually read the directions beforehand, so I knew to assemble the house the night before so it could set up before the children tried to decorate it. Turkey, Bunny, and Ladybug had a great time coming up with and implementing designs. It was a very fun, although time-consuming, activity!


Next week, we’re only having a few days of school. We’ll be finishing our Christmas in England unit with a look at modern English Christmas celebrations, having our traditional “Nutcracker Day,” where we’ll read the story and watch not one, but two different productions of the ballet (one of them being the Royal Ballet, of course!), and celebrating the first day of winter and having our Christmas tea party. After all that, we’re going to take a vacation for a few weeks…I’m definitely looking forward to that!

Christmas School 2012–Christmas in England

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!

What We’re Reading–Christmas 2012–Christmas in England

Last year, I shared a list of books we’d be using in “Christmas School.” Some of those books won’t be repeated this year (especially anything American Santa heavy), as the theme is different, and I’ve also added a few books, mainly to go along with this year’s focus on Christmas in England:

  • Letters from Father Christmas–Yes, it’s a Santa book, but it’s also something of a Tolkien classic, and quite timely, as Turkey and Bunny have both recently read The Hobbit.
  • A Child’s Christmas in Wales–This classic will be added to our permanent collection.
  • The Christmas Bird–I haven’t been able to determine if this legend originated in England, or if it’s just popular there, but robins at Christmastime appear to be a British custom.
  • An Edwardian Christmas–This is a tiny little picture book, but the pictures are beautiful, and show what Christmas was like in England at that time.
  • The Oxford Book of Christmas Poems
  • Father Christmas and the Donkey
  • Victorian Christmas–Technically, this book is about Christmas in America, but it shows how England influenced American Christmas celebrations, so decided to include it.
  • Christmas in England
  • A Christmas Carol–A classic that’s been in our family library for years, but is especially appropriate for this year’s English Christmas theme…it will be our main read-aloud.
  • A Christmas Dinner–Another Christmas book by Charles Dickens
  • The Jolly Christmas Postman–Another Santa book, but the Jolly Postman seems to be very popular in England, so it must be included.
  • Christmas in the Trenches–This book was already in our library, but as it focuses on the temporary truce between British and German soldiers during WWI, it has a special place in school this year.
  • The Lion Storyteller Christmas Book–While this anthology has stories from all over the world, it’s printed by a British publisher, so I thought it fit the year’s theme.
  • The Christmas Tale of Peter Rabbit–Not written by Beatrix Potter herself, but inspired by her farm.
  • How Mrs. Claus Saved Christmas–Even though this series is about the origin of the Santa stories, I really like the books. This one focuses primarily on the Puritans in America, as well as the English Parliament’s interference with Christmas celebrations.
  • Christmas in Williamsburg–This is another book that focuses on Christmas in America, but we’ll specifically looking at the colonial period, when America was still under British rule.

We’ll also be using our book basket time to read all of the other many Christmas books we love!