Christmas School 2013

I guess I haven’t really mentioned our plans for Christmas School this year, have I? We’re back to “Christmas Around the World,” after two years focusing on Christmas through American history, and Christmas in England, respectively. I chose five countries to study this year: Germany, Greece, Russia/The Ukraine, Sweden, and France. My Celebrate Christmas Around the World teacher resource book has been, as always, a great help in planning our lessons!

We always focus on Germany when we learn about different Christmas customs, because so many of our traditions originate from that country. I chose Greece again this year because we’ve been learning about the ancient Greeks and Greek mythology in our regular studies (plus, it tied in nicely with the commemoration of St. Nicholas). We’ll be learning about Christmas in Russia (and Ukraine, by extension), as a lead-in to our Olympics studies in February. Bunny wanted to learn about Christmas in Sweden again this year, so she could be Santa Lucia, and since it’s been a few years, I thought it would be fun to do that again. And I asked Turkey what country he’d like to learn about, and he chose France, which we really haven’t focused on before. Here’s a brief rundown of the activities I have planned for each country (please bear in mind that we’ve already completed some of these activities since I got such a late start on blogging about it)–stories, music, and a craft or baking project (and, of course we’ll be learning the Christmas greeting in each country’s native language, as well as a general overview of what their celebrations and traditions look like!):

Germany–Frohliche Weihnachten!

Greece–Kalá Christoúgenna!

Russia/Ukraine–Hristos Razdajetsja!

Sweden/Scandinavia–God Jul!

France–Joyeux Noël!

In addition to learning about these countries, we’ll have our standard Nutcracker Day (I know have four different ballet company’s interpretations of this Christmas standard!), and our Christmas in Italy Day, which has also become a tradition. We may also read A Christmas Carol out loud if there’s time, because it’s also a favorite. I have a few field trips planned (one of which we’ve already been on), and possibly some other special events. I love planning for school at this time of year!

Christmas School–Day Eleven

God Jul! and Happy St. Lucia Day!

Today we learned all about Christmas in Scandinavia. We found that although there are many common elements to the Christmas season in each Scandinavian country, they each have unique ways of celebrating, as well. Except for Iceland–we didn’t really learn anything in particular about that country at all! One thing we found interesting is the amount of national pride found on Scandinavian Christmas trees. It is common for residents of each country to put a garland of their own national flag on their Christmas tree.

Our big activity for the day was making Lussekattes, which are a sweet bun served on St. Lucia Day in Sweden. I found the recipe in Celebrate Christmas Around the World–I don’t know how authentic that recipe is, but I do know it calls for the three most expensive spices found in the world! (I also learned that World Market is a great place to buy cardamom for cheap.) We actually started on these last night, because they needed almost three hours to rise, plus all the kneading, shaping, and baking time. They were pretty good–tasted a lot like hot cross buns, but drier. The children all liked them pretty well, too, and they had the satisfaction of having helped make them, so it was a good project.

It is tradition for the oldest daughter in the house to serve the breakfast, and Bunny was happy to oblige. We also learned about the real St. Lucia, both legend and fact. The children were already familiar with what the Swedish St. Lucia looks like from seeing her in St. Charles (and from my American Girl doll), and I think Bunny was secretly hoping to wear a crown of candles. There are many stories about acts St. Lucia might have done in the name of the faith, but we mostly focused on the fact that she was a believer who did good works and in the end died for her faith.

We also read another story in The Kingfisher Book of Classic Christmas Stories. This time we read “A Very Big Cat,” which is a funny Norse legend. It involves a hunter, a polar bear, and some dwarves who think the bear is a cat. We read this last year, too, and Turkey and Bunny really liked it, and remembered it better than I did.

To round out our trip through Scandinavia, Turkey and Bunny colored pictures of Christmas celebrations in Denmark and Finland. To try to incorporate Iceland into our discussion a little bit, we also looked at the flags of Scandinavia in the Usborne Flags Book. I got this book to use during our Olympics unit at the beginning of the year, and it’s a fun way to familiarize children with the different flags found around the world. Turkey and Bunny liked comparing the different colors found in all the Scandinavian flags, and also noting that they all have the same cross.