A trip around the world for Christmas
With passports and boarding passes in hand, students at Marlinton Elementary School explored six countries and learned how Christmas is celebrated in each. Using the hallways as their air strip, the students took off to visit Italy, Sweden, Russia, Mexico, Germany and France.
Once the idea seed was planted, the teachers met, selected a country and researched how each one celebrated Christmas.
Principal Ron Hall said that he was so pleased with the program that it will become an annual celebration at the school.
ﾓIt was fabulous,ﾔ?he said. ﾓEach year, we will try to change it up, but I think it will be someting we do every year.ﾔ
The students were presented with video clips of Christmas traditions, made crafts and sampled holiday treats.
In Sweden, they learned that the Christmas season begins December 13, on Saint Lucia Day. Saint Lucia is portrayed by the eldest daughter in the family. She wears a crown or wreath with lit candles on her head.
Instead of Santa Claus, Sweden has a Christmas gnome named Tomte. Swedes believe he lives under the floorboards of homes, and on Christmas Eve, he sneaks out to leave presents for the good children.
Students sampled two traditional foods eaten in Sweden at Christmastime ﾖ risgryngrot, a rice pudding, and pepparkakor, gingerbread cookies. The tradition with risgryngrot is to put one almond in the pudding and whomever receives the almond in their serving will be married in the following year. Both dishes were prepared by Title I Reading Specialist Michele Fehrer.
As the students traveled to Mexico, they learned the celebration is more about the birth of Jesus and not about presents and Santa Claus.
The nine day celebration is known as Las Posadas. The festivities culminate with the Feast of Epiphany, which symbolizes the Three Wise Menﾒs visit as they brought gifts to Jesus in Bethlehem, and is celebrated on January 6.
Santa Claus brings the children gifts on Christmas Eve, but the Three Wise Men also give gifts, usually candies, oranges, nuts and sometimes money or gold.
The Christmas season in Italy is similar to both Sweden and Mexico. On December 13, the shortest day of the year, Italians celebrate Saint Lucyﾒs Day with a candlelight processional, followed by the Feast of St. Lucy.
The festivities extend to the end of the year and end with Epiphany on January 6.
Much like Mexico, the Russian Christmas is more of a religious event. Long services, including the Royal Hours and Vespers, combined with the Divine Liturgy, are attended. Christmas Eve takes place on January 6, with the traditional Holy Supper, a 12-course meal, one course to honor each of the Twelve Apostles.
In Germany, Santa Claus can be portrayed in several different ways. There is the traditional Saint Nicholas who is accompanied by the servant Ruprecht. When Saint Nicholas visits children at school or at public events, they must recite a poem or sing a song in order to get a treat or gift. Ruprecht, who dresses in dark clothes and resembles the devil, has the duty of punishing children who have misbehaved. He is usually just around as a warning.
Presents can also be given by Weihnachtsmann, the Christmas man, who resembles the modern Santa Claus, or the Christkindle, a sprite-like child dressed in gold.
The children in France are visited by Pere Noel, who gives them gifts like Father Christmas or Santa Claus. Families have a long dinner, known as reveillon, based on the word reveil, meaning waking. The dinner goes into the wee hours of the night and usually goes past midnight.
The students also learned traditional dances from the countries they visited, including Agadoo, a French dance and the Mexican hat dance.