How Children Around The World Celebrate Christmas
To many of us Christmas means gifts, decorated trees, lights, food and good cheer. Christmas is not only a much anticipated festival, it is a festival that is shared by millions of people around the world. This makes Christmas a great multicultural teacher resource for the classroom. In this article, we are going to focus on the similarities that mark Christmas celebrations around the world.
The stories, myths and legends surrounding Christmas are many. But most of them share a common theme like the one about the bringers of gifts. In Germany, he appears as Weihnachtsmann, in Holland as Sinterklass with Black Peter, in England as Father Christmas, and in France as Pere Noel. In pop culture, he’s known as Santa Claus. Swedish children wait for Julemanden or Julenisse, who dresses in red and carries a sack of gifts on his back. In Australia and Switzerland, it is Christkindl or the Christ Child who comes with the gifts. Whatever the name or the label, all these figures fulfill one important role – that of rewarding good behaviour and punishing bad.
Even though every culture has its own unique approach to festivals, Christmas has very strongly similar cultural traditions across the world. Take for instance caroling. Carols took shape during early Christianity and became an iconic part of Christmas during the Victorian times. However, it is now an integral part of Christmas celebrations worldwide. In Australia, a very popular Christmas celebration is called Carols by Candlelight where groups of people light candles and sing Christmas carols outdoors.
In China, the tradition of decorating a tree for Christmas is followed with a twist. Families call the tree a "tree of light," and decorate it with beautiful lanterns, flowers, and red paper chains meant to represent happiness. The Nativity Scene is also an integral part of Christmas celebrations. Italian families set up their presepio, or manger scene, on the first day of advent. Every day leading up to Christmas, they will gather around the presepio to light candles and pray. Bring the concept of Advent to the classroom with two charming books, A Stork in a Baobab Tree , New Zealand - A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree and Australia - Twelve Days of Christmas.
People around the world cook similar food for Christmas with their own cultural variations. Some examples are cookies, the Yule Log, plum puddings, gingerbreads, roast meat and the season’s vegetables and fruits.
Christmas in the classroom
This Christmas, highlight the similarities between the cultures that celebrate the festival in your classroom. Here are some tips on making it a spectacular Christmas.
- Go caroling: Set up a caroling schedule. Choose some of the most popular carols in different languages. So if you choose Silent Night in German, also get its lyrics in French. Teach your students both versions of the carol. If you and your class are feeling adventurous, mix the French lyrics into the German to get a truly interesting caroling session. Consider these: French Christmas Songs, Joyeaux Traditional Songs & CD and Christmas Songs, Frohliche Weinhnachten, Traditional Songs. Putamayo’s Christmas Around the World or Celtic Christmas are also great resources for caroling.
- Cook up a treat: Choose a simple Christmas recipe from the Internet. Encourage your students to try it at home and bring in the results to the classroom, or set up a cooking session in the class itself.
- Nativity Play: Put up a nativity play, but make it interesting by taking stock Christmas phrases for the play from various languages.
- Decorate the tree: If you are going to have a tree in the classroom, divide it into two or four halves. Look up the different types of decorations used by cultures around the world and pick the ones that are similar to decorate the different halves. For example, stockings, wreaths, candles, tinsel etc.
- Merry Christmas: Encourage your students to wish each other from languages across the world. Help them understand that they are saying the same thing but differently!
Christmas is a time for good cheer and good will. We at Global Kids Oz would like to say, ‘Have yourself a very multicultural Christmas.’