Christmas Celebrations from Around The World: Activities for parents, teachers, and child care workers
By Charlotte A. F. Farley
While most countries around the world include some form of Santa, reindeer, feasting, and gift-giving in their holiday celebrations, each country puts their own unique twist on the festivities. Here’s some fun things you can do with your children to prepare for the holiday season.
Switzerland: Make Your Own Advent Wreath
The Advent wreath consists of four candles, one for each of the Sundays in Advent. One candle is burnt on the first day, the second on the second Sunday and so on.
You’ll need: small Styrofoam wreaths, green paint, foam brushes, fake pine, fake plastic berries, Philips head screwdriver, birthday candles, and glue.
Have the kids paint the wreaths green. Let dry.
Lace the pine around the wreath (you might need to help).
Glue on the plastic berries.
Poke holes in the wreaths with the screwdriver (a job for the adult) and have the child insert the birthday candles.
(Courtesy Lacy Rabideau at catholicing.com)
Sweden: Make Your Own St. Lucia Crown
St. Lucia's Day is now celebrated by a girl dressing in a white dress with a red sash round her waist and a crown of candles on her head (small children use electric candles).The crown is made of lingonberry branches, which are evergreen and symbolise new life in winter.
What You Need:
Cloth stem wire
Artificial flowers in festive colors
Real or artificial greenery
Tiny battery-operated lights
Long white dress (optional)
Needle and green thread
What You Do:
Measure the circumference of your child's head.
Guide your child in twisting the cloth stem wire together to the appropriate length, and forming it into a circle.
Have your child work the artificial greenery into the stem wire base.
Twist the tiny lights into the crown and secure them with thread, making sure the battery pack is at the back so that it doesn’t show.
Help your child get into character by donning the beautiful crown and a long white dress.
Switch on the lights and watch as your child admires herself in the mirror!
(Courtesy Ashley West of education.com)
Germany: Make Your Own Gingerbread House
Germany is credited for creating the gingerbread houses, replicas of what we consider to be the witch’s house in Hansel and Gretel, but also resembling many older German homes.
How to Make a Graham Cracker "Gingerbread" House:
For each house, you will need seven double graham crackers (two rectangular crackers per piece), two quadruple graham crackers (four rectangles per piece), a serrated knife and a batch of royal icing and a cake-decorator bag (plastic sandwich bags with a small hole poked in one corner work just fine).
Step 1: Fill your bag with royal icing. Using the serrated knife, saw off the top left and right corners of one of the quadruple crackers to create what will be one of the house's gables. Repeat with the other quadruple cracker.
Step 2: Place one double cracker on the table and pipe icing along all four edges. Working quickly, place the house's four walls (including the two with gables, which should stand across from each other) onto the icing and pipe more icing where the crackers touch vertically.
Step 3: Pipe icing along the top edges of the house and rest the two remaining double crackers on top of it to form a roof. Allow time to dry and harden.
Once it's time to decorate, set out candy and give the kids some ideas. Each child should also have a plastic sandwich bag of royal icing that's tied off and has a small hole poked in one corner.
Write the name of each child on a paper plate and place the finished houses on the plates as they dry. Once the party is over, the kids can take home their creations.
It's a perfect recipe for a messy--but fun!--winter holiday party.
(Courtesy Meghan Cooley of About.com’s Kid Parties)
Greece: Help Those Less Fortunate
In Greece, Christmas presents an opportunity to give gifts to those in hospitals, nursing homes, and orphanages. Consider making handmade ornaments, batches of cookies, or small gift baskets to give to those who might feel lonely during the holiday season.
Holland: Make Your Own Kerstkransjes
‘Kerstkransjes’ are ‘Wreath Cookies’; they’re edible cookies that you can also use as tree ornaments.
2/3 cup butter (160 g)
2/3 cup sugar (120 g)
The grated zest of an organic lemon
2 1/2 cups flour (250 g)
1 tsp baking powder
1 beaten egg
Almond slivers and glace cherries
Mix the butter, sugar, lemon zest and the egg in a bowl. Add the flour and baking powder little by little. Knead. Cover the dough ball with plastic wrap and set aside in the fridge for an hour. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 374 degrees F (190 degrees C).
When your dough has rested, open up the plastic wrap and give it another quick knead, and then push out into a flattish shape of about 1/4 inch thick (5 mm) with the balls of your hands. You can, of course, do this on a floured surface, but I just keep it on the plastic wrap. Using a star or wreath shaped cookie cutter, cut out your cookies and use the back of a wooden spoon to make a hole in the middle. Place the cookies on a greased cookie sheet, brush with the egg and decorate with almond slivers and glace cherries. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until golden brown. Makes about 30 cookies.
Feel free to use a stand mixer with a dough hook to knead the dough.
If the dough gets too sticky for the cookie cutter, just put it back in the fridge for a few minutes.
(Recipe credit: Karin Engelbrecht. Dutch food editor for About.com)
England: Make Your Own Clay Boxes For Boxing Day
The day after the Christmas celebrations in the United Kingdom is called as 'Boxing Day'. It used to be that young boys would go around with clay boxes to collect money and, once full, all of the money would be given to the poor and needy.
Air dry clay
Remove the air dry clay from its packaging and begin kneading it with your hands. Once it is removed from the packaging, the clay will begin to harden, so work quickly.
Roll the clay into a sheet using a rolling pin. If the clay sticks or is difficult to roll, try adding a few drops of warm water to make it more pliable.
Cut out five squares, each measuring about 4 by 4 inches, using the edge of your ruler. The ruler will help you in determining the lengths, and the straight edge should be sharp enough to cut through the clay.
Leave one square on the work surface to act as the bottom of your box, then add the sides. Pinch together the seams using a little warm water until the clay sides have joined together.
Carve any designs you would like into the sides of your box before it hardens. Set the box aside in a dry area for two days to harden. After this time you may apply paint or any other decorations that you wish to the box.
(Couresty Brandy Alexander, eHow contributor)
Ethiopia: Play Ganna
The traditional game played by the men is known as Ganna. This game is more or less like hockey and is played with a curved stick and a round wooden ball.
You’ll need a wooden stick and a ball, an open field and two goals. There aren’t any positions (like defender or forward) and you must keep the ball on your right side. If you fall down, you’re “out.” You play like it’s hockey and you need two teams. That’s it!
General Activities To Think About Global Christmas Celebrations
Picture Journal: ask your students “if you could give any gift to the people of the world, what would that gift be?” Have them draw a picture of their gift and (depending on their age) write an explanation of why they chose that gift. Share with the class.
Get Geographical Game: Hang a world map in a place where everyone can see it. Have index cards with “Merry Christmas” written in different languages. Attach yarn to each card. Talk a bit about which country/language the saying is from. Ask students to pin the cards around the map to extend each strand of yarn from a "Merry Christmas" card to the appropriate country.