Christmas Activities From Around the World
Christmas is universal or at least international. Children can experience this Christian holiday and feel connected to children from other countries by doing activities and crafts that children from other countries love to do.
As the teacher, you can enhance any of these suggestions if you can visit an international store or shop that offers merchandise from any of the countries mentioned and can see Christmas materials, decorations, and ingredients firsthand. Visit your church or community library and search the card catalogue for Christmas-around-the-world resources with pictures.
There is a funny thing about presents at Christmas. Around the world, the beliefs about where they come from differ from one country to the next.
In Latin America, presents come from the wise men. In Germany, presents come from the Christ Child. In France, presents come from Pere Noel (pehr noh-EHL), Father Christmas; and in Sweden, presents come from little elves.
In the Middle East, children believe that presents come from "The Little Camel," rewarded with immortality by baby Jesus. According to legend, it gallops about the desert, delivering presents on Christmas Eve.
Talk with older children about these customs and about their memories of receiving gifts at Christmas. Then move into a more serious discussion of why presents are exchanged (to symbolize God's gift of Jesus and to celebrate good will).
Wreaths and Candles
In Sweden, young girls wear a Saint Lucia Crown, a wreath with candles, on their heads on December thirteenth. Dressed as Saint Lucia, wearing a white dress with a brilliant red sash and the crown of pine boughs haloed with the light of seven candles, one girl in every family awakens the other family members by bringing them coffee and Lucia buns on a tray, thereby proclaiming the arrival of the Christmas season.
Under supervision, children of all ages could make and wear the wreath crown, without lighting the candles. Let the children pretend to be in Sweden on Saint Lucia Day (December thirteenth) and to be awakened by Saint Lucia with treats. Prepare a favorite hot drink to be pretend coffee.
The star has long been used to celebrate Christmas everywhere. In Europe bands of star singers carry poles topped with a star. Let the children (all ages) become star singers by affixing large construction paper stars to the top of wooden dowels, parading, and singing carols.
The poinsettia plant came to our country from Mexico in 1825. It is called Flor de la noche buena, (flor deh lah NOH-cheh BWEH-nah). Let the children say the Spanish name with you. Bring a poinsettia plant and let the children look at it as they draw and color a poinsettia plant. Don't forget to have on hand crayons and markers.
Candles are used in churches, homes, and neighborhoods to celebrate Christmas, because Christians believe that Jesus is the Light of the world. In addition to being on wreaths, candles are used in Luminarias in Mexico and other Spanish -speaking countries. Children of all ages can make luminarias for your church. In China, Christians use candles in lanterns to observe Christmas.
Supplies: small brown paper bags or colored bags, sand or gravel (about three cups per bag), and short votive candles
1. Fold down the sides of the paper bags to make them square shaped.
2. Half fill the bags with sand or gravel.
3. Put a candle down inside the center of the sand or gravel in each bag (battery operated votives may also be used).
4. Line a sidewalk, stairs, steps, porch, or the front of a stage with the luminarias.
5 Light the candles. What a beautiful Christmas welcome.
Children enjoy helping back Christmas cookies. Gingerbread Cookies are a Christmas cookie common to both Denmark and Iraq. In France, where the Twelfth-Night Feast is celebrated each year to remember the wise men's journey to see the newborn Jesus, the dessert is a flat cake called La Galette des Rois, or Cake of the Kings. A bean or figurine is baked in the cake. The person who finds it is named king or queen of the feast. This person "rules over" the dancing, games, and other festivities of the evening. In Africa Christmas Plum Pudding is eaten.
In France a Nativity scene called a Creche (kresh), which includes not only the Holy family but also persons from the modern-day village (mayor, priest, policemen, butcher, baker, miller and farmer), is arranged by the children and placed in their living rooms. Suggest that the children bring small rocks, branches, and moss to make a setting for a manger in your classroom. Use little figurines to represent the Holy Family, the other characters in the Nativity story, and the people of the village. Or let the children make simple figures, using gift wrap rolls that have been cut to three-inch lengths for bodies and plastic foam balls for heads. Be creative, using scraps of fabric, yarn, and paper to decorate the figures. In Poland, children put a nativity scene in a box, and it is called a Szopka (SHOP-kah). The children proudly carry their Szopka around, and they also carry it during processions. Decide with the children how to make the tiny stable scene in a box and let them make a Szopka and carry it during a parade or procession. In Thailand there are full-sized manger scenes. Let the children dress up as Mary, Joseph, baby Jesus, and shepherds; and take a picture of them re-enacting a full-sized manger scene. In Mexico, the manger scene is called a Nacimiento (nah-see MYEHN-toh). It can be very simple, with just Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. Or it can include wise men, shepherds, farmers, and townspeople. Usually the scene is placed on an altar in a home. Larger figures are sometimes placed outside in the community. Christmas in Mexico always includes the children playing their traditional game with a pifi.ata (peen-YAHT-uh). Middle and older elementary children can make a pinata.
Children will enjoy hearing about these activities, but plan to do some during the season too!