Our December Geo Treckers was super fun! We had a Christmas Around the World Theme. At the November meeting, I had told the families that they could bring a “Christmas Dish” from around the world — a snack they would research and prepare for the rest of us. I also included this on the signs and other promotions for the event. (I made it clear that this was not required, just an added fun thing they could do). As a result, we had quite a few interesting snacks to sample! It turned out to be a lot of fun.
This month was different in other ways, too. I did a normal teaching time and a game with all the kids and then I had different tables set up where they could choose to go and work on crafts or get snacks. Some of the kids did all the crafts, some did only one, and some simply got food and sat and talked. I think the meeting turned out quite well.
Here are the plans that I used for this month:
Geo Treckers: Christmas Around the World
Play Christmas Music as kids enter.
Have kids stamp their pointsettia craft (use toilet paper tubes to make pointsettia design on white paper) as they arrive, then take seats. Leave craft on side table. (I had a sign in sheet as normal. Then, as soon as the kids signed in, they were directed to a table with a plate with red and green paint and toilet paper tubes cut in pieces. They used the toilet paper tubes to “stamp” pointsettia shapes on a piece of white cardstock. Then they set the paper aside so the paint could dry. At the end of the time, they finished their pointsettia craft by cutting out the design, gluing it on green cardstock and gluing yellow tissue paper in the center. Here are a couple of the finished products:
Welcome to Christmas around the world!
First we are going to look at some Christmas Legends! Let’s start with a legend from Mexico: The Legend of the Pointsettia!
Read “The Legend of the Pointsettia” by Tomie DePaulo.
While we are in Mexico, let’s talk about some other Mexican traditions:
- Christmas is not just a single day but a whole season of Christmas-related celebrations from December 16-February 2nd.
- Gift giving is done on January 6 (the day which marks the visit of the three kings to Jesus in the manger) and is not as important as time spent with family and friends.
- Celebrations begin with posadas, processions which take place on each of the nine evenings leading up to Christmas Eve (Nochebuena). From the 16-24 of December, the people in a neighborhood gather together and go through the streets to a particular house. The residents of the house play the part of the innkeeper. Eventually they are admitted and there is a party in the house with food and drink and a piñata in the shape of a Christmas star.
- On Nochebuena (Christmas Eve) Mexican families attend midnight mass before returning home to a late night dinner.
- The singing of carols is also a common custom. There are many Christmas songs in the Spanish language (like Silent Night), others are fun songs like Feliz Navidad!
Watch Feliz Navidad and sing along!
Play Corre, Corre la Guaraca (from Chile)
How to Play: Players sit in a circle while a runner jogs around the outer rim with a handkerchief (we used a small Christmas stocking). The seated kids are not allowed to watch. They sing “Corre, Corre, la Guaraca the one who looks back will be bopped on his head!” Trying not to be felt, the runner drops the handkerchief on a child’s back and runs. If he makes it around the circle before the player realizes that it’s on her back, the seated player is out. If the seated player catches on, she must tag the runner. If she succeeds, the runner is out. If she fails to tag him, they play again, but this time player 2 is the runner.
Now let’s look at another story that is often told around Christmas time. In fact, this story is really told in the form of a ballet. Maybe some of you have seen it or danced in it before? This is the ballet (and story) of the Nutcracker. It was written by a Russian composer, so let’s pretend to take a trip to Russia as we take a look at this fun ballet.
Read “The Nutcracker” by Susan Jeffers
Watch Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies (Pentatonics):
While we are in Russia, let’s talk a bit about some of their other traditions.
- Russians celebrate Christmas on June 7th.
- After the 1917 Revolution, Christmas was banned throughout Russia. It wasn’t until 75 years later, in 1992, that the holiday was openly observed.
- Today it is celebrated with the faithful participating in an all-night Mass in incense filled Cathedrals.
- On Christmas Eve, family members gather to share a special meal. They have a Christmas Eve fast and meal. They fast until after the evening service or until the first star appears. The dinner that follows is a celebration, although meat is not permitted. Kutya, a type of porridge is the primary dish. It is very symbolic with its ingredients being various grains for hope and honey and poppy seed for happiness and peace. They call this meal “The Holy Supper”.
- After dinner, no dishes are washed and the Christmas presents are opened. Then the family goes to Church, coming home between 2 and 3 am.
- On the feast of the Nativity, neighbors and family members visit each other, going from house to house, eating, drinking and singing Christmas Carols all day long.
- Santa Claus was banned, so they replaced him with Ded Moroz or Grandfather Frost, the Russian Spirit of Winter who brought gifts on New Year’s. He is accompanied by Snyegurochka, the Snowmaided, who helps distribute the gifts.
Speaking of Santa Claus, let’s take a look at the different ideas about who brings the gifts in different countries.
Use pictures to explain the different legends. (At this point, I had printed off pictures to go along with several “Santa” legends. I showed the picture and briefly explained each legend. The kids really enjoyed this — especially Krompus and Black Peter. Here is a link that will give you some ideas of different legends you can use.)
But we know who really brings gifts to boys and girls throughout the world! Santa Claus! Our idea of Santa Claus started with a man named Nicholas. This is his story. (At this point, I had a stocking that I had filled with different items to help tell the story of St. Nicholas. The story I told went something like this:)
“St. Nicholas was a real man who lived many years ago. He cared very much for other people. It is said that one time there was a terrible blizzard and a whole town was suffering from lack of food. (take out snowflake ornament) . St. Nicholas pulled a sled filled with grain into the middle of the town so that they would have food! (show can of food). There is another story of St. Nicholas that said that he heard about some poor young girls. These girls didn’t have money, and back then they needed money so that they could get married. They were afraid they would never be able to get married. St. Nicholas wanted to help them, so he got some gold coins and snuck them into their house at night. It is said that he threw the coins into the house and the coins landed in the socks that the girls had hung by the fire to dry (take out socks). It didn’t take long for people to start putting their shoes (take out a shoe) out at night on December 5, hoping that, in the morning, the shoes would be filled with coins (take out coins). Today we hang stockings by the chimney and hope that ST. NICHOLAS . . . or SANTA CLAUS . . . will bring us something special!”
Read A Kenya Christmas by Tony Johnston.
Split kids to go to different tables for crafts/snacks. Have kids share their snack and where it came from if applicable.
Table 1: Finish Pointsettia Craft
Table 2: Make Russian Noel craft
Table 3: Shoe Craft
Table 4: Make Bunuelos. This is a very common Mexican snack. I brought my own griddle in and bought packages of small tortillas. I put oil on the griddle and heated it up, then had my son grill both sides of the tortilla until it was brown. I put a cinnamon/sugar mix on a paper plate, gave the kids paper towels to pat down the tortillas and then had them put the tortillas in the cinnamon/sugar mix until their tortilla was covered. This was a HUGE hit with the kids!
Additional Activities Kids Can Do on Their Own:
Research and prepare some holiday recipes from around the world. Find some ideas here: http://kidworldcitizen.org/2014/11/26/christmas-around-world/
Learn Christmas carols from around the world and sing them to others. Have a Christmas concert and record it for others to enjoy!
The Japanese use lanterns, fans, flowers and dolls to decorate their trees. Make small Japanese fans to decorate your tree! https://www.activityvillage.co.uk/japanese-fan-craft
Play “innkeeper and travelers” using different rooms of your home. (a Mexican tradition)
In the spirit of St. Nicholas, leave a basket of goodies at a neighbor’s house (anonymously).
If you could give any gift to the people of the world, what would it be? Draw a picture of your gift and explain what it is and why you would give it.
Make a presentation showing who brings gifts in different countries. Use whatever method you want for this presentation!
Research how to say “Merry Christmas” in different languages. Choose your favorite and use it over and over again!!!
Follow Santa as he travels around the world on Christmas Eve. http://www.noradsanta.org/
Watch “The Nutcracker” ballet.
Make crafts from other countries. Here are a few sites to get you started:
Make a piñata and have a party!!! http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Pi%C3%B1ata