We spent some time before our holiday break learning about Hanukkah, St. Lucia Day, and how other countries celebrate Christmas.
Hanukkah, the eight-day, 2,000 year old holiday is also called the Festival of Lights. At a time when the Jews were fighting for religious freedom, a lamp in the Jewish temple was very low, but miraculously continued to burn for eight nights. To honor this extraordinary event, Jews today celebrate by lighting a special candle device called a menorah. People give each other gifts, make special foods, play Dreidel, and remember their ancestors who fought to take the temple back. The kindergartners learned how to play Dreidel and made a paper menorah to remember the Jewish celebration.
We learned about St. Lucia Day, which is celebrated in Sweden. Families, businesses and schools choose a girl to be St. Lucia, the patron Saint of Light. She wears a white dress, red sash, and crown of candles. Then she delivers saffron rolls and tea. The boys wear star boy hats as they celebrate the day. We didn’t have saffron rolls so our St. Lucia served cinnamon rolls that were shaped like saffron rolls.
We had fun learning about Christmas in England and popped Christmas crackers with each other. Inside each cracker was a tissue paper crown, a toy, and a joke. We also read Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and talked about the Christmas pudding that is enjoyed in England.
We learned about Christmas in Germany and that many Germans celebrate with Advent calendars and wreaths. A former student from Germany sent me an Advent calendar to use in class. The kindergartners had a great time picking out the daily surprises. The kids found bubba teeth, eye rings, finger flashlights, and Rudolph noses. The kindergartners made a Santa Claus advent calendar to count down the days at home. We also learned that in Germany kids put their shoes outside the door so that St. Nicolas can fill them. The kindergartners put their shoes outside the door and found a surprise!
It is thought that the Christmas tree originated in Germany. We had a classroom tree and hung homemade gingerbread cookie ornaments on it.
We talked about a well-know Christmas flower that was brought from Mexico to the United States by a South Carolinian. Dr. Joel Roberts Poinsett was the U.S. minister to Mexico. When he returned to the United States in 1830 he brought cuttings of the plant with him.
We talked about Christmas in France and made a version of their Yule log dessert. We used snack rolls, green icing and red m&ms. Yum!
In Russia, Ded Moroz (Father Frost) and his granddaughter Snegurochka (Snow Maiden) deliver gifts on New Year’s Eve. We read a story about Snow Maiden going to the North Pole to help Santa Claus. In the book, Snow Maiden has a matryoshka doll that looks a lot like her. We made a paper version of her doll. We also read The Nutcracker and talked about the Russian connection with the famous ballet. We watched a few minutes of a Nutcracker ballet performance from the New York Ballet Company.
During the last week before our Holiday break, we had a Polar Express Day. We all came to school in pajamas and spent the day enjoying some fun – centered around the wonderful book and movie. The students followed train tracks to get to the classroom and walked in to see the tables turned into a train and another area of the class turned into the North Pole.
Our language and math activities were centered around The Polar Express. We played a Santa’s reindeer popcorn word game and read the book. We also played a math fact game and an odd and even activity.
After lunch, we hopped on the classroom train and began watching the movie. The kindergartners enjoyed a snack of cookies, popcorn, and hot chocolate with marshmallows and peppermint sticks.
When the Polar Express arrived at the North Pole, so did we. The kindergartners watched the rest of the movie in the snow at the North Pole.
It was an exciting day that ended with a short “snowball” fight. We had a great day making memories.