“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.

By Beth Pinyerd

During 2020 and 2021, the world has come to the doorsteps of families with young children in regards to the pandemic. Classroom Observer would like to share with families with young children a unit I enjoy teaching year after year. Children truly love to celebrate the different Christmas traditions of different cultures. Families, you might want to glean some of these simple activity suggestions to have your family do. Saying Merry Christmas in different languages seems to be enjoyed by all. Also these are wonderful intergenerational suggestions for the young and old. In the classroom, I love to have the children imagine that they are flying in an airplane to visit the different countries. Readers, this is a traditional article that seems to be enjoyed year after year. I hope you enjoy it and are enlightened to try other countries’ traditions here a few weeks before Christmas!

Our first stop is Mexico, where one of the Christmas traditions is to make a pinata, fill it with candies and toys, blindfold each other, hit it with a stick and the children scramble to get their favorite candies.  Here is a simple way to make a pinata at home.  Start with a large brown paper grocery bag. Decorate the bag with paint, streamers, yarn and colored paper. Fill the bag with candy, nuts, fruit, popron and small toys. Tie a cord or fasten a strong rubber band around the opening of the bag. Hang the pinata from a hook or put it on the end of a broomstick.  Blindfold a person at a time, turn them around once or twice, let them hit the pinata with a wooden spoon or stick.  Children stand back and have fun!  When we think of Mexico we think of the beautiful Poinsettia which we use for decorations year after year!  The Legend of the Poinsettia is a precious legend about a poor little Mexican girl who had no gift to present to the Christ child at the Christmas Eve services. By a roadside she gathered a bouquet of scraggly weeds. As she approached the manger at church where Jesus lay she humbly presented her bouquet of weeds which burst into beautiful red blooms. What a miracle right before the church’s eyes. Legend has it from that day on the flowers were called “Flowers of The Holy Night”. Here is how to say Merry Christmas in Spanish, “Feliz Navidad”.

Stop number two is off to China.  Children in China celebrate the Chinese New Year with lots of fireworks – bright colored fountains, gold and silver sparklers and sky rockets. The way to say Merry Christmas in Chinese is “Kung Hei Shing Taan” phonetically (goong-hoh-sheng-tahn).

The beautiful country of Norway is our third stop where grud is the favorite dessert the Norwegian children enjoy.  A nut is hidden in one of the dishes of pudding, and whoever finds the nut wins a candy pig,  This Norwegian tradition is easy to adopt in your home. 

Here is the recipe for grud;

Combine 2 quarts milk and 1 cup regular rice in top of a double boiler. 

Cook slowly over low heat until it thickens.

 Add a pinch of salt and gently stir.

 Cover, cool.

Fold into rice mixture:

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons vanilla

2 cups whipped cream.

Spoon into individual dishes, cover and chill.  Don’t forget to hide a nut in one of the dishes. 

Merry Christmas in Norwegian is “God Jul” — phonetically “good yool”.

To celebrate the Christmas season in France, straw shoes are put on the fireplace to await special surprises for the next morning.  When the French children awaken on Christmas morning, the straw shoes will be filled with toys, candyn and nuts.  The French say Merry Christmas “Joyeaux Noel”— phonetically “Zwah-Yuh-noh-Ehl”.  Talking about shoes at Christmas the children from Holland put out their wooden shoes on Dec. 6 to excitedly await the gifts from Sinterklass.  We learned a lot at stop number four.

At stop number five, we land in Sri Lanka where the children are making bright colored chains to joyfully decorate for the holiday season.  These are the old fashion circle chains that children love to make and hook together. Merry Christmas in Sri Lanka is “Kirusmas Vazphuphal” — phonetically “Krooz-ma FAR-too-dal”.

 In stop number six, as we fly over the country of Greece, we notice in the homes evergreen trees decorated with tinsel and a star placed on top. Gift are exchanged on Jan. 1, St. Basil’s Day. The people from Greece greet one another by saying Hronis polla, or many happy years.

In Africa, our stop number seven, as we look at the Congo, the families gather together to prepare for the annual Christmas pageant. Caroling up and down the roadways seem to be an annual Christmas tradition. Christmas in South Africa is a summer holiday as well. On the west coast of Africa, in Liberia, oil palms are decorated for the Christmas trees and they are decorated with bells to ring in the Christmas season.

As we make stop number eight in Czechoslovakia we learn of a tradition shared by not only Czechoslovakia but Poland which involves cutting a branch from a cherry tree and putting it in water inside to bloom. If the bloom opens in time for Christmas, it is considered good luck and also a sign that winter will be short and spring is on its way. This reminds us of the Christmas cactus with that much awaited bloom on Christmas day and with the hopes of winter ending and spring coming reminds me of our American Holiday, “Groundhog’s Day”.

In Australia, stop nine, we think of the Christmas Downunder which parallels to so many of the same traditions, glitter, decorations that we celebrate in America. One must remember too, that Christmas in Australia falls during the summer holidays. Australia is so big with many different cultures represented. It’s like Christmas Around the World can be celebrated in one country. The Australians enjoy celebrating culturally diverse traditions of the Christmas season.

When we think of the Netherlands, stop 10, we not only think of windmills, dikes to hold back water and tulips, but wooden shoes come to mind. Sinterklaas is the Dutch Santa Claus or St. Nicholas. Dutch children are excitedly told to prepare as Sinterklaas sails from Spain on Dec. 5. They fill their wooden shoes with hay and sugar for the horse and awake to find gifts of candy and nuts in their wooden shoes.

Children everywhere would love to celebrate Christmas in Sweden, stop 11, because it lasts a whole month starting Dec. 13. The feast of Saint Lucia, a fourth century Sicilian saint honored and loved by the Swedish people is celebrated. On the feast day which honors St Lucia, the oldest daughter of the family dresses in a white dress with a red sash, wears an evergreen wreath with seven lighted candles on her head. She joyfully carries and serves buns and coffee to each family member in the home.

Stop 12, we don’t see the traditional green Christmas tree. They decorate mango and banana trees. They love to hang giant paper lanterns in the shape of stars outside their homes. Paper lanterns are so easy for children to make as we honor the Christmas traditions of India.

Stop 13, we see many Christmas markets in Germany. The markets carry everything for Christmas including gifts, food and decorations. Christmas shopping is easy with just stopping in the markets.

We can say Merry Christmas in many different languages. Children love to do this in greeting each other. Russian Merry Christmas is “S Rozhdestvom Khristovym”(z’roh-desht-vohm Kris-too-vim), African in Swahili is “Sikukuu ya Kuzaliwa Kristo” (see-koo-koo yah koo-zah-lee-wah kree-stow), Brazil  it is almost like Mexico but slightly different as “Feliz Natal”. Of course other ways to wish everyone a season of happiness is Season’s Greetings or Happy Holidays.

Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish children and Happy Kwanzaa to our African children who celebrate this holiday season. Of course the Classroom Observer has only skimmed the surface of different cultures and holiday celebrations.  That is your homework as you enrich your child with knowledge, celebration and fun during this season of the year. Time given to increase your child’s learning is the best seasonal gift that any parent can give their child. I hope with the weeks left before Christmas that you will enjoy learning the different traditions of celebrating Christmas in other countries.

Of course, we can travel the whole world over, but isn’t it nice to come back home where a Christmas in Lee County is the envy of all.

Classroom Observer

Beth Pinyerd