Hard to believe it is just a little over two weeks until Christmas! If you are looking for some visual ways to share this and other winter holidays with your students, check out the resources below:
Scholastic’s Celebrate Winter Holidays: Christmas – interactive site shares history behind Christmas traditions and ways various cultures celebrate the holiday
National Geographic’s The World of Christmas – take a virtual tour to see celebrations in 16 cities around the world
Lemon.ly’s Christmas Around the World – infographic depicting Christmas traditions around the world
Online Interactive World Advent Calendar – test your knowledge of Christmas celebrations around the world
Christmas Around the World Art Projects – inspired by the Herbert Hoover Museum Christmas exhibit which honors Herbert and Lou Henry Hoover’s mission of spreading the message of peace and goodwill around the globe
While its origins may be disputed, the love for this verse is not. The Friendly Beasts, also known as The Animal Carol and The Gift of the Animals, has been used as the text in a variety of children’s books and recorded in song by many over the years.
According to Wikipedia, “The song seems to have originated in 12th-century France, set to the melody of the Latin song Orientis Partibus. The current English words were written by Robert Davis (1881-1950) in the 1920s.”
Many of the children’s books created around this story use Davis’ words. However, their pictures vary greatly. Sharing a variety of these books with your class during the holiday season could be the basis of a creative theme study as you compare the illustrators’ styles and any text variations. Your students might even be inspired to illustrate their own version of this verse!
Listed below is a partial text set of some of the books based on the poem The Friendly Beasts.
While I enjoy a good picture book any day of the year, I find Christmas stories especially fun to read. The following are three of my favorite Christmas legend stories.
The Legend of the Poinsettia retold and illustrated by Tomie dePaola is a story centered on the Mexican tradition of bringing gifts to the Christ child during the Christmas Eve procession. Young Lucida is heartbroken when her family is without a gift on Christmas Eve, and she ends up bringing an armful of weeds to the manger. This simple gift combined with a Christmas miracle created the Christmas flower we know today as the poinsettia.
Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins and illustrated by Nicolas Sidjakov shares the Russian folktale of the old peasant woman’s (Baboushka) endless search for the Christ child. This book is the 1961 winner of the Caldecott medal.
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree by Gloria Houston and beautifully illustrated by Barbara Cooney tells the story of a Christmas memory of a young girl from the Appalachian Mountains. In the midst of hard times, Ruthie’s hope and faith and her parents’ determination helped create a very perfect Christmas one year for the people of Pine Grove.
More Christmas legend stories about stockings, mistletoe, Rudolph, ivy, and other Christmas symbols can be found on the Christmas World and My Merry Christmas sites.
After sharing some of these stories with your class, you may want to extend the activity into a writing lesson and have your students create their own Christmas legend stories.
IRA’s ReadWriteThink site has a lesson with some helpful worksheets and handouts that guide students as they create their own Porquoi Stories: Creating Tales to Tell Why. This could be easily adapted to fit with the holiday theme and would provide students with some creative experiences as they imagine the stories about how Christmas symbols came to be.
Christmas holiday traditions abound. And the Christmas tree, like the other traditions, has a long and varied history. The following list provides visual resources for sharing some about this Christmas symbol’s history and customs with your students:
O Christmas Tree: Its History and Traditions by Jacqueline Farmer explains some of the customs and traditions of the Christmas tree through the centuries.
The White House Historical Association‘s website provides an overview of the history of Christmas trees in the White House, a tradition started by President Benjamin Harrison in 1899.
The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree: The History and Lore of the World’s Most Famous Evergreen by Nancy Armstrong and Alexandra Lewis shares the history of another famous Christmas tree in America.
You can also view the History Channel’s short video about the Life of a Christmas Tree to learn more about the process involved in “creating” the trees used each year during the Christmas season.