Christmas in different nations

For the past ten years, Mrs. Sheri Moore's third-grade class has taken a break from their social studies textbooks to tackle a different kind of learning. They hop aboard an imaginary airplane to travel around the world to learn about how Christmas is celebrated in other countries. This year, the students will "travel" to 8 different countries, plus the United States, with six countries having special guests present the information. The students learn about each country's foods, traditions, Santa, flags, locations, and songs. They also know how to say "Merry Christmas" in each language. Our special guests will be Roberta Edwards for England, Judy Yirsa for Mexico, Shon Tester for Germany, Bryanna Goodman for Canada, Petra Yirsa for South Korea, and Stephanie Overbay for Sweden. Our guests usually brought us little treats to go along with the country we were studying, and for England, we got to pop real Christmas crackers! At the end of our lessons, each student will research one country on their own and put a presentation together about that country's traditions. This year, we will be making Christmas Trees to display what each student has learned about Christmas in their chosen country. Christmas Around the World is always a favorite among students and teachers!

Judi Yirsa wrote, "In 2019, my friend and resident third-grade teacher, Sheri Moore, asked me if I could come in to share some insight on Mexican Christmas traditions. She informed me that she does a Christmas Around the World curriculum where the kids learn a little about international customs during the holiday season. I excitedly agreed and since then have been showing up to her classroom sometime at the beginning of December to talk about the popular cultural traditions and some of my own personal family experiences as a daughter of immigrant parents from Mexico. I love to dress the part, so I walk in with a traditional dress fashioned in Mexico City. This year, my daughter Lucy, also in 3rd grade, joined me and matched my colorful ensemble with a beautiful dress from Guadalajara, Jalisco. I love to share stories that I was raised hearing from my parents about the grand neighborhood parties that their communities would organize to tell the story of the birth of Jesus, re-enacting Joseph and Mary looking for a place to stay while walking through candle-lit streets, singing hymns, culminating in a grand fiesta (party) with delicious food, warm drinks and treats for the children. I usually bring tamales, which are seasoned meat, typically made out of pork or beef, wrapped in cornmeal dough, and steamed. As a kid, I always loved eating tamales on Christmas day! My family would work together to make them on the 23rd or 24th. It was an all-day affair in which everyone was asked to help! Each tamale would come wrapped in corn husks; thus, each one felt like opening a personal present of yummy goodness! This year, I changed up the main dish to include barbacoa tacos. I told them how, in Mexico, the barbacoa is prepared much like a luau pig, in which the meat is slowly cooked on coals in a deep pit, and for hours, the surrounding neighbors are tortured by the heavenly aroma! I have had the opportunity to eat the traditional barbacoa in Mexico, however, I make mine in a simple crock pot low and slow for 8 hours, and it usually hits the spot! I also like to bring Mexican hot chocolate, which is a little different from American hot chocolate in that it consists of a darker chocolate mixed with cinnamon and milk. Lastly, I talk about how the children looked forward to hitting a big piñata, traditionally made from a clay pot covered with paper maché and painted or decorated with brightly colored tissue paper filled with candy, fruit, or other goodies. Sheri does a great job of simultaneously showing images of items such as a map of Mexico, the processions in the street, traditional clothing, and food on a large screen for the children. The kids also have worksheets explaining the different traditions, including writing, drawing, and coloring. We finished our presentation this year by singing Feliz Navidad, a fairly newer song written by Jose Feliciano in 1970 that has been popular in Mexico and the U.S. My daughter's favorite part was seeing her friends and discussing her heritage. She said, "I was a bit shy, but it was so fun! It was on my birthday, so it was extra special!" My favorite part was answering questions from the kids. They always have such insightful thoughts and curiosities."

I watched and listened as Shon Tester talked to Mrs. Moore's class about Germany's Christmas. Germany decorates their Christmas tree with real candles, wood and straw ornaments, popcorn, and berries. They don't use candles so much anymore.

While Shon Tester talked to the students, he passed out pretzels because that is a treat often eaten in Germany during Christmas. If you want to say Merry Christmas in German, you can say, "God jewel." He talked about what is unique to Germany. He said, "Do you know who St. Nicholas is? Do you know of St. Nick's brother, St. Krampus? He showed them a picture of St. Krampus.

The gingerbreadman is the most popular cookie in Germany.

They looked at the flag, made up of black, red, and gold horizontal strips. The black color symbolizes dignity and the determination of the German people. Red symbolizes bravery, strength, and valor. The color of gold represents wealth, power, and prestige.

The Advent Calendar and Advent wreath come from Germany as well. The Advent Calendar opens up the little doors, and there's usually either a small toy, a little piece of chocolate, or a small amount of money behind the date. The Advent wreath is about preparing for the birth of Jesus. It usually has four to five candles and ends the Sunday before Christmas; they light a candle each week.

Germany eats Christmas goose; They also eat a lot of sausage and sauerkraut. Sauerkraut is made out of cabbage, and it's sour.