Hey! Who’s in charge of this blog?!?!?
Oh, that would be ME. 🙂 After I declared last week that I was through with blogging ’til after Christmas, I began to regret not finishing a post or two I had in the works. I didn’t want all that typing to go to waste, so here you go. 🙂
As much as I love history, I am still a little ambivalent about our study of ancient history this year since my girls are still so young. I think the main problem I have with it is that I miss reading picture books to them and calling that history! 🙂 While we have found quite a few stories to share that pertain to our studies, somehow reading The Epic of Gilgamesh in picture-book format didn’t leave us with the warm-and-fuzzy feeling that many of our other histoy-related read-alouds have. At any rate, I decided to take a break from our history curriculum in the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas break and just take a little cultural tour of a few countries via their Christmas traditions instead.
First up was Mexico, a natural choice because there is no shortage of resources. We were already quite familiar with some of the traditions because of the girls’ love for the American Girl Josefina’s story, but it has been a while since we’ve listened to these stories. For a refresher I brought home Josefina’s Surprise: A Christmas Story, and Lulu gobbled it right up in a couple of days. Josefina lives in New Mexico, but of course, the traditions are the same.
For us, of course, the joy comes in when we find “living books” to use for our studies. In this case, these books were mostly in the form of Christmas legends from Mexico or other Spanish-speaking countries. We read and enjoyed Nine Days to Christmas: A Story of Mexico by Marie Hall Ets (my review here) a couple of years ago, and it was the first book the girls picked out of our library basket out of all the Christmas stories I had checked out a couple of weeks ago. In fact, they asked their Nana to read it to them one night that she was here, and of course, she complied. We have also enjoyed The Gift of the Poinsettia by Pat Mora and Charles Ramirez Berg. Both of these stories provide a nice overview of all the festivities surrounding Christmas in Mexico. I was very pleasantly suprised by The Gift of the Poinsettia for a couple of reasons: first, it goes through, night by night, all the daily activities that happen in Mexico in the days leading up to Christmas. Second, it is in both English and Spanish. Although I didn’t read it in Spanish to the girls, I like that it is an option. 🙂 Third, the boy in the story has a sweet relationship with his elderly aunt. This book ends with yet another rendition of the legend of the poinsettia, and by now it’s one my girls are very familiar with.
No study like this would be complete without a couple of Tomie DePaola titles, would it? You probably already know the ones we used. 🙂 The Legend of the Poinsettia is one of them, of course! I won’t mention much about this one because it’s probably one of the most well-known of all the legends DePaola has adapted as a picture book, but I did want to mention one more of his that we read and enjoyed. The Night of Las Posadas is a fictionalized account of the Mexican Christmas tradition of Las Posadas, with a twist. Las Posadas is a festival celebrated for the nine nights preceding Christmas in which families walk in a procession throughout their neighborhoods, knocking on doors. On Christmas Eve, a door opens to commemorate Mary and Joseph finding lodging in the place of the Nativity. A young woman usually plays the role of Mary and a young man plays the role of Joseph. In this DePaola tale, the couple portraying Mary and Joseph is detained, but someone does indeed play the part. Who could it be?
Although these legends are pretty far removed from our traditions, we enjoyed these tales. In trying to flesh out exactly what I wanted this little study to look like this year, I decided to try to find at least one art activity for each country. Poinsettias were the obvious choice for a craft, and ideas online abound. So far, we’ve made this paper towel poinsettia (scroll down once you click the link). I actually folded and glued the poinsettias, but I gave the girls undiluted liquid watercolors and some pipettes (eyedroppers) and let them have fun adding color. After they dried (which took a while–the girls REALLY saturated the paper towels with paint!), we glued some tiny little gold beads to the centers.
Isn’t this a lovely deep red? We also added leaves to ours:
I’d love to make these poinsettia sponge paintings with my girls, too. If we get around to it, I’ll try to share pictures.
My plan is to have a Christmas around the World Christmas tree each year, and add to our hand-made ornaments. These poinsettias will be the first to go on the tree.
I think they’re beautiful.
After I had all but finished this post, I read this fantastic post at Simple Homeschool. I could’ve just scrapped my post and posted a link to that article instead. Be sure to click over and read it, especially since it has several links for books about Christmas in other countries. I’m definitely taking notes!
Okay, so this Read Aloud Thursday is rather unexpected, but maybe someone out there is playing along, anyway. Link up in the comments, if you did!
I’ll be back next Thursday, at least, with another post. (And my regular readers will never believe me again. . . 🙂 )