I am a child of the 1980s, so it’s sort of difficult for me to even say Russia without defaulting to the U.S.S.R. 😉 I took a year of Russian language study in high school, and this (along with the wonderfully charismatic teacher under whose spell I had fallen) birthed in me a love of the language and the country. I can barely speak a few words and phrases of the language now, but I still find the country and culture enchanting, for some reason. When I started thinking about our little Christmas around the World study for our homeschool, I decided that injecting a little Russian culture into our studies would be fun. Actually, our St. Nicholas Day activities is what brought this Russian study about–reading about the importance of St. Nicholas to the Russian Orthodox got me to thinking about Russia, and then I read this post of Sprittibee’s. It was a great confluence of rabbit trails!
When I first read Heather’s glowing recommendation (it’s #10 on the list) of Baboushka and the Three Kings by Ruth Robbins, I knew I had to find a copy of this little Caldecott medal winning story from 1961. The book had to go back to the library already, so I’m working completely from memory here, but this story is a Russian legend about an old woman (a baboushka, or grandmother–see I do remember some Russian!) who turns away the Wise Men who invite her to accompany them on their search for the Christ Child. Here’s a nice little summary of the legend from the Why Christmas site. (Stop the presses! While reading the summary, I came across a link to this article which disputes the origin of the so-called Russian legend. The author of the article, who appears to be quite the Russian expert, says the legend is based on this 1907 poem by American Edmith M. Thomas. Whatever. It’s still a nice little legend. We won’t quibble.) The illustrations in Baboushka and the Three Kings are by Nicolas Sidjakov and are quite unusual. They are pen-and-ink drawings with bold swaths of color. The characters in the story are drawn very geometrically. You can see what I mean by going here. We all enjoyed this little Russian story, and I would love to own a copy of it for our own Christmas collection. Do any of you know of any other Christmas stories set in Russia or any of the surrounding countries? My search thus far has come up short.
Well, of course we had to make the matryoshkas that Heather made after I saw them. Of course! I own a little matryoshka that Steady Eddie and I bought a long time ago when we went to one of those traveling exhibits about the Romanovs, and my girls loveto get it out of the china cabinet and play with it. Heather made hers out of those little paper bell-shaped ornaments that are usually available this time of year, but alas, I couldn’t find any. We had to settle for wooden eggs. 🙂 This is yet another craft that was really too detailed and difficult for my girls, but we hung in there. With a lot of help, the girls managed to each paint one matryoshka for our Christmas around the World tree and one to play with. The fifth one is mine. 🙂
Since these pictures were taken, I’ve Mod-Podged them and Steady Eddie put an i-hook into the top of three of them to turn them into ornaments. They, along with our paper towel poinsettias, now hang from the branches of our thus-far sparsely decorated Christmas around the World tree.
That’s it for Christmas around the World at the House of Hope this year. There was more that I wanted to do (as always–I’m waaaaaay too ambitious when it comes to what we can accomplish), but it will have to wait until next year.
What are your picks this week for read-alouds? Tell me about them in the comments, or link up your own Read Aloud Thursday post!