This year we continued with the tradition we began last year at Christmas time of studying a country’s Christmas traditions. I was overly ambitious last year and planned to study several countries. This year I lowered my expectations (which is almost nearly a good thing as far as I am concerned) and planned to study one country: Sweden. I knew that Sweden has a holiday, St. Lucia Day, just before Christmas, so I thought it would be a fun and interesting country to study. I was also inspired by Heidi of Mt. Hope Chronicles (you do know this beautiful blog, right?) and her article from a last year over at Simple Homeschool. Honestly, it was a real scramble to get to this. I mean, a real scramble. We were out of the house on Monday and Tuesday of last week for Christmas parties, etc., and then Wednesdays allow no time for extras due to Lulu’s early afternoon piano lesson. We finally got around to it on Thursday, but Lulu had a piano recital in the afternoon, so it was rather rushed. Then on Friday, Steady Eddie and I left after lunch (while Mamaw and than Nana took care of the kiddos) to go to a Scholastic Book Sale and to do some Christmas shopping. Anyway, we did get to some reading and some crafting. 🙂
When I received Jan Brett‘s latest newsletter in the mail and read that she was inspired to write her latest Christmas book, Home for Christmas, on a trip to Sweden, of course we had to add it to our Christmas around the World studies. This is Rollo the Troll’s story. Rollo is a michievous and lazy troll, and his parents and Little Sister know that the chances of his losing his tail are slim, for “troll tails will drop off one day, but only if a troll is kind, helpful, and does his chores.” Rollo gets fed up with the demands his family places on him, so one morning he grabs his rucksack and takes off. His time as a prodigal sees him sleeping in an owl’s nest, spending time as the adoptive son of Mother Bear, sliding over a waterfall with some fun-loving otters, and playing hide-and-seek with a lynx. He finally makes it back home on the newly-shed antler of a moose! He arrives home in time to help his family with their Christmas Eve preparations, and yes, Rollo does lose his tail in the end. In usual Jan Brett style, the Swedish-ness of the book is more in the subtle atmosphere her lush illustrations create than in the story itself. I could truly just sit and study her illustrations for a long, long time. This book provided a fun introduction to the meat of our study. (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 2011)
Astrid Lindgren‘s Christmas in Noisy Village probably needs no introduction, but before now my only experience with Astrid Lindgren was her Pippi books. This book is just what I envision when I think about a Christmas around the World study–it provides a look at a traditional Christmas: what the people eat, how they decorate, how they spend their time, what the weather is like, etc. Of course, what makes it so appealing is that it’s a story, not a dry, factual book. Noisy Village itself is such a cozy little community, with its three farms and six noisy children. The story is told from the perspective of one of the children, and she recounts the story of last year’s Christmas, with its firewood hauling, gingersnap baking, Christmas tree cutting, carol singing, Grandfather visiting, feasting, and church going. Ilon Wikland’s embue the story with even more messy, joyful, noisy fun. The only way I think this book could’ve been better is if we had read some of the other Noisy Village books first. If you have to pick one book about Christmas in Sweden, this is the one to choose. (Puffin, 1964) (The official Astrid Lindgren website is very interesting, should you have a few extra minutes this busy, busy weekend. 😉 )
Annika’s Secret Wish by Beverly Lewis is a piece of juvenile Christian fiction, first and foremost. It is a rather pedantic tale, really, and that’s something that doesn’t usually appeal to me. I prefer the story to shine over the lesson. In this story, Annika harbors a hope in her heart that she will be the one to find the almond in the Christmas rice pudding, for the finder will have his or her wish granted. Annika wishes and hopes and even prays to find the almond, but in the end, in a moment of self-sacrifice, she makes a decision to make a special someone else very happy. In between the wishing and dreaming, though, there is plenty of atmosphere and ambience: gingerbread, gilded apples, saffron buns, the Christmas smorgasboard, etc. Pamela Querin‘s illustrations are lovely and luminous, if a bit on the too-perfect side ;-). This isn’t my first pick, but if you like a story with a lesson, this one is a nice one. (Bethany Backyard, 2000)
I had a somewhat difficult time in coming up with an ornament to make to represent Sweden on our (currently not-in-use thanks to our resident toddler) Christmas around the World tree. In the end I settled on a woven heart, and I was gratified to note that woven hearts make an appearance on the endpapers in Home for Christmas and on a couple of pages of Christmas in Noisy Village. It became a sort of game for us, in fact, to find the woven hearts in the books. 🙂 I mostly used Jan Brett’s instructions and made my own template.
So far in our Christmas around the World studies, we have visited
- Mexico (plus more poinsettias here)
- Russia (plus another highly recommended title, The Miracle of Saint Nicholas, in this post)
I’m running short of ideas for next year’s study. I like for this to be picture-book heavy, so if anyone has any great picture books that give a glimpse into another country’s Christmas traditions, I’m all ears!
Okay, that’s it for me. For next week’s RAT, the last of 2o11 (gasp!), I plan to share our top chapter book read alouds of year. You’re welcome to link up a regular post or your own year-in-review.
Have a merry Christmas, everyone!