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Christmas Around the World

"Merry Christmas" in many languagesguest post by Edmond Gubbins

Teaching in a small, rural, primary school rooted in the Catholic ethos in Ireland, Christmas is a central tradition celebrated by the students. Each year in December, the children perform a Christmas pageant, attended by their families and fellow schoolmates. However, my colleagues and I decided that, this year, we would divert from telling the traditional story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the Nativity and move instead toward teaching a more inclusive Christmas story, one that authentically captures the experiences of children from a range of diverse backgrounds. It is from this theme: “Christmas Around the World” that my journey into fostering an appreciation for the diversity of Christmas customs among my students originated.

Fostering an Appreciation for Diversity

As a teacher of 2nd and 3rd class students (ages 8-10), the children I teach have grown up hearing about the customs and stories familiar to them and their families during Christmas time. I wanted to push their understanding of this holiday and help them realize that the celebration of important feasts and festivals are dependent on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) their nationality, belief systems, family values and personal identity. We have done much work this school year already on the concept of identity and how our identity shares features that are common to other people, distinct from other people and unique to ourselves. Arising from this conceptual understanding, it made sense to take our Christmas show in a similar direction and investigate some of the traditions in December through a multicultural lens. What better way to do it than through the medium of drama, where the children can truly step into the shoes of another and see Christmas traditions from a multitude of perspectives?

“Our show will help you see that Christmas isn’t the same for you and me!”

My students and I have learned much from this project. As we looked at how Christmas is celebrated in Poland through a retelling of Marek and Alice’s Christmas in class one day, discussion naturally followed about how the holiday is marked in other countries. There are some fantastic resources online that we used in devising the script for the show. Writing a script for over 30 excited children, making sure that every child has their time to shine on stage, while also allowing them to learn about cultures different from their own was no easy task, let me tell you! However, now that rehearsals have started, I can tell already that it is a project that has been worthwhile for my own knowledge but also for the children’s attitudes of acceptance and appreciation of diversity.

So what does Christmas look like around the world?

Our pageant looks at some of the customs, foods and songs associated with Christmas in a host of countries. For example, in certain parts of Russia, many people do not eat on Christmas Eve until the first star has appeared in the night sky. Families then eat 12 courses of food to represent the 12 disciples of Jesus. My children were fascinated to learn about the tradition of eating kutia, a porridge-like meal, during the Christmas feast. All the family eats from the same bowl to symbolise unity. Some families even hold the custom of throwing a spoonful of kutia up onto the ceiling and, if it sticks, they hope to enjoy good luck for the year ahead.

The traditional Christmas songs or carols that the children have been learning since they started primary school quite often originated in another country and from another language. For example, the song “O Christmas Tree” was originally in German and called “O Tannenbaum.” Other songs, such as “O Holy Night” (originally a French song), “Deck the Halls” (from Wales) and “The Little Drummer Boy” (from Czech Republic) are much loved by both children and adults alike. Part of our show sees the children singing the well-known song “Silent Night” in 3 languages – English, Irish, and German, the language it was originally sung in. The lyrics, with a phonetic pronunciation are here if you’d like try it yourself:

"Silent Night" lyrics in German

Ho, Ho, Who?

Of course, one of the most exciting parts of Christmas for children is the receiving of presents. In Ireland, Santa Claus (or Daidí na Nollag in the Irish language) travels around the country on his sleigh, delivering presents to all the boys and girls who have been good. Children usually go to visit Santa in the weeks leading up to Christmas to let Santa know what they would like him to deliver to them.

Our show has a scene where Santas from other countries are being interviewed about how they deliver presents to children where they come from. In the Netherlands, Santa is called Sinterklaas. He usually travels on a white horse, wearing a tall hat with a jewelled staff in hand as he travels through the night. His companion Grumpus is said to rattle his chains at children who are naughty!

In France, Père Noël wears a long red cloak to keep warm. Children leave their shoes out by the fireplace on Christmas Eve night in the hope that they will be filled full of presents when they wake on Christmas morning.

In Russia, Ded Moroz or “Father Frost” is assisted by Snegurochka (meaning “Snow Maiden”) on Christmas Eve night. You’d better watch out though because he has been known to kidnap naughty children!

In Italy, the tradition of the jolly man wearing red is quite different! La Befana is a witch who travels around on her broomstick every year to deliver gifts to children. Sometimes, she may even sweep the floors of the houses she visits with her broomstick to sweep away any bad luck. Both the children and I had never heard of this particular tradition and many were eager to play this part in the show.

Piquing the children’s natural interest in the figure of Santa Claus provided a rich stimulus for discussion about traditions that their own families celebrated. Some children in my class contacted relatives in other countries in places as far from Ireland as Australia to hear about how they eat their Christmas dinner on the beach!

Before the Curtain Goes Up

What has been gained from looking at Christmas from an international lens? Undoubtedly, the children’s knowledge has broadened in myriad ways through our exploration of the theme “Christmas Around the World.” In investigating the traditions, foods and songs of other countries, the children have been enabled to hold a mirror up to their own traditions and see similarities and differences between their culture and the cultural identities of other boys and girls around the world. Through music, dance, and drama, the children are very tangibly realising that the holiday of Christmas may be celebrated differently around the world, but that does not make it any less special. Our show hasn’t even been performed yet, but I hope the children will remember it and what it has taught them for many years to come.

Edmond Gubbins is a 2nd and 3rd class elementary teacher from County Limerick in Ireland. Owing to his extensive work with Language Lizard during the completion of his Master’s in Education at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, he has a keen interest in multiculturalism and fostering an appreciation for diversity in his students.

Charitable Program Provides Bilingual Books in Spanish, Arabic and Kurdish to Language Learners

Language Lizard and our colleagues at Mantra Lingua UK were honored to support a recent charity initiative of eClinicalWorks, to provide literacy materials to thousands of dual language families in Tennessee.

eClinicalWorks, a leading healthcare technology solutions company, assembled book kits for children in the Metro Nashville Public Schools.  Spanish, Arabic and Kurdish speaking families received two of our most popular bilingual books in English and their home language: The Little Red Hen and the Grains of Wheat and The Giant Turnip

It is a great gift when corporations are able to support the literacy development of dual language learners. We appreciate their spirit of giving and wish everyone a wonderful holiday season. Remember #GivingTuesday!

Note: If you know any companies that would like to partner with Language Lizard to support dual language learners, please ask them to contact us. In certain situations, company logos can be included on books.

Unique Multicultural Gifts for the Holidays

bilingual shirts and mugs

Celebrate diversity and show your support for bilingualism with these fun and unique gifts! Perfect for bilingual students and teachers in diverse classrooms.

Discounts on ALL Bilingual Book Sets – Available in 40+ languages!

We hand-selected our most popular titles for bilingual book sets to save you time and money. All books include English and one other language of your choice. Tailored to meet the language needs of teachers and librarians, they make ordering easy! Our book sets include the most accessible, popular, and culturally appropriate books for the children you want to reach.

Exclusive PENpal Interactive Literacy Sets are a great way to support dual language learners! We offer an extensive selection of literacy sets that include the PENpal Audio Recorder Pen, along with our award-winning bilingual “talking books.”

Discount is applied during checkout – no code needed!

Multilingual Posters – Great for teachers with diverse classrooms!

To help you decorate your multicultural classroom or library, we are offering a discount on our multilingual poster 3-pack. This set of 3 posters lets you display “Hello,” “Thank You” and “Welcome” in over 30 languages. The discount is available online – no coupon code required.

Unique T-shirts & Mugs Celebrate Diversity and Bilingualism!

bilingual shirtsWe’re excited to offer new multicultural t-shirts that celebrate bilingualism and diversity with messages like: Welcome Your Friends (with “HELLO” in different languages), I’m Bilingual, What’s Your Superpower? and We All Smile in the Same Language.

There are many more design and color options available at our Amazon store, as well as bilingual, Spanish-only, French and German versions of some of the designs.

bilingual mugsSimilar designs promoting multiculturalism are also available on mugs! (Note that there are multiple pages.)

Gift Certificates – Let Recipients Choose What They’d Like!

Language Lizard gift certificates are great for students, teachers, librarians, and others who support dual-language children. Your recipients can choose books in over 50 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, German, Gujarati, Haitian-Creole, Italian, Japanese, Nepali, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Turkish, Urdu, Vietnamese and more!

You can select gift certificates in any value, add a special note of thanks, and have them sent via email within one business day!

Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month – Giveaway & Discounts Extended!

Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month is a great opportunity to recognize the many children who speak two or more languages and understand multiple cultures. Let’s encourage literacy and parental involvement, and celebrate the children who work so hard to learn a new language.

Huge Bilingual Book Giveaway – Extended!

Language Lizard has given away a surprise set of bilingual books to a new winner every month. We’ve already given away OVER $1,000 in bilingual books!

In the spirit of Celebrating the Bilingual Child Month, we’re extending our huge Bilingual Book Giveaway through the end of 2018!

New winners are selected every month, so enter today for a chance to win a surprise set of bilingual books in your choice of languages!

Discounts on all Bilingual Book Sets in over 50 languages!

Bilingual Book SetsWe’re also extending our discount on all Bilingual Book Sets. No code needed! 

We hand-selected our most popular books to save you time and money. These book sets will help you choose the most accessible, interesting, and culturally appropriate books for your little language learners.

Farsi (Persian) Language Facts & Farsi Children’s Books

Today’s spotlight language is Farsi. Find background information and interesting facts about the language, as well as information to help you find Farsi children’s books. Interested in learning about even more languages? Check out our series of posts on world languages, including French, Hindi, Russian and Japanese!

Where is Farsi spoken?

Farsi, also known as Persian, Dari or Tajiki, is the national language of Iran, Afghanistan, and Tajikistan. It is also spoken in other parts of the Middle East and India. There are around 60 to 80 million native speakers around the world.

How Many People Speak Farsi in the US?

According to the most recent US Census data, there are about 400,000 people who speak Farsi in the US. There are large Farsi speaking populations in California, New York, and Washington, DC.

Interesting Facts About Farsi

Farsi has twenty-three consonants and six vowel sounds. It is written from right to left. (Numerals are written from left to right.)

In Farsi, nouns have no gender, and there are no articles. Farsi is considered to have a relatively simple grammatical structure.

The first handwritten book in Farsi was a medical book written in 1055.

Farsi Books – Bilingual Children’s Books

If the kids in your life speak Farsi , or are learning the language, you may want suggestions on some of the best bilingual Farsi books and audio books for kids.  Some culturally relevant stories with text in both English and the Farsi language include: Journey Through Islamic Arts, The Swirling Hijaab and Samira’s Eid.  Other engaging story books include Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Pandora’s Box, and The Giant Turnip.  You may also want to check out the illustrated Farsi-English dictionary with audio for children.

Do you speak Farsi, or are you learning the language? Comment below and share your interesting language facts!

“Dr. Bashi Persian alphabet wood blocks” by Dr. Bashi via Flickr is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/ixx4uf

2 New (Free!) Multicultural Lesson Plans

two lesson plans in front of chalkboardWe’ve teamed up with our friends at West Chester University to bring you two new lesson plans that bring multicultural education to your classroom! Download the free lesson plans and adapt them to the unique needs of your classroom. Homeschooling parents, use the activities to build literacy skills and explore new languages and cultures with your kids!  Continue reading 2 New (Free!) Multicultural Lesson Plans

Parents Night for Bilingual ELL Families

colorful stick figure people in a classroom with a chalkboard that says, "Bilingual Parents Night"Have you thought about hosting a Parents Night event just for your bilingual families? It’s a great opportunity to create a personal connection with parents who have a unique set of concerns, as well as a valuable skill set to bring to your classroom. Continue reading Parents Night for Bilingual ELL Families

4 Musical Multicultural Kid Crafts

Music is an wonderful way to introduce kids to different cultures. As Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said, “Music is the universal language of mankind.” It can evoke emotions that are at the heart of the shared human experience. Here, we offer four musical multicultural kid crafts that celebrate diversity and remind us of what we all have in common. Try them with your little ones at home or school! Continue reading 4 Musical Multicultural Kid Crafts

Preparing Your Classroom for Bilingual Students

cartoon children in front of a school with "hello" in many languagesIt may be hard to believe, but summer is coming to an end. Beach days and family barbecues will soon be behind us. You find your mind is full of lesson plans and an incoming class of new faces. As you’re organizing shelves and deciding on the optimal classroom layout, remember to consider the needs of your bilingual students. Now is the perfect time to create a welcoming classroom that reflects acceptance and diversity right from the start. Continue reading Preparing Your Classroom for Bilingual Students

Bilingual Summer Reading List

Whether your summer is action-packed or laid back, there are stretches of time that are perfect for getting in some bilingual reading. But what books are perfect for the long ride to grandma’s, or the quiet afternoon by the lake? We’ve brought together some of our favorite summertime reads that are sure to appeal to kids of all ages and interests. Bonus: They’ll be improving their bilingual skills. Our titles are available in English with your choice of over 50 languages! Continue reading Bilingual Summer Reading List