I have been a teacher for some years now, but as a new Montessori teacher many questions come to mind with regards to holidays and celebrations. This year at Halloween I found it very refreshing not dealing with candy and commercialized characters. In my experience the day after Halloween has been a holiday so the teachers don’t have to deal with children on a sugar overdose! My children’s candy was exchanged for a dark 100 percent cocoa chocolate bar (much to their dismay!).
This brings us to Christmas and the current festivities. I have gingerly stepped around the topic and introduced “The twelve days of Christmas” song. Beyond that we made a modest paper wreath and built a tree out of the red rods with colored cylinders balanced in a geometric pattern. We also had a continent festival focusing on South America. The children performed a wonderful Brazilian circle dance known as the Samba.
In the classroom the children talk about Christmas and Santa and cannot contain their excitement. Since we don’t bring religion into the conversation that is left up to the parents. For Christians, Christ is the central figure of Christmas. In non-Christian homes, Santa Claus is the symbol of the day. Parents decide which traditions they wish to pass on to their offspring.
If we choose to tell the truth that Santa is a fictional being then we have the option of turning the “myth” into a learning opportunity. The character of Santa Claus has an interesting blend of origins. St. Nicholas of Myrna was a 4th century Christian Bishop who was beloved for his acts of charity towards the poor during the Christmas season. Northern Europeans celebrated a festival called “Yule.” The children set their boots by the fire with carrots and straw to feed Slepnir, a flying horse of the Norse God Odin. Odin would fly by and leave gifts in the boots in place of the food. Growing up in Northern England we left carrots for the reindeers and a mince pie for Santa. The English have called him “Father Christmas,” since the 1600’s. He is a jovial rotund figure garbed in a green robe trimmed in fur. When Coca Cola portrayed a Santa in a red robe with white trim the image stuck!
With these stories we can educate children and give them a whimsical and educational approach towards Santa rather than a debate about truth and falsehood.
I would not attempt to dismiss the idea of Santa Claus dear reader, that I will leave to the parents.
On this cherished day of the year let us honor our spiritual connection. By design we are a multicultural school bringing people together from all areas of the world. I personally will have a special dinner with family and friends on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day we will consume a large feast followed by Christmas pudding, a delightful concoction of dried fruits flambéed with a brandy sauce. The following day is Boxing Day which dates back to Victorian days as mentioned in Samuel Pepys diary entry for December 1663. In Britain since the workers would wait on their employers, the day after Christmas, December 26th was reserved for a visit with their families. The employer would give the workers a box to take home containing gifts, bonuses and food. The Feast of St. Stephen (the same day) has metal boxes placed outside churches to collect special offerings.
Whatever the “reason for the season” may we collectively celebrate and honor each and every custom. This is the season for peace and I wish each and every one of you a pleasant Christmas.