Here are a few ideas you might explore in your classroom to examine elements of the festival of Christmas – you can relate them to all sorts of areas of study.
- History, music and the traditions of folklore: Deconstruct some popular carols – sing them first if you like! Who was Good King Wenceslas (a 10th century Czech king) and why was he wandering about in the snow? Where is the Little Town of Bethlehem, and what is happening there today? What are the ancient traditions associated with the Holly and the Ivy, and why do we bring these plants inside at Christmas? There are lots of carols to examine.
- Religious studies, science, history: Explore why the date of Christmas falls in December – the Christian festival was probably overlaid onto ancient celebrations of the winter solstice, the moment of deepest darkness, but the moment when they days begin to get longer. The Romans and the Druids both marked the dark days with feasting or ritual. There are parallels in other cultures – such as the Hindu festival of Diwali which celebrates light over darkness, and the Jewish Hanukkah which is also known as the Festival of Lights.
- Science and astronomy: Why did the magi set off to find the newborn king? They followed the Star of Bethlehem – but what was that star? One theory is that it was a particularly bright comet; Halley’s comet appeared around 12BC, while a particularly bright comet was recorded by astronomers in China in the year 5BC. Others argue it was a conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn which created a moving star, or even that it was the birth of a new star.
- Geography and history : How do all these gifts get here? How does Amazon translate a few clicks on your computer into a book arriving in the post? Look at ancient trade routes for the riches of spices and silks, how states such as Venice and the Netherlands rose and fell on the back of trade. Where do the traditions of gift-giving at Christmas come from and how does modern commerce and advertising drive what we think we want on December 25th?
- English and Religious Studies: What are the roots of some Christmas words? Advent – what is the advent of something, and what are the Latin roots of this word? Santa Claus – who was the original St Nicholas, and why is he taking over from ‘Father Christmas’? Christ mass – the word ‘christ’ has a Greek origin. What are the roots of names of prophets and gods in other religions? The possibilities are endless!