Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Merry Christmas from Germany

Whewwwww!  Today was packed with tons of fun as we visited Germany...our last stop on our Christmas Around the World tour.  I am one tired Mama! ;)

Just to give you a heads up to how the day ended...
but, hey, all is fair in the name of learning.

The morning began with the reading of Cobweb Christmas, a German legend.  It tells of miraculous spiders who spin their sparkling webs on Christmas trees...the creation of tinsel.  This story also reveals another German tradition.  Children will leave their shoes beside the door in hopes that Kris Kringle will fill them with gifts and treats.  

Since tinsel was created in Germany around 1610, we wanted to celebrate this tradition.  Old Crow and I opened up a bag of tinsel and sprinkled it on our 25 Names for Jesus Christmas tree. 

Germans are also fond of gingerbread.  They enjoy making gingerbread houses and gingerbread men.  Using a milk carton, graham crackers, icing, mini marshmallows, and M&Ms, Old Crow put together his own gingerbread house.  We bought a gingerbread house kit that he could decorate, but he wanted to put together his own house.

Then we took a break and snuggled on the couch together while I read, The Legend of the Christmas Rose.  The Christmas Rose is Germany's equivalent to Mexico's Poinsettia.  It's a pink flower that blooms in Germany around Christmas even in the snow.

We took a turn at practicing some German.  We watched this tutorial on how to say "Merry Christmas" in German.

Along with tinsel, Germany also created the tradition of the Christmas tree.  For snack time, the boys made an edible Christmas tree.  We used ice cream cones, icing (leftover from gingerbread house activity), and M&Ms.  Using food coloring, they turned the icing green and slathered it onto their cone.  Finally, they added chocolate ornaments.

After snack time, we turned to those wondrous spiders again...this time with the book, Christmas Cobwebs.  In this story, the spiders don't just spin webs to look like tinsel.  They spin ornaments...special ornaments to replace the ones a family lost after a fire.

The Christmas Cobwebs

Old Crow and Crazy Horse created their own webs with glue and glitter.  I drew the ball ornament for Crazy Horse to glitter, and Old Crow created the angel.

Then, Old Crow completed his Germany notebooking page.  

To end our trip around the world, I gave Old Crow a blank world map.  In order, he numbered each country we visited and then colored those countries.  As he reached each country to color, I had him recall the things we learned about that specific country.  We also pulled out his previous notebooking pages and crafts that were held in his suitcase.  It was a great way to end the tour.

Now he is off on another trip...this one in the RV with the grandparents.  Can't wait to hear all about it.  Now I guess I better head to the kitchen and get that sink cleaned. ;)

Frohe Weihnachten,

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas in China

Our Christmas Around the World tour continued today.  We traveled north from Australia to the continent of Asia and entered China.  Last year, we studied China when we read The Story About Ping.  So Old Crow was familiar with this location, but we also learned some new things.

The following was taken from Wikipedia:

In the People's Republic of China, December 25 is not a legal holiday. However, it is still designated as a public holiday in China's special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau, both former colonies of Western powers with (nominal) Christian cultural heritage.
In the mainland, the small percentage of Chinese citizens who consider themselves Christians unofficially, and usually privately, observe Christmas.  Many other individuals celebrate Christmas-like festivities even though they do not consider themselves Christians. Many customs, including sending cards, exchanging gifts, and hanging stockings are very similar to Western celebrations.  Commercial Christmas decorations, signs, and other symbolic items have become increasingly prevalent during the month of December in large urban centers of mainland China, reflecting a cultural interest in this Western phenomenon, and, sometimes, retail marketing campaigns as well.
In Hong Kong, where Christmas is a public holiday and a major retail period, many buildings facing Victoria Harbour will be decked out in Christmas lights. Christmas trees are found in major malls and other public buildings, and in some homes as well, despite the small living area. Catholics in Hong Kong can attend Christmas Mass.

Old Crow colored a picture of a Chinese child dancing and playing an instrument.  At Christmas, the children often sing Christmas songs and dance.  He learned that Christian children also decorate trees with colorful ornaments, flowers, and lanterns.  They also hang stockings in hopes that "Christmas Old Man" will fill them with gifts.

We took our turn at making Chinese paper lanterns.  

We folded construction paper length wise and cut strips on the folded end...stopping about 1 inch from the top of the paper.

Once we had made the cuts he opened it up and decorated it with crayons.  

Then we curled it into a cylinder and glued/taped the ends together.  Hole punch 2 holes in the top and add yarn or string.

He wanted to make his cylinder different...the green one is the proper example. ;)

Then Old Crow completed his notebooking page for China and filed it away in his suitcase.

We had a rather short day in China, but tomorrow we head to Germany for a day packed with activities, books, fun, and food!!  

Sheng Dan Kuai Le,

Monday, December 17, 2012

Heading Down Under: Christmas in Australia

Today our travels took us down under as we entered the fascinating world of Australia.  From beginning to end, our day was filled with appointments, urgent phone calls, performances, dress rehearsals, etc.  So we just had to make the most of our day and use what time we had.  We weren't able to get to everything I had planned, but those will be great activities for next year. ;)

  Using the globe, Old Crow and I reviewed the 7 continents and we noted that Australia wasn't just a country but a continent as well.  I stamped his passport and we began our day by reading Wombat Divine  by Mem Fox...Wombat and other Australian animals audition for parts in the Nativity play.  It's a sweet Christmas story that centers around the wombat.  

Wombat Divine Cover by Mem Fox

After reading this story, we had such a fun time learning all about the wombat.  We used the internet to look at pictures and youtube videos of this cuddly looking creature.  Then Old Crow remembered that one of his Big Backyard Magazines had an article about little blue animal also indigenous to Australia.  So he went off to fetch that magazine so we could read about them also.  Well when we opened the front cover, there was the wombat.  Funny how those things work out. ;)

So after getting a good laugh at this, we read about the little blue penguin and also watched videos of them.  And now Old Crow wants one as a pet. :)

Well back to Christmas in Australia...

*It is summer in Australia and very hot.  So people often spend Christmas
at the beach or swimming pools.

*Common Christmas foods are turkey, ham, and of course pudding.

*Carols by Candlelight began in 1937 and occurs every Christmas Eve.  Last night we were able to take part in our church's own Carols by Candlelight.
It was such a blessing to hear the Christmas story in song!

*One popular Australian Christmas song is Six White's the idea that when Santa reaches Australia he changes into cooler clothes, gives his reindeer a rest, and uses kangaroos instead.

We watched the video of Six White Boomers.  

Then I found a kangaroo puppet activity to go along with this song.  He took it a step further and created much more.  He amazes me!

We ended our day with the completion of his Australia notebooking page.  

Here are a couple of other ideas I wish we would have had time for (hopefully we can hit these next year.)
1.  Christmas Crackers (also known as Bon Bons) are a Christmas tradition.  They are pulled in the manor of wishbones and when pulled opened there is a popping noise and little treats.  You can buy them already made from places like Amazon or kids can create their own.  Here are directions.

2.  Bake Lamingtons...a popular Christmas dessert in Australia.
Here is Martha Stewarts's recipe.

3.  Get my hands on the books An Aussie Day Before Christmas and

Merry Christmas! 
...said with Australian accent   ;)

P.S.  Next stop on the Christmas train is China.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Next Stop on the Christmas Train: Kenya

Our Christmas train around the world didn't make a stop yesterday.  We had a special morning watching the littler ones in their preschool Christmas program.  Then in the afternoon Old Crow had play practice for his Christmas program, and last night we ventured out in the cold for a fun night of Christmas festivities.  

Preschool Christmas Program

Victorian Christmas in our Downtown District
Having fun in the "snow"

Train ride

Train ride with Daddy

So needless to say...with all of that going on...the Christmas train around the world didn't depart yesterday.  Today, however, it left and traveled east for our next destination:  Kenya!!

Old Crow used the globe to locate Africa and then Kenya.  He was fascinated to see it is directly on the equator.  

Then while the boys had their snack, I read to them about Christmas traditions of Kenya from both a website (found here) and from information sent by a friend whose family lived in Kenya for several years serving both the medical and spiritual needs of the local people.  Thank you, Megan!  ;)  And Megan...your Christmas card came in the mail today so I was able to show them the beautiful family who once lived in the very place we are learning about.

* Christmas is called "Krismasi" in Kenya.
*Churches and cathedrals decorate with ribbons and green plants to pose as Christmas trees.
*On Christmas Eve, children travel to different homes to sing carols and dance.  At the end of their performances, they are often given gifts in the form of money.
*People attend church on Christmas Eve and then return home for a feast.
*Children are bought new clothes (adults will buy themselves some too) and they wear these on Christmas Day to attend church and visit family.
*The 26th is a holiday too...Boxing Day.

And here is an excerpt about Christmas in Kenya:
"I can tell you from our experience that Christmas is very much a Christian holiday. It may sound strange to say it that way but there is not much "cultural Christmas" celebrations or secular celebrations like that here. Churches take up special offerings and deliver "Christmas Hampers" of food to the poorest in the community. Families gather on Christmas for church and a big meal. Usually a sheep or goat is slaughtered to eat as part of the celebrations. The other food is just the traditional Kenyan food: Ugali, greens, cabbage and perhaps sweet potatoes and of course, chipatis."

We watched a video of the song Sing Noel (An African Christmas Song).  It is a beautiful song with pictures showing the landscape, local people, and celebrations.  You can also find it here.

After looking up an image of the Kenyan flag, Old Crow completed his notebooking page on Kenya.

And then we attempted to make Chipatis...a favorite flat bread and staple food of the Swahili speaking people of Kenya.  I read that it is both a bread and a utensil.  You can tear off pieces and use it to pick up other food. A recipe can be found here.

We mixed together flour, a little oil, and water.  After it became a dough like texture, we separated it into 4 different sections.  Rolling out each into a circle, then rolling it into a jelly roll, and rolling it a 2nd time into a snake-like shape.

Rolling one of the 4 sections into a cirlce

Jelly rolling one of the 4

After letting them sit for about an hour (I read where you can even let them sit overnight), I rolled them back out into a circle and placed them in a hot pan.  And they quickly bubbled and cooked.

We all had a taste of Kenya!  

Merry Krismasi,

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Christmas in Brazil

Our next stop on the Christmas Train led us to Brazil.  This country is a special one for me.  During my high school years, our family had an exchange student live with us.  She was from Brazil and quickly became my Brazilian sister.  :)  So she gave us a tour and helped us learn about Christmas traditions in Brazil.  Thank you, P!

We got our passports and prepared to leave Mexico.  I told Old Crow we were headed to Brazil and we found it on our globe.  We talked about what direction we would travel in, and he pointed out that Brazil is south of the Equator.  I explained how it is summertime and hot in Brazil during Christmas.  His response was..."Awwww man!!"  I think he would love to be at the beach. ;)  I also prepared him for the language difference.  Brazilians do not speak Spanish; they speak Portuguese.  We had a quick history lesson on why they speak Portuguese and not Spanish.  We practiced saying Merry Christmas in Portuguese...Feliz Natal.

When we arrived we watched the lighting of a giant tree and then fireworks lit up the sky.  This is an annual tradition, and it was magnificent.  You can check it out here.  

We learned that Brazilians call the nativity scene "presepio."  This Portuguese word originates from the Hebrew word for straw...presepium.  It refers to the bed of straw on which baby Jesus first slept.  In keeping with this focus on the straw, we created two nativity scenes that included straw.  

The first activity used stickers for each person in the Nativity story and we glued straw for baby Jesus to be placed on.  These sticker scenes were bought from Oriental Trading and are also perfect for Sunday School classes. :)

We also created a Nativity ornament which included straw.  This ornament kit was purchased from Oriental Trading as well.

While we put together the ornaments, which required a delicate touch, Memphis Belle played with the Grinch Slime from our Grinch unit.  :)

Then came our time to cook Rabanada.  We learned that this is a Brazilian breakfast dish served on Christmas.  So we decided to give it a try. :)

Step 1:  Cut a baguette on the bias into 1 inch-thick-slices.  We had about 12 slices.

Step 2:  Whisk together 3 eggs, 3/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk, 6 tablespoons whole milk, 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/4 teaspoon fine salt.  Pour mixture into a large baking dish and place sliced baguettes on top.  Turn to coat them well.  Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours (it can be left overnight).

Step 3:  When you are about ready to remove bread from refrigerator, you need to prepare the final coating mixture to be sprinkled over the cooked bread.  Mix 1/2 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon.  After mixing, pour onto a plate and set aside.

Step 4:  When baguettes have soaked up the mixture (at least 4 hours later) you are now ready to fry them.    Place vegetable oil in frying pan and heat over medium heat to 330 degrees.  (Be careful to not overheat the oil...the bread will burn quickly.)  Put several pieces in oil and fry on one side until a dark golden brown...about 4-5 minutes...and then flip and fry for another 4-5 minutes.  Remove from oil and drain on a paper-toweled plate.

Step 5:  While they are still hot, dredge them in the sugar/cocoa mixture.  Now they are ready to serve!

These may be a breakfast dish in Brazil, but they were perfect as an afternoon snack too. :)

Old Crow completed his Brazil notebooking page and then we called it a day.  We've got a busy day in Kenya tomorrow.  ;)

Feliz Natal,