When I was growing up, Christmas was my favorite time of year. (It still is, but for other reasons!) At Christmas, we got the chance to play games, do fun activities, and learn about kids in other countries. It was a fun break from the daily routine of school!
When I started homeschooling, I also looked forward to Christmas. There are so many fun unit studies, recipes to try, and extras to get involved with. What I didn’t expect was for those fun activities to turn into something more!
I expected those units and activities to give us a few weeks of “fun school.” They would be an easy way to take a break and do something different. But then my son asked that one little word that is the source of all rabbit trails:
“Why do girls in Sweden wear candles on their heads?”
“And why do kids in Italy get their presents from La Befana instead of Santa?”
“Why do children in Mexico do Las Posadas parades?”
I could have pulled the classic, “They just do!” answer, but I saw a learning opportunity there. It turned out to be one of the best rabbit trails we ever took – so good, in fact, that we’ve gone down it ever since.
Understanding Cultures through Christmas
Long ago, people of different cultures didn’t really have much contact with each other. They didn’t travel, and things like the internet didn’t exist. In each of these cultures, traditions and customs came about that were very important to those groups of people.
Today, a lot of things have changed. We can get to know people around the world with a click of a button. Each of us probably has different backgrounds, beliefs, and traditions. Even though we are more connected, those traditions and beliefs are still very important!
What better way to learn about other people and their ways of thinking than by learning about their holiday traditions? It’s effective and fun!
In order to do this, it helps to think up some questions of your own in advance. This is easiest to do while you’re looking through resources. Think about it from your kids’ point of view. Let’s start with one of the questions my son asked:
- Why do girls in Sweden wear candles on their heads? Well, back in the days of the early church, Christians were often persecuted in Scandinavia. They took to hiding in dark caves, and it was hard to get supplies. A young teenage girl named Lucia is said to have braved the dangers to bring them food and resources. She wore candles in a wreath on her head to light the way. Today, children in Sweden wear a similar wreath to remember Lucia and her faith. There is a Lucia chosen for each school, and some towns choose a girl to play her in their Christmas parade. A national “St. Lucia” is chosen each year as well!
By learning the “why” behind the traditions, you can help your children learn more about how people of other cultures live and think. And by doing this, you’ll help them understand others in a whole new way!
How to Build a Christmas Unit
When building or choosing a Christmas unit, you have a lot of options. That’s actually a good thing! If you’re new to unit studies, there are a bunch of pre-made units to choose from. However, it’s also really easy to put together your own! Here’s how:
Choose a country or culture.
This might seem like an obvious first step, but it will help you focus! Choose any country or culture that will spark your kids’ interest.
Search for information and facts.
Pinterest is an amazing place to do this! If you’re overwhelmed with the choices, start at my Christmas around the World board. There are some great ideas to work with!
Audible is also an amazing resource for holiday units. There are so many great children’s books and Christmas stories – and with an audiobook, you can play it at any time!
Compile them in one place.
Again, Pinterest comes in really handy for this. You can just pin all your ideas to one board so they’re easy to access! (Hint: you can also use this to keep ideas for next year’s unit!)
Once you’ve found a bunch of great ideas, it’s time to get them down on paper. This will help you stay focused and help you get an action plan in place. I’ve designed a free downloadable unit planner to help you stay organized!
Decide on a schedule
Do you want the study to last for a week, a couple weeks, or the whole month? How much time each day do you want to spend? Planning out a rough schedule will help you stay on track. This way, you can focus on the fun and learning!
Round up any supplies.
Keeping all the supplies for a unit in one place will help you have everything ready when you need it. That way, you don’t have to make any last-minute runs for library books or craft supplies!
No matter which culture you choose or how long your unit is, have fun. Enjoy this time of learning with your kids!
Which country or culture do you plan on learning about this year? Comment below and let me know!
Jennifer Duncan is the founder of A Helping Hand Homeschool, providing resources, units, support, and consulting for homeschool families. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and Instagram!