Ten Ages of Christmas: The celebrations we associate with Christmas began way before Christianity developed, but by medieval times certain traditions of feasting and drinking had been established. Despite the Puritan ban on Christmas, 'holyday' pleasures survived. But it was during Queen Victoria's reign that customs - such as sending cards, decorating fir trees and mythologising Father Christmas - really took off. This excellent BBC website provides details of how Christmas was celebrated in ten different historical periods: Medieval, Elizabethan, Restoration, Georgian, Early Victorian, Mid Victorian, Late Victorian, Early 20th Century, World War Two and Post-War.
Santa Penalty Shootout: In an update from previous versions, the hugely popular Santa Penalty Shootout from SchoolHistory is now available again for the Christmas season. Ideal for something a little different at the end of term. With either Santa, or one of his helpers (complete with Santa suit), in goal you are asked 10 random questions about the history and traditions of Christmas. One and two player versions add to the fun. However, as before, Santa isn't too generous in goal.
Christmas in Europe: Did you know that in Spain children wait until January 6th for their Christmas presents. Children put shoes by the front door to get their gifts which are brought by the Three Wise Men. This website, created by Núria de Salvador for the Spring Europe Project, explains the different ways that Christmas is celebrated in Europe. The website is in English but the activities have been constructed for modern language students.
Seasonal Fun: A series of seasonal activities produced by Teaching and Learning Resources. Includes a Christmas Wordsearch, Christmas Crossword, Christmas Webquest (find the answers to these Christmas questions by visiting a variety of Christmas websites) and the Christmas Pelmanism Challenge.
How Stuff Works: Marshall Brain's brilliant website How Stuff works has a new section on Christmas. Questions answered includes What is Christmas? Why is Christmas such a big deal? Why do people give each other presents on Christmas day? Is December 25 really the day Jesus was born? Why is there a small evergreen tree in your living room? Why have you decorated this evergreen with ornaments, lights, fake snow and Mylar plastic tinsel? Why do you have holly draped over the mantel and staircase? Why is mistletoe hanging over the front door? And what about this nativity scene in the corner? Why is there a big log in the fireplace? Why are there oversized socks hanging on your mantel? Why are Christmas cards scattered all over the coffee table? Why do I keep hearing the same songs over and over again? What, exactly, are the 12 days of Christmas? Why do Christmas carolers walk around the neighborhood singing? Why is the day before Christmas, Christmas Eve, celebrated? Who is this Santa Claus person?
What's with this reindeer named Rudolf?
The Christmas Tree: The origin of the first Christmas tree dates back to the Middle Ages in Western Germany. The people during this time period participated in and watched dramatic plays called miracle and mystery plays. These plays were performed to teach the common people about religious truths that were contained in the bible. There were no printed books available, and pictures were scarce during this period of time. During the Christmas season, the Paradise play was presented. This play depicted Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden. On stage was an evergreen tree, covered in apples, which showed Adam and Eve's sin and later banishment from the garden. The tree received particular attention because it was the only prop on the stage. See this website for a full history of the Christmas tree.
Many Faces of Santa: The history of Santa Claus began with Saint Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, in what is now Turkey. Saint Nicholas was know for his charity and wisdom. Legends tell of him coming from a wealthy family and giving all his money to the poor. In Europe during the 12th century Saint Nicholas Day became a day of gift giving and charity. In Germany, France and Holland celebrated December 6th as a religious holiday and gave gifts to children and the poor. See this website to find out how Christmas is celebrated throughout the world.
Christmas Cookbook: This website provides a collection of recipes from all over the world that are associated with the winter holiday. This includes Cranberry Sauce with Walnuts, Mint Cookies, Mushroom Rice, Crunchy Almond-Caramel Brittle, Blueberry Salad, Sweet Kugel, Peachy Bread Pudding, Noodles and Mashed Potatoes and Mailseet Corn Soup.
Christmas Commercialism: The Association for Media Literacy (AML) is a voluntary, non-profit organization, made up of teachers, librarians, consultants, media professionals, parents and cultural workers concerned about the impact of the mass media and popular culture on young people. This lesson on Christmas Commercialism originally appeared in the Media Literary Resource Guide published by the Ontario Ministry of Education.
Christmas at the White House: You can currently take a panoramic tour of the White House Holiday decorations. Other seasonal features include a historic look at national Christmas trees and a collection of Presidential holiday cards dating back from the Hoover Administration. The website also includes biographies of all the Presidents of the United States and an illustrated guide to the art in the White House.Silent Night Museum: Silent Night has become an anchor for Christmas celebrations throughout the world. Its lullaby-like melody and simple message of heavenly peace can be heard from small town street corners in mid-America to magnificent cathedrals in Europe and from outdoor candlelight concerts in Australia to palm thatched huts in northern Peru. This cyber-museum was created by historian Bill Egan to provide a world wide audience with the true story behind the composition of "Silent Night" by Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber.