Unit 10. December Celebrations

TARGET GROUP: Grades 2-6

TIME: 5 days




Please Note: Most of the items listed below were originally printed for teachers to photocopy and use in their classrooms. Because this unit is now Web-based, we have tried to scan and size those pages so that you—the teacher—could still print off the pages and make photocopies for classroom use.



  1. Advent House. Enlarge pattern (see Appendix 10-A-1) to fit on 11"x14" paper. Trace pattern on tagboard. Cut open 23 windows and front door (an X-acto knife works well). Draw and cut out 24 pictures depicting Christmas to go behind windows and door. Door scene could be Santa or nativity scene. Cut cellophane to fit behind windows allowing a slight overlap for a place to glue. Glue cellophane in place. Glue picture on cellophane. Close shutters with a stick-on star. Fold house on fold lines. Glue on glue tabs. Cut out roof (see Appendix 10-A-2). You may color the roof and glue in onto the tabs on the house. Or cut tongue depressors and glue them in the pattern shown, then glue roof onto tabs. Cut a slit in the roof for the chimney (see pattern). Cut, fold, and glue chimney according to pattern. Insert chimney in slit about one-half inch.

    Have children take their Advent houses home with a letter (Appendix 10-B) explaining the cultural elements and how to use this activity.

  2. Advent Wreath. Advent is celebrated the four Sundays before Christmas. This is a time set aside to prepare for the coming of the Christ Child who brings gifts on the Eve of Christmas. German families have a circle of greenery with four candles in the center that sits in the middle of their table. The first week, one candle is lighted, the second week two candles, and so forth until all four candles are lighted, heralding the many lights of the Christmas tree which are to appear in but a few more days. Traditionally, red candles were used, and more recently, white and violet.

    1. The teacher needs a completed wreath and the materials for a wreath to demonstrate as the class goes along.

    2. Students will each have a paper plate. The paper plate is folded in half (symmetry), and the inside is cut out leaving only the rim. This can be adjusted according to skill level (e.g., less skillful students can leave more rim).

    3. Students need a piece of green construction paper. They fold it in half and in half again the long way (symmetry), then open the paper and cut on the lines. They take each strip and fold it in half and in half again, then open and cut. This will give the child 16 rectangular pieces.

    4. These 16 rectangular pieces are folded in half once again, and the children draw the shape of a leaf on each piece. They then cut the leaves out, and each piece will have two identical leaves (symmetry). The children may draw in the veins using pencil, crayon, etc. These leaves are then glued to the paper plate. Any additional leaves needed are cut following the above procedure.

    5. Students need a half-sheet of violet, red, or white construction paper. They fold it in half and in half again lengthwise, then open it and cut. The result is four long, rectangular shapes to be used as the candles. Yellow construction paper is used for the flames. The same procedure is used as for cutting out the green leaves.

    6. A piece of yarn can be attached to the back of the wreath for hanging purposes.

  3. Advent Calendar. German children often make or receive Advent calendars to mark days until Christmas. The calendars are illustrated with holiday symbols or scenes. They feature 24 windows which are opened one at a time beginning on December 1. The child searches the scene for the number of the day and opens the corresponding window. When the window is opened, it reveals a symbol, picture, or tiny holiday scene.

    Discuss with students the Christmas holiday traditions, symbols, etc. Generate a list of possible symbols or scenes that could be included in the calendar. Distribute the pattern (Appendix 10-C-1) for the Advent calendar windows. Glue the pattern onto the tagboard. Students then create a holiday picture with crayons. The picture is drawn to include the windows in strategic places, as shown in the example (Appendix 10-C-2). Glitter and other decorations may be added to the picture. Collect the finished pictures and use the X-acto knife to cut the window openings on three sides. After the windows are cut, return the calendars and have the students apply glue to the outside edge on the back of the picture and between the window openings (a gluestick works best). Then with the windows closed, picture side down and glue side up, they place the picture pattern paper face down over the glue so that all edges match. Now have students turn the calendar over and gently smooth around each window, and check that pictures show through the windows. Windows may be held closed with self-stick stars if desired. Students open one window each day until Christmas.

  4. Christmas Cookies. Discuss the tradition of baking Christmas cookies as it relates to German customs. Choose one or all of the recipes (Appendix 10-D) and follow directions. Some students or parents may enjoy baking the cookies at home and bringing them in to share with class members.

  5. Cornucopia - Christmas Decoration. Reproduce pattern (see Appendix 10-E), one for each student. Copy pattern on an 8-1/2"x11" sheet of white tagboard. Cut out on outside lines. Score on lines marked "score". Fold on scored lines bringing the two open edges to meet. Cut four lengths of colored 1/2" adhesive tape. Bring open sides together. Press 1/4" of tape on one side; press tightly all the way down. Repeat on all scored edges. Cut a 12" length of 1/2"-wide ribbon. Fasten 1/2" ribbon to each end facing sides of the cornucopia. Tape strips of the colored tape around the top of all four sides of the cornucopia. Add a matching or contrasting piece of tape around the inside top of all four sides. Stick Christmas seals in different places all over the cornucopia. Fill with candy and small trinkets. Hang on the Christmas tree.

  6. St. Nicholas Day. On the day students return from Thanksgiving vacation, arrange to receive a letter from St. Nicholas (see Appendix 10-F-1). Have the letter read to or by the class. Once class members have decided they would like to receive a visit from St. Nicholas, have them begin to write their letters to him, using the writing process. In the pre-writing phase, compare and contrast the visits St. Nicholas on December 6 with the visits of Santa Claus in the United States on December 25. Include in that discussion the role of St. Nicholas's helper, Pelznickel, as he is known in northwest Germany (or other names in other parts of Germany; see Appendix 10-F-2).

    Prepare small plastic sandwich bags filled with wrapped candies to place in the children's shoes. You migh wish to use wrapped candies produced in the United States (Hershey's Kisses, Spangler's Candy Canes) in one bag and those produced in Germany (Werther's Originals, Riesen's Chocolates, Haribo Gummi Bears) in another bag to point out origins of different candies.

    On December 6 (or if December 6 falls on a weekend, the Friday or Monday around the weekend), pre-arrange a time for students to place their letters to St. Nicholas in their shoes and place them in the hall outside the classroom. Choose another location if it is more convenient. Ask a parent aide, the principal, another teacher, or another person to fill the shoes and collect the letters for you. If possible, your St. Nicholas stand-in should ring a bell loudly enough to be heard in the classroom before he or she leaves. Have the children retrieve their shoes and candy shortly after "St. Nicholas" leaves.

    It is an excellent follow-up if St. Nicholas or his helper writes an answering letter to each child, making references to the child's original letter.

  7. Stille Nacht - Silent Night. A few days before Christmas in 1818, Joseph Mohr, the pastor of a small church in Obernof, Austria discovered that the church organ was broken, which meant no music for Christmas mass. This was a major catastrophe, because organ building and repair was a secret art, and only a few families had the necessary skills. No one was immediately available to repair the organ.

    *While Mohr was preparing his Christmas homily, he was asked to go to a mountain cabin to bless a newborn child. On his way home, walking through the silent snow, he became inspired. Back in his room, he composed a poem, and his organist, Franz Gruber, put it to guitar music. As the story goes, the people of Obernof became a part of history on that memorable Christmas morning. They heard Stille Nacht for the first time on December 25, 1818.

    If you school will permit, you may choose among the following activities at your discretion:

    1. Compare the Christmas story from the Bible with Mohr's experience on Christmas Eve. Older children, after discussion of the above, could write comparisons.

    2. See Appendices 10-G-1, 10-G-2, and 10-G-3 for "Silent Night" phrase strips. Duplicate and cut out the strips. Put the strips in a box or bag and allow each child to pick one. The children illustrate the phrases on paper (whatever size is appropriate) and then glue the phrase strips under the matching pictures. They sequence the strips while singing or listening to a recording (See Appendix 10-G-4 for sheet music).


*Revised information received from Bill Egan, Christmas Historian, from the Franz Gruber - Joseph Mohr Society:

Visit "Silent Night!" and Oberndorf
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Learning About Our World: Germany
Ohio Department of Education
URL: http://www.ulib.iupui.edu/kade/unit10/unit10.html
Created: 30 September 1999, SEK
Last Updated: 6 April 1998, JAF