By Anne Marie Amacher
DAVENPORT — Christmas traditions came alive for students at John F. Kennedy Catholic School on Dec. 15. Kindergarten through eighth-grade classes had selected various countries to study, and then researched the customs and traditions and put together a presentation. Throughout the day, students toured the school to learn about traditions in Christmas Around the World.
Principal Chad Steimle encouraged students to learn from the experience and asked teachers to consider incorporating information gained from the daylong event into language/literature, social studies or religion classes.
Kindergarteners chose Mexico for study and presented the history of the poinsettia, sang “Feliz Navidad” in Spanish, had displays of authentic Mexican attire, food and clothing. The importance of the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe was also introduced.
First-graders took students to Sweden. They displayed the Advent calendar and explained the tradition of St. Lucia, the patron saint of light, whose feast day is celebrated Dec. 13. Students learned Christmas trees often are decorated with paper mache apples, Swedish flags and baskets with candy. On the feast of the Epiphany the three wise men walk through the villages.
Second-graders displayed materials about the Philippines. A talk about the Philippines was made in front of a map showing the country’s location. The “Parol,” a star-shaped Christmas lantern, figured prominently in the presentation. The lanterns students made hung throughout the classroom. They are traditionally made of paper and bamboo and represent the Nativity star.
Third-graders took students to Germany. The traditions of tinsel and candles were explained, students sang “O’Tannenbaum” (“O’Christmas Tree”) and “Silent Night.” They also displayed gingerbread houses they made early in the morning.
Fourth-graders presented information about Ireland. They explained the religious meaning of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” song and told how the shamrock is used to explain the Holy Trinity. The group concluded with an Irish blessing and said “Merry Christmas” in Gaelic.
Fifth-graders presented Christmas in the Colonies. They displayed homemade decorations such as strings of popcorn and cranberries. They talked about and displayed candles on a Christmas tree and explained the use of pine/fir and other greenery available in December.
Sixth-graders focused on Brazil. They told of Papai Noel, the Brazilian version of Santa Claus who lives in Greenland and wears silk because of the heat when he visits Brazil. Dried fruits such as apricots, pineapples and bananas – staples for Christmas dinner — were served.
Seventh-graders made their presentation on Russia. Students talked about the Russian ballet, attire, Father Frost — Russians’ Santa — and the various parts of the 12 dishes served at Christmas. They had Russian tea and desserts on display.
Eighth-graders celebrated Christmas in France. They explained that the tradition of the Nativity is important to those in France. Students also had a display with various Christmas carols that were originally composed in French that have since been translated to English and other languages.