Learn about Christmas traditions around the world
By Amy Notarius
Rowan Public Library
Have you ever wondered how people celebrate Christmas in other countries? Then check out the “Christmas Around the World” series from World Book Publishing available at Rowan Public Library. This great series of children’s books makes it fun to learn about holiday traditions in places like Finland, Austria or Ukraine. You can even learn more about Christmas right here at home with one of the newest titles, “Christmas in America’s Capital.”
Each book explores how people spend the weeks leading up to Christmas, how Christmas Eve is spent and what special dishes families prepare for their Christmas meals. The books also offer fascinating stories about famous people and landmarks in each country. In Christmas in Ukraine, for example, we learn that the beautiful, grand St. Sophia Cathedral in Kiev was built nearly a thousand years ago. While not as ornate as St. Sophia, smaller wooden churches built in tiny Ukraine villages are also beautifully constructed. Not a single nail is used; instead, the beams are shaped and placed to fit together in harmony.
With Austria’s rich and varied musical tradition, singers there may join in shepherds’ carols, lullaby carols and carols that can be only be performed by yodeling. Austrian Joseph Mohr wrote the words to “Silent Night, Holy Night” (Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht), and his friend, Franz Gruber, composed the melody. The church where Mohr, an assistant priest, served could not afford the repairs to its broken church organ. He created this beautiful but simple carol, now recognized around the world, in part to make up for the lack of organ music. Mohr and Gruber first performed “Silent Night” on Christmas Eve, 1818. Learn more in Christmas in Austria.
For Christmas In Finland, a family might choose to celebrate the season with a visit to SantaPark, a theme park in the Arctic Circle! Built in a cavern deep inside a mountain, SantaPark offers visitors magic sleigh rides, reindeer rides and a beautiful Christmas carousel. Visitors might also travel to SallaReindeer Park, a large national preserve where children can pet and feed tame reindeer and watch reindeer races.
In “Christmas in America’s Capital,” readers learn how Christmas traditions changed over time due to national events and the personal preferences of presidential families. First Lady DolleyMadison hosted the first truly grand Christmas party at the White house. The National Christmas tree was first conceived by Frederick Feiker in 1923. Feiker, who belonged to an organization promoting electricity use, convinced President Coolidge to hold a tree-lighting ceremony. In December 1941, as the U.S. entered World War II, a determined President Roosevelt lit the tree despite the Secret Service’s insistence that the ceremony be canceled that year.
Readers are also treated to photographs of lavish decorations inside the White House, and learn how many of Washington’s other institutions celebrate. The Smithsonian Institution’s museums offer special programs, and the reflecting pool at the National Gallery of Art is transformed into a public ice-skating rink. The National Cathedral is also profiled.
Information in each volume of the “Christmas Around the World” series is presented in clear and accessible language, and a separate glossary of foreign terms is also included. Instructions for crafts children can make, recipes from each country, and the music and lyrics to carols are included as well.
Learn about traditions around the world as you celebrate your own holidays this year by checking out these and other holiday books from Rowan Public Library.
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