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By Rhea Thibault
Dr. A. Kumar

Origins of Christmas
Plan: A timeline of the construction of the Christmas season
The purpose of this portion of the unit plan would be for the students to understand the
history of the Christmas season. Each article or video listed below provides a different snap shot
of what Christmas has looked like at one point in history, from the beginning traditions of
Christs birth to the Puritan ban in the 1600s. The students would be asked to read or watch 3 of
the articles and take notes on any traditions, historical events or ideas that have shaped the
holiday season. This can include festivals, laws or traditions that were written about. When the
students come to class, we would create a visual timeline of the events that have shaped
Christmas. One student who may read Murrays article would be able to provide some incidents
from the 800s-1200s while someone who read Ramzys article would have information about the
time when the date of Christmas was decided. In the end, the students would use these resources
to prove how Christmas has not always been one solid holiday but has actually been developed
over centuries by many to get where we are today.
Alexander Murrays Medieval Christmas History Today

How Christmas changed during the Medieval period, starting in the 700s and going up
until the Renaissance/Reformation period, mainly in Europe. This article contains
important dates about the development of certain Christmas dates, including the
Scandinavian traditions that were adopted into modern day traditions

Chris Durstons Lords of Misrule: The Puritan War on Christmas 1642-60 History Today

This document looks at the development of Christmas in New England with the Puritan
settlers, including the first ban of Christmas. During this period Christmas faced its first
ban in history but it also faced a move away from Christian traditions into the modern
world. With the Puritans moving away from Catholic traditions, it opened the door to
changes for the holiday

Bet You Didnt Know: Christmas History of Christmas, History Channel

Interesting video on some of the major dates and developments from the beginning of the
Christmas tradition into the modern day. Very brief, but does provide the students with a
quick, visual representation of the developing holiday

John Ramzys The Glorious Feast of Nativity: 7 January? 29 Kiahk? 25 December? Coptic
Orthodox Church Network

Christian view on the choosing of the date for Christmas. A controversial topic for the
early Christians because the birth of Jesus has never been recorded so picking the date to
celebrate his birth has never really been an easy choice

Patrick McGreevys Place in the American Christmas Geographical Review

How the American version of Christmas came about and what traditions were not
actually American based. An important document for students in North America to
visualize how certain origins came about in different parts of the world

Bruce David Forbes Christmas: a candid history University of California Press

Like the video from the history channel, this gives the students a brief view of the
development of the holiday. It provides a brief description of the dates and events that
created some of the traditions and values that people know from the Christmas season

B.K. Swartz Jr.s The Origin of American Christmas Myth and Customs

Like McGreevys article, this article debunks the myth that the Christmas season has been
moulded by American culture. It looks at how Americans believe that many issues around
the Christmas season were invented and moulded by American culture even though
almost everything has been developed outside of North America

Santa Clause
Plan: Different portrayals of Santa Clause
For the portion, the students would be divided up into groups to all study the different portraits of
Santa Clause throughout history, starting from the inspiration of the legend up to the American
model that has now become the norm for the students we will be teaching. The legend of Santa
Clause has developed in many different areas in Europe and North America so this section
should show the students how each geographic area reacts to the legend. This section should be
ended by some visual representations of the American model seen in literature, film, and music
to give the students a final understanding of how these legends come together to create the
picture that we know today.
Who is Saint Nicholas?

For the students studying Saint Nicholas- this resource will give the history to the saint
who inspired many aspects of the Santa Clause figure that we know today

Sint in Amsterdam


For the students studying Sinterklaas- these two resources follow the St. Nicholas article
as Sinterklaas has the closest resemblance and closest history to the actual person of St.

David Bruce Forbes Christmas: a Candid History, University of California Press, pgs. 68-79

For the students studying Christkindl- this section of the book will describe the German,
Austrian, and other eastern European views of the character. He was created around the
period of the Reformation in spite of the Catholic character of St. Nicholas and will help
students see the move away from Catholic norms

Father Christmas

The English Father Christmas

For the students studying Father Christmas- the closest representation to North American
Santa Clause as Father Christmas is the British representation of the character that has
been adopted by many of the colonies Britain once possessed

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, 1837

Arguably one of the most famous Western stories about the Christmas season. Many have
credited this story with the popularization of the Western version of Santa Clause that
many North American students know of. All students should read this story to get the
context as to when the legend began seeing its popularity in North America

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by Frank Baum, 1902

The next step after Moores story as Baums book helped continued the popularization of
the legend of Santa Clause as the childrens book taught child about this figure and
brought the legend alive for them

Coca-Cola ad, 1931

The first time Santa Clause has been portrayed in America media on a mass level,
solidifying the picture of a jolly, rosy cheeks, round belly man who wears red and white.
This picture will last for decades, and is still the main picture of Santa Clause in most of
the world

Miracle of 34th Street films, 1947 and 1994

Depiction of Santa Clause in film, both in the 40s and the 90s. This character calls
himself Kris Kringle, an adaptation of the Christkindl from the eastern European
tradition. Good adaptation of how popularized Santa Clause has become and the lasting
tradition in the American media

Christmas decorations
Plan: Decoration of the classroom
For this section, the students will be filling the classroom with a Christmas experience by
decorating with all the decorations that are deemed traditional along with any personal
decorations that come from their own heritages. The traditional decorations should range
across many geographic locations to cover a strong majority of traditions. For instance, I would
provide the manger scene that is key to my religion, but I would also bring the Christmas pickle
that is a tradition in my German heritage. This will help show where the history of North
American decorations come from, and some traditional decorations from across the world.
The Christmas Tree Custom

Looking at one of the staple North America decorations in the Christmas tree- showing
how it has not always been such a key feature in the Christmas experience. This article
will show where the original tradition of the Christmas tree came from

Kissing under the Mistletoe


A brief history regarding the use of mistletoe as a holiday decoration. An interesting

addition to North American decoration as it is something that really has no American
roots, which will help show a non-American tradition making its way into culture

Around the World

A good resource for teaching students about different international decorations. 16

different examples of international Christmas decorations are shown. They include ideas
from China, Germany, Australia and many other diverse nations.

The major resource for this section will be the students themselves. Each student will be bringing
whatever decoration they deem important for them, and also a decoration that is important in
their own history. The students will be a great resource as they will be able to discuss with one
another why they deem their decoration important and where their history comes from.

Christmas traditions
Plan: Celebration of international traditions
The fourth part of the lesson plan will be to look at how Christmas traditions differ across the
entire world. There are so many traditions we take for granted here in Canada that may seem
absolutely crazy to someone living in Nigeria or Indonesia or Brazil. It will be an interesting
project for the students to each pick a different country across the world and create a portfolio on
some of the celebrations, traditions and customs to show the rest of the class. This way, the
students can all bring to class an understanding of a new culture and their practices while
learning from other students findings of new cultures and their traditions.
Candy Canes

A Christmas tradition that comes from Christian roots but has been adapted for modern
culture. To start the conversation on international traditions and customs, it will be good
to show the students two examples of North American traditions to help them think about
a few things that we take for traditional traditions in our culture

Christmas Gifts

A brief description of a few legends about the history of Christmas gift giving. Like the
candy canes resource, this will help students see the history of one of the biggest North
American traditions and how this tradition originates all over the map

Top 10 International Christmas Traditions

Article to help start the conversation with the class about tradition in different nations.
Holding a lecture that introduces some of these traditions will help open the minds of the
students as they clear their mind of the traditional traditions that the students would be
so familiar with. This and the second article should help with this.

10 Wacky Christmas Traditions from Around the World 10wacky-christmas-traditions-from-around-the-world.html?page=1

This article, like the last one, introduces some interesting international traditions that
sometimes seem to have a funny edge to them- like the German pickle!

Christmas Around the World

Main resource for helping students start their own portfolios. Using this list to help the
students start, they can all pick one country from this list which provides them with a
really quick overview of a couple major traditions for each country. This will also help
teachers see what countries may be easily accessible for students to learn about

Christmas stories
Plan: Dramatic readings and performances of international stories
Dramatic readings and performances of some of the most famous Christmas stories from across
the world will help illustrate this topic well. Taking some of these stories and having them
performed should help students see the different stories and study their origins. Certain stories
that are known in North American culture have roots internationally and I would hope this
section will help students to open their eyes to these origins from around the world. It is also
important to study some unknown stories for the students as they remain important in different
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (England)
The Nutcracker and the Mouse King by E.T.A. Hoffman (Germany)
The Elves and the Shoemaker by the Brothers Grimm (Germany)
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Robert L. May (United States)
The Holy Night by Selma Lagerlof (Sweden)
At Christmas Time by Anton Chekhov (Russia)
The Steadfast Tin Soldier by Hans Christian Andersen (Denmark)
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! By Dr. Seuss (United States)
The Last Christmas Tree (Finland)
The Night Before Christmas: An African Christmas Story by Peter E. Adotey Addo (Ghana)
The Turkana Celebrate a Feast of Light and Hope by Bernard Ruhnau (Kenya)

Christmas music
Plan: Christmas carolling
For this section, the students will look at a collection of Christmas carols and popular songs. The
songs that are prevalent in North America society often find roots in other cultures and I would
like for the students to be exposed to these different cultures. I also want to show the students
carols that are popular across the world and how many of the themes find similarities amongst
these different carols. Many carols listed below find their roots in Catholic themes and are
translated for each nation.

Veni redemptor gentium (Italy)

One of the earliest recorded Christmas hymns. This song was sung in Latin by the
bishops and priests of the early Catholic Church. Over the years, it has been
translated into dozens of languages as the tradition was passed down among
cultures. Today, the English know it as Where Charity and Love Prevail
Adeste Fideles (Germany)
Known as O Come all ye faithful in English, one of the first Protestant hymns
after the Protestant Reformation, even though the lyrics can be originated back to
the thirteenth century. This song opened the door for hymns for all Christians, and
eventually paved the way for modern hymns to be used in secular carolling
"Les Anges dans nos campagnes" (France)
Still, Still, Still (Austria)
Kaln hespran, rchontes" (Greece)
Ang Pasko ay Sumapit (Philippines)
"Feliz Navidad" (Spain)
Carol of the Bells (Ukraine)
Good King Wenceslas (England)

Popular songs from across the world:

Noche de Paz by Luis Miguel (Spain)

Lechn, Lechn, Lechn by Victor Manuelle (Spain)
Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht (Germany)
Oh Tannenbaum (Germany)
Ave Maria by Les Compagnons de la Chanson (France)
Le Petit Noel by Charles Trenet (France)
Christmas by Kimangu (Kenya)
12 Days of Nigerian Christmas (Nigeria)
Mi Burrito Sabanero by Juanes (Columbia)
Cancion de Navidad by Silvio Rodriguez (Cuba)


Merry Xmas by John Lennon and Yoko Ono (England)

The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole (United States)


Christmas films
Plan: Movie day!
The final section of this project will include one of the most fun parts of the Christmas season,
watching the films that make the Christmas traditions come alive. A few Christmas stories and
traditions have already been presented in this project so this section will look at films not
mentioned previously. This project will be concluded with some of the classics and some
modernly famous Christmas films that help ignite the passion around the season. I would like for
this section to show how these films are internationally recognized, revered and loved- how these
films may contain many North American ideals and stories but are still something that brings the
world together in Christmas spirit and joy.
Its a Wonderful Life (1946)

A film that initially bombed in the box office but turned into one of the most
internationally known and loved Christmas classics. The American Film Institute placed
it in the 100 best American films ever made and has been affirmed of that title in dozens
of countries afterwards

Scrooge (1951)

Originally released in Great Britain after its release was moved from New York City
when Radio City Music Hall deemed it too grim for the Christmas season. It was one of
the most popular films in Britain in 1951, and the New York Times praised the film. The
importance of this story has lasted for decades as it was redone in 1971, 1992, 1994, and
2009 from Micky Mouse to the Muppets to Jim Carrey.

White Christmas (1954)

A film created by Americans and featuring American actors, but based around the song
White Christmas by Irving Berlin, a Russian American. During the period of the Cold
War, Russians were not warmly welcomed by Americans due to the Red Scare. The
success of White Christmas in America and internationally showed how the season of
Christmas can prevail over all opposing ideologies.

A Christmas Story (1983)

A comedy released in the United States that has developed into a cult classic of sorts with
people citing the BB gun, the leg table and the frozen tongue incident as some of their
happiest childhood Christmas memories. This film had been turned into a stage play that
premiered on Broadway and earned a Tony nomination. The comedic aspects help bring
joy to the Christmas season


Home Alone (1990)

Another famous comedy that spans over international waters as the family in the film
travels from the United States to France but leaves their son behind. The humour in this
film is known across the globe as Macaulay Culkins signature face is an international
symbol. As of 2009, Home Alone was named the highest-grossing comedy of all time.

The Santa Clause (1994)

This film helps reinforce many of the American ideas around the legend of Santa Clause
when Tim Allen goes to the North Pole with all his elves. The film challenges some of the
consumerist ideals in American culture as Allens character rethinks his interpretation of
Christmas. This film was produced by Disney, a name known across the entire world
which brings the prestige for this film that comes with that name.

Elf (2003)

An awkward comedy that has been embraced on a mass scale, coming in #2 on opening
weekend in both the United States and the United Kingdom. It totalled $220 million in
the box office worldwide, which is almost $200 million over the production budget. The
reception to this film was much more optimistic than originally believed as the film was
meant to be just a fun new film, but has actually merited some beloved quotes to this day.

The Polar Express (2004)

Adapted from the childrens book by the same name, this film brings home the child-like
nature of the Christmas season for people of every age. The wonder of the main character
in the film mirrors the wonder that every young child has during the Christmas season.
Although this film was released at the same time as four other major family films, it still
was seen as an important film as it brought forward the ideal of wonder and amazement
back into the Christmas season.