This blog has been designed to provide information about the activities held at the social studies bilingual sections in CPI Tino Grandío (Guntín,Spain). The English language and Social Studies teachers have elaborated most of the resources you can see but our "auxiliares de conversa" also have their own page and posts. Therefore everyone is invited to have a look .

Friday, December 12, 2014

Christmas in the USA by Sarah Adams

Hello & Happy Holidays, everyone!  I hope you are all having a good last week of school, & that your Christmas festival/celebration tomorrow is a grand success :)

It's taken me a couple days longer than expected to get this post up here, but I've been very busy ever since I got back-- it's so nice to be home!  Anyway, I promised you I'd put some information up here about how we celebrate Christmas in America.  I can tell you about some of our traditions, and the food we eat in the US :)

As I told you all at Thanksgiving, people celebrate Christmas for a while before it actually gets here.  Throughout the month of December, people decorate their houses inside and out, put up Christmas trees, listen to Christmas music, watch Christmas movies, and send Christmas cards (and, of course, go Christmas shopping!).  The majority of "average Americans" live in houses in the suburbs, and if you own a house, it is typical to put up Christmas lights, or at the very least a wreath! Some people make a tradition of out-doing (being more impressive than) their neighbors, though ;)

This is an example of going all out.

& this is my family's Christmas tree :D  It's fake because that's a more economical option, but many people buy a real Christmas tree every year.  There are tents by the side of the road all December selling them, and some grocery stores also carry them.  If you live up North, you can also go get your tree at a Christmas tree farm; this is a tradition for many families.

There are some classic Christmas movies that are always on at Christmastime; here are some of the most important/popular ones:

This is a stop-animation movie about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; there are several old Christmas movies for children, and they are such a tradition that now the stop-animation style is associated with Christmas.

This is the original cartoon version of How The Grinch Stole Christmas; maybe you've seen the newer remake with Jim Carrey?

A Charlie Brown Christmas; like the Halloween & Thanksgiving specials, this cartoon has spawned several pop culture references.  A "Charlie Brown Christmas tree" is any tree that looks small, sad, or scrawny.

It's A Wonderful Life. My family watches this movie every Christmas Eve; it is shown on TV, and several theaters even play it around Christmas.

A Christmas Story.  This movie takes place in 1939 or 1940 in the Midwest, and was originally advertised as "A Tribute to the Original, Traditional, One-Hundred-Percent, Red-Blooded, Two-Fisted, All-American Christmas" and it is VERY American.  Also, hilarious. One of the comedy networks shows it in a 24-hour marathon every Christmas.

Americans like to make the Christmas season last as long as possible, but really the 2 important days are Christmas Eve (December 24th) and Christmas Day (the 25th).  Traditions vary depending on your family, but it is typical to have a large dinner/meal with your family on either the 24th or the 25th.  Many families have multiple celebrations with different parts of their family; for example, I typically celebrate on one with my dad's side of the family, and on the other day with my mom's side.  Christmas Eve is the night that Santa Claus "visits" little children and brings them their Christmas presents.  Some families open presents on midnight on Christmas Eve, others wake up early to do it Christmas morning.

Most of the typical "Christmas foods" are really the same sort of thing we eat on Thanksgiving, but not everyone eats that.  My family usually has some kind of stew or soup because it is simple and feeds a lot of people.  Really the foods that are special about Christmas are the desserts and baked goods.
Fruitcake.  A very traditional dessert that hardly anyone actually likes.

Eggnog! I love this stuff. Made from milk or cream, whipped eggs, sugar, and spices (especias), usually nutmeg (nuez moscada).  You can add brandy, rum, whisky, or bourbon.

Christmas cookies, both sugar cookies & gingerbread are very common.  Children put out a plate of cookies & a glass of milk on Christmas Eve for Santa.
Candy canes are very popular at Christmas, both as decorations and as sweets.

Gingerbread houses are also very common.  There are even gingerbread house competitions!

Hmm, what else... It is tradition for little children to write letters to Santa in the weeks leading up to Christmas; the post office even has a program where they will write a reply to each child who sends a  letter.  There are a lot of traditions that have to do with Santa Claus, as you can see.  In addition to bringing presents, Santa also stuffs families' stockings with trinkets and candy:

Oh, and there is a very popular book/poem that is read to children before they go to bed on Christmas Eve-- The Night Before Christmas:

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!"

It's a very pretty poem, although it is also very old, so it make require some help from  if you all want to read it ;)

There's so much I could write about Christmas... I haven't even really touched on the religious aspect, but as so many people in Spain are Christian/Catholic, I doubt that differs too much.  Many people go to a candlelight service at church on Christmas Eve; I love doing that every year.

If you have any questions, feel free to ask! I know it was a long post ;)

Merry Christmas!!

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