Celebrating Winter Holidays around the World (Wide Web)
Winter is upon us (well, even though temperatures outside in many areas dip in to the teens, technically the winter solstice does not begin until December 21). So with winter almost here, children of all ages (and that includes high school students) are eager and excited for the winter holidays. Are you looking to hit some technology, social studies, science, and diversity standards and goals before school lets out and keep kids focused and interested? What better excuse to tour the world via the World Wide Web than to learn about the numerous winter customs of a diverse range of cultures?
We live in a truly fascinating time where in almost any classroom we touch the lives of students from a vast range of backgrounds. The winter solstice brings about a festive spirit and an associated celebration in almost every religion, nationality, and culture. Today, it is not uncommon to have a mix of students in our classrooms; Muslim, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and more. The Internet provides an exciting portal into experiencing the festivities in all range of cultures.
Students travel around the World via the World Wide Web to learn about the various holidays celebrated in winter.
How it All Began – Winter Solstice
Winter Solstice is one of the oldest winter celebrations in the history of mankind. Our ancient ancestors survived by hunting and gathering and therefore placed great reverence on the sun and the seasons. Beginning with the Druids and ancient Romans, they believed that this day, the shortest of the year, was when the sun child was reborn, bringing with him new life put forth by the various gods.
Scientifically speaking, the winter solstice is simply that day in which the North Pole is farthest away from the sun (and the South Pole is closest) and therefore there is the least amount of daylight. For a complete overview, review BBC’s The Seasons. The simplified complete explanation of why we have seasons and the two diagrams provide an excellent science-based background about the winter solstice.
Yule, which is derived from the original ancient winter solstice celebrations, is the festive time in winter when revelers celebrate the return of light. It is believed the word Yule is derived from an ancient Norse word for wheel. The turning of the wheel represents the turning of the short winter days back to longer days with more light. Before Christianity, Europeans, in particular the Germanic peoples, decorated with green plants such as holly, ivy, mistletoe, and laurel. Yule represented the time when people came together to celebrate their harvests and to honor their gods. The Yule log was burnt to represent the coming of the light again after the short winter days. Invite students to learn more about how Yule is celebrated around the world at Yule Tide And Christmas Traditions of the Ancients from Old and Sold Antiques Auction & Marketplace.
The Chinese celebrate Dōng Zhì (the Chinese winter solstice) on this, the longest night of the year. It reflects on their age-long reference to the yin and the yang. The yin represents the coldness and darkness of the winter where the yang stands for the light and happiness that will inevitably come. Traditionally, farmers put down their tools and came home to enjoy their harvest with their families. It is a celebration of the fruits of the efforts of working the land up to that point and many feasts and family reunions entail. Send students on a trip to China and learn more about Dōng Zhì by Elena Quant and Jake Rosen.
It’s Starting to Look a Lot Like...
Many of the common customs celebrated at Christmas today, originated from ancient Winter Solstice customs. Christmas, the dominating holiday of the season, brings color, light, and cheer all over the world. The History of Christmas from A&E Network’s History.com is an excellent collection of videos, stories, and games that take students on a tour of the story of Christmas through the years. Also, point out the Christmas History by the History of Christmas Web site. This site contains a collection of the Christmas traditions in 30 countries!
Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrated around the world to commemorate the civil rights that many African Americans struggled to gain over the centuries. Follow the links in the left hand navigation bar to learn more about this colorful holiday at Kwanzaa from the Official Kwanzaa Website. A&E Television Network’s History.com also presents a fascinating Web site, Kwanzaa with video and articles.
Another holiday that celebrates with light is the Festival of Lights. Again, A&E Television Network’s History.com provides an excellent source for learning about and experiencing the History of Hanukkah with a combination of video clips and activities. Chabad provides another fabulous Web site that brings colorful exciting information about Hanukkah to students.
Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah are probably the more recognized winter holidays. But there are so many more amazing holidays to explore and learn about!
The Hajj (Islamic) a five-day pilgrimage to Mecca where Islamic travelers come to pray and repent for their sins and pay tribute to G*d. While not a festive time, it is a very important period where the people come together to worship. Watch this video about The Hajj from National Geographic. Continue with the Hajj Guide Video for a more in-depth opportunity to learn about this holiday. Hajj is followed by Eid al-Adha. This three-day period is a time for Muslims to consider the sacrifices that they might make in order to lead a better life. It is a very significant period for many people around the world. Read about how one young girl celebrates Eid al-Adha by reading her blog on National Geographic.
Perhaps the most important winter holiday to the Chinese people is the Chinese New Year. This exciting period celebrates the end of winter and the beginning of spring and the change of old to new. Begin with National Geographic’s The History of Chinese New Year. Then watch the video clip: Chinese New Year Traditions and Symbols.
Students will enjoy learning about the Hindu worship of Lord Ganesha, the five-faced elephant-headed lord of culture and the arts during the winter festival, Pancha Ganapati. During this time, families spend time together to worship, mend past mistakes, and celebrate by sharing gifs with one another. Students will enjoy learning more by reading Pancha Mukha Ganapati. Make sure to examine the picture of the statue. Ask students to look closely at another image of Pancha Ganapati and note the intricate designs and use of color.
While most students are eagerly anticipating an upcoming winter holiday familiar to them, they will enjoy learning about how students around the world celebrate various customs during these winter months. The World Wide Web offers a portal into the celebrations and festivals that that other cultures enjoy.
Old and Sold Antiques Auction & Marketplace - Yule Tide And Christmas Traditions of the Ancients
Elena Quant and Jake Rosen - Dōng Zhì
A&E Network’s History.com – The History of Christmas
History of Christmas – Christmas History
The Official Kwanzaa Website – Kwanzaa
A&E Television Network’s History.com – Kwanzaa
A&E Television Network’s History.com - Hanukkah
Chabad – Hanukkah
National Geographic – The Hajj
National Geographic – Eid Al Adha – You Are Here: Jordan
Tao Family Culture – Chinese New Year
National Geographic – The History of Chinese New Year
Pancha Mukha Gapapati