|My Nativity: The Wise Men have moved a little closer after Christmas, but still aren't there yet!|
This is what I LOVE about the Christmas season in the Spanish-speaking world: Christmas isn't the end, it's the beginning. To me, one of the worst things about American Christmas is that it's over so fast -- all that excitement leading up to it, and BAM, it's over in one morning. Back to normal just like that. But in the Spanish-speaking world, it's still going full throttle until the 3 Reyes Magos come overnight on Jan.5! That feels more like the true meaning of Christmas -- just the beginning of something wondrous and exciting. It shouldn't be "oh good, He came", but "Wow, He's here, let's keep celebrating!"
Plus, the fact that the Christmas season isn't over at Christmas is such a lovely "your way of doing things isn't the only way" teaching moment. I absolutely love chances to turn my students' paradigms upside down, and this is such a fun one! This year on the day before break, I created an interactive lesson on Moodle for my 7th graders with a selection of YouTube clips, pictures, and links to websites for each part of the Christmas season in Spain. Anyone who thinks you can't "really teach" on the day before break should've come into my classroom that day, because they were fascinated. They worked in pairs to research a certain part of the season (Christmas Lottery, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Día de los Inocentes, New Year's Eve, and 3 Kings' Day). Then we jigsawed and they shared their information so everyone got to hear about the whole season. During both parts, they were picture-perfect engaged kids -- reacting, laughing, connecting, wondering. They had such fun learning that they forgot it was only an hour until winter break!
Of course, my other favorite part of any holiday is making culture real for the kids. For the past several years, I've brought Rosca de Reyes in to school on Jan.6 for my kids to eat, which they thoroughly enjoy, and not just because it's yummy. "So they're really eating this right now in Mexico?!" one of my past 6th graders exclaimed, eyes wide with astonishment. I get the giant ones that have several plastic baby Jesus' inside, so usually at least one student in every class finds one in their piece -- more proof that what we've learned about is "real"! This year we have another twist too: my first 7th grade class was so fascinated with the fact that Spanish kids get their presents on Jan.6 from the Reyes Magos that they begged me to let them have a "Secret Kings" gift exchange. I would never ask a class to do this, but I couldn't resist their excited faces! We made it optional and the students organized it, and they're super excited. At least now they'll always remember that kids in Spanish-speaking countries don't get most of their presents from Santa OR on Christmas Day!
So while you're wading through your Christmas aftermath of wrapping paper and boxes, remember that Christmas has just begun in so many other parts of the world! Spanish-speaking children will be releasing balloons with their letters to Melchoir, Gaspar, and Baltazar, and anxiously awaiting the arrival of Los Reyes on the eve of Jan.5! (watch in the video below, sorry it's not subtitled in English!)