Text: Monika Pedersen
The nostalgia of December never leaves us. The month has a magical quality which is hard to ignore. Is it the festive lights, the beautiful and artistic decoration or the delicious aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg, and citrus fruits that capture our senses? Whichever aspect it is, the enchantment is relived each year. This is especially true for children, who are wrapped up in the month's excitement.
Within the classroom, the month begins with a winter hygge day or 'klippe-klistre' in Danish, which involves the decoration of the classroom. An entire day or an afternoon is used to make snowmen or Father Christmas portraits, hang stars or Christmas stockings from the ceiling, design glittery paper chains, and more. But, of course, all this enjoyment needs treats like ginger biscuits or German Lebkuchen, little chocolate-covered, soft cinnamon cookies. The classroom's transformation sets the spirit for the month.
Every discerning parent has either purchased or made an Advent calendar. But what about the classroom? Often, the class parents have each bought a small gift - these little packages are numbered and form the Advent calendar for the class. The students' names are placed in a jar, and a paper with a name is selected each morning. The atmosphere is electric, with the anticipation of the name picked and the contents of the package.
6 December marks Saint Nicholas Day, who is said to be the original Santa Claus. A tradition that children love is to leave their shoes out on the 5 December and find them the following morning filled with small gifts, candies, and stickers. Again, it is the coming together of the class community. Parents, in partnership with the school, allow such beautiful acts of kindness to take place for the enrichment of all the members of the class. This spirit reflects the values of the saint who sought to spread kindness.
"A Scandinavian tradition frequently celebrated within an international community is St. Lucia, who was known for her kindness in distributing food to Christians."
A Scandinavian tradition frequently celebrated within an international community is St. Lucia, who was known for her kindness in distributing food to Christians. Sadly, she was killed for her service to others but is remembered as a martyr. On 13 December, the Santa Lucia festival celebrates bringing light in the darkest times.
At school, the day begins with a procession with a St. Lucia, usually the oldest Swedish or Scandinavian girl, followed by young girls all dressed in white and wearing lighted wreaths on their heads. The boys are dressed in white pyjama-like costumes. They sing the traditional St. Lucia song as they parade along corridors. It is a beautiful event with a mystical quality.
Christmas carols and singalongs are also an integral part of the festive tradition. Music lessons focus on teaching children a few essential songs. These are practised in a dedicated fashion, and the highlight is an afternoon performance for proud parents.
The Jewish celebration, Hanukkah, observes the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend, Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors. Celebrations take place for eight days, where candles are lit, families gather to enjoy special food, and gifts are exchanged.
As with many festive school events, it is a gathering where delicious food is shared, a dialogue and appreciation of culture is experienced, and a broadening of minds can take place.
A time for sharing
The festive season is an incredible time and particularly pertinent in these troubled times, as it reminds us to reach out to help others and to share for the betterment of others' lives. It is a time for giving, a time for families and friends, and embracing those with fewer connections and shining light in their lives. Sharing these lessons with children at a young age paves the way for showing them how to be wholesome, generous people and good citizens of the world.