Category Archives: Celebrations

The Truth About Santa Claus Revealed!

“Don’t tell the kids, but we’ve got Santa Claus all wrong. Countless Christmas songs tell us that Santa is basically the Judge Judy of juveniles. He decides who’s been naughty or nice, and doles out presents or punishments accordingly. But historians say Kris Kringle was originally created to keep ‘adults’, not children, off the naughty list. Being crafty codgers, we ducked Santa’s surveillance, turning the spotlight on kids and dramatically changing Christmas celebrations.” D. Burke, CNN

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

Santa in the famous Macy's Day Parade in New York City, U.S.A. dailymail

Santa in the famous Macy’s Day Parade in New York City, U.S.A. dailymail

Excerpt: The real story behind Santa Claus, By Daniel Burke, CNN

“How did we achieve this very important historical victory? Picture this: It’s the early 1800s, and America’s Christian leaders — most of whom were Protestant Reformation-types — had banned religious celebrations of Christmas as unscriptural and paganish.

In Tokyo Japan Santas from the Harley Santa Club deliver toys in a campaign against child abuse. CNN

In Tokyo Japan Santas from the Harley Santa Club deliver toys in a campaign against child abuse. CNN

But people still wanted to party. Because, why not? It was midwinter, the crops were harvested and sailors were waiting for better weather to disembark. So, on December 25, working-class stiffs got fall-down drunk and stumbled around cities looking for stuff to loot. Imagine Black Friday, spring break and New Year’s Eve — then smash them together like sumo wrestlers full of saki. That was Christmas in the early 1800s.

Colorful Santa in Italy. CNN

Colorful Santa in Italy. CNN

A bunch of blue-blood New Yorkers decided all this fun must stop. They wanted to domesticate Christmas, bring it indoors, and focus it on children, says Gerry Bowler, author of Santa Claus: A History and professor of history at the University of Manitoba in Canada. These grinches, who formed the Saint Nicholas Society of New York, would change the world with two little poems. Yep. Poems.

Father Frost (equivalent of Santa) rests on a high-rise building in Kemerovo Russia

Father Frost (equivalent of Santa) rests on a high-rise building in Kemerovo Russia

But let’s back up for a minute. When the Dutch came to the New World in the 1600s, they brought a fellow from folklore named Sinterklaas with them, Bowler says. Sinterklaas, who wore a red bishop’s miter and a snowy white beard…Despite being a bishop, this Nick was a bit of a bad boy.  An archaeologist who dug up his bones in 2005 found that Nicholas had a broken nose, perhaps a result of the persistent persecution of Christians around that time… Or could it have been Christian-on-Christian violence?

Volunteer Santas in Seoul, Korea. CNN

Volunteer Santas in Seoul, Korea. CNN

Early icons of Nicholas depict him without bishop’s garb, a subtle suggestion that he had been demoted, possibly for fisticuffs…Thankfully, St. Nicholas, was known for more than brawling. He also had a reputation for giving gifts and protecting children…While staying at an inn, Nicholas discovered three dismembered children in pickle barrels. He reassembled and resurrected the briny kids and punished the guilty innkeeper.  These deeds, along with his everyman persona, (he wasn’t a martyr or hermit like so many other model Christians of the time), made Nicholas the greatest male saint of the Middle Ages.

Santa in the U.S. toovia.com

Santa in the U.S. toovia.com

Bowler says that St. Nick’s feast day, December 6, (the day he supposedly died) was celebrated across Europe for hundreds of years, often by giving gifts to children…About a decade later, in 1821, an anonymous poem called The Children’s Friend, featured a magical figure called ‘Santeclaus,’ who drove a reindeer-led sleigh full of “rewards” and filled obedient children’s stockings with little presents. Building on that, an Episcopalian scholar named Clement Clarke Moore wrote a poem for his big brood called A Visit From St. Nicholas. It’s now better known as The Night Before Christmas.

 

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post

NOTE: Lessons can also be used with native English speakers.

Level: Intermediate – Advanced


Language Skills: Reading, writing, and speaking. Vocabulary and grammar activities are included.


Time: Approximately 2 hours.


Materials: Student handout (from this lesson) and access to news article.


Objective: Students will read and discuss the article
with a focus on improving reading comprehension and learning new vocabulary. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

 Predictions: Analyzing headings and photos

Directions:  Have students  examine the titles of the post and of the actual article. After they examine the photos, ask students to create a list of  words and  ideas  that they think might be related to this article. 

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

Pre-reading Organizer By Scholastic

 

II. While Reading Tasks

Word Inference

Directions: Students are to infer the meanings of the words in bold taken from the article. They may use a dictionary, thesaurus, and Word Chart for assistance.

  1. How did we achieve this very important historical victory?
  2. They wanted to domesticate Christmas.
  3. They brought a fellow from folklore named Sinterklaas.
  4. An archaeologist dug up his bones in 2005.
  5. The meeting in 325 formed the first consensus on Christian doctrine.
  6. There was a suggestion that he had been demoted possibly for fisticuffs.
  7. St. Nicholas, was known for more than brawling.
  8. He reassembled and resurrected the briny kids.
  9. In some early depictions, Santa Claus looks like an overgrown elf.
  10. By the early 1900s, Santa became benevolent grandfather that we all know and love.
Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

Vocabulary Cluster By Learnnc.org

 

Reading Comprehension

True /False/NA-Statements

Directions: Review the following statements from the reading.  If  a statement is true they mark it T. If the statement is  not applicable, they mark it NA. If the statement is false they  mark  it F and provide the correct answer. 

  1. Kris Kringle was originally created children.
  2. In the early 1800s, America’s Christian leaders encouraged celebrations of Christmas.
  3. From this article we learn that in midwinter, the crops were harvested.
  4. Back then on December 25, the working-class donated money to the poor.
  5. A  group of blue-blood New Yorkers  applauded the working class for their donations.
  6. They wanted to domesticate Christmas, bring it indoors, and focus it on children.
  7. When the English came to the New World in the 1600s, they brought a fellow named Sinterklaas.
  8. Sinterklaas had five children of his own.
  9. Sinterklaas wore a red bishop’s miter and had a snowy white beard.
  10. An archaeologist who dug up his bones in 2005 found that Nicholas had a broken nose.

 

 Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from the article  and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

Discussion/Writing Exercise

Directions: Place students in groups and have them answer the following questions. Afterwards, have the groups share their thoughts as a class. To reinforce the ideas, students can write an essay on one of the following discussion topics.

1. The following  three statements were taken from the article. Rephrase each statement in your own words, then discuss the meaning with the members of your group.

“These deeds, along with his everyman persona, (he wasn’t a martyr or hermit like so many other model Christians of the time), made Nicholas the greatest male saint of the Middle Ages…One measure of his popularity is the long list of people, places, churches and Christian groups that list St. Nick as their patron….St. Nick’s feast day, December 6, (the day he supposedly died) was celebrated across Europe for hundreds of years, often by giving gifts to children.”

“Some countries… such as the Netherlands, kept alive traditions associated with Sinterklaas. And it was these customs that 19th century New Yorkers wanted to revive. As they sought to make Christmas more family friendly, the Saint Nicholas Society found the perfect front man in their namesake, who, after all, was known for being nice to children.”

“The real goal was getting drunks off the street, remember? Now they could do that by turning Christmas into a family event when children — who had it pretty rough back then — would receive gifts for good behavior. Drawing on the Dutch legends about Sinterklaas, the American author Washington Irving wrote a series of sketches featuring St. Nicholas soaring high above New York houses, smoking a pipe and delivering presents to well-behaved children.”

3-2-1-Writing

Directions: Allow students 5 minutes to write down three new ideas they’ve learned about the origins of Santa Claus from the reading,  two things they did not understand in the reading, and one thing they would like to know that the article did not mention. Review the responses as a class.

ANSWER KEY

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2015: Having A Ball!

“In cities around the world, the first seconds of the new year are marked by fireworks. But dropping a ball on New Year’s Eve is a wholly American tradition to count down the last fleeting moments. The first ball dropped at midnight on New Year’s Eve remains the most famous: the one on top of One Times Square in New York City.” E. Rolfes, PBS

Times Square balls from 1907, 2007,  2009, and 2012.

Times Square balls from 1907, 2007, 2009, and 2012.

Excerpt: Having a ball: The history behind American New Year’s Eve celebrations By Ellen Rolfes, PBS

With the creation of standard time, time balls were invented so that sailors could adjust their chronometers, or timepieces, while at sea. With a telescope, they would scope the harbor and watch for a time ball to drop at a specific time, usually noon or 1 p.m. The first time ball was installed in 1829 in Portsmouth, England. The U.S. Naval Observatory followed suit and began dropping a time ball in 1845 in Washington’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood.

Times Square New Year's Eve ball preparations for 2015.

Times Square New Year’s Eve ball preparations for 2015.

Soon many port towns and cities adopted the practice. It was one of these time balls that became the inspiration for Walter Palmer, The New York Times’ chief electrician, who reimagined the maritime timekeeping ritual as a unique finale to the city’s end-of-the-year party. In 1904, New York City’s New Year’s Eve celebrations moved up to the New York Times building at 46th St and Broadway. Crowds had previously gathered at Trinity Church in downtown Manhattan, near Wall Street, to hear the bells ring at midnight. In lieu of chimes, The New York Times company produced a midnight fireworks spectacle to lure more New Yorkers north. That proved effective but also disastrous when hot ashes, the remnants of the fireworks, rained down onto the streets.

The ball was redesigned as new technology and materials became available, Jeffrey Straus noted. As president of Countdown Entertainment and executive producer for New Year’s Eve celebrations in Times Square, Straus organizes television and Web broadcasts of the Times Square. Over the decades, aluminum has replaced iron and halogen lamps and then light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, replaced incandescent bulbs. Some balls have had rhinestones, strobe lights or rotating pyramid mirrors. Computer controls were added in 1995.

What distinguishes the current ball from earlier predecessors is the multitude of lights and crystals. At 11,875 pounds and 12 feet in diameter, the Big Ball has 2,688 Waterford Crystals that refracts the light of 32,256 Philips LEDs.”

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HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM ESL VOICES!