Category Archives: Celebrations

The Wonder of Global Christmas Festivities

“It’s that time of the year when people world-wide celebrate Christmas. The following article highlights six countries and their uniques versions of celebrating Christmas.” J. Margolies, The New York Times

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post  with Answer Key

Excerpt: Six Christmas Traditions From Around the World, By Jane Margolies, The New York Times

Christmas trees, Santa Claus and gingerbread lattes are all well and good. But with the homogenizing creep of Yuletide customs, travelers might well worry they’ll go to the trouble of getting somewhere new over the holidays only to find it’s just like everywhere else. Not the six places here. Each has its own way of celebrating Christmas, and with the festivities unfolding in plazas, parks and other public places, travelers are free to join right in.”

Castleton, England

Directions near Castleton in the Peak District in Derbyshire, England, where Christmas singing resounds in local caves. Credit- Jamie Duff

This pretty English village in Derbyshire’s Peak District is known for its walking paths and, high on a hill, the picturesque ruins of a Norman castle. It’s also home to four spectacular caverns bristling with stalagmites and stalactites. On weekends leading up to Christmas two of the caves offer caroling sing-alongs.

Jerusalem

The Basilica of the Nativity, on the place where Christ was born, in Bethlehem.Credit- Nasser Shiyoukhi

In most parts of Israel, where Christians make up about 2 percent of the population, it’s business as usual on Dec. 24 and 25. But in this city where Jesus lived and died, Christmas is joyously celebrated in the Christian quarter of the Old City. Churches decorated with trees conduct nonstop services in many languages (see cicts.org for listings of services), with Jews and Muslims often sitting in.Marching bands and bagpipers led by Arabian horses weave through the narrow streets to Manger Square, the plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity, which stands on the grotto where Jesus was born.

Oaxaca, Mexico

Sculptures made of radishes are shown at Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) in Oaxaca, Mexico. Credit:Judith Haden: DaniaDelimont.com

Posadas — door-to-door processions that re-enact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter — and a parade with candlelit paper lanterns fill the streets of this city in southwestern Mexico… But the most awe-inspiring custom is the century-old competition known as the Noche de Rábanos (Night of the Radishes) on the evening of Dec. 23. In the zócalo, the city’s central square, under a canopy of lights, farmers display elaborate sculptures — nativity scenes, robed kings, musicians — all carved out of the giant radishes grown locally.

Quebec City

Père and Mère Noël stroll the streets of Quebec City. Credit- Christinne Muschi for The New York Times

You would think temperatures in the teens and wind whipping off the St. Lawrence River would drive everyone indoors. But the 403-year-old capital of Quebec province revels in the outdoors at Christmastime, when stone buildings sparkle with lights. Fortify yourself with maple sugar pie from the Ferme Line & Steve Morency stand at Le Marché de Noel in the farmers’ market in the Old Port area.

Rome

Christmas lights decorate the Piazza di Spagna in Rome. Credit Alseeandro Bianchi:Reuters

Although the larger-than-life nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square is under wraps until Dec. 24, when this year’s still-top-secret version will be unveiled just in time for the Pope’s midnight Mass, you can feast your eyes on the remarkably detailed 18th-century Neapolitan carved-wood crib… Piazza del Popolo, to see crib elements made of everything from coral to chocolate. Or just duck into any church or cathedral you happen by.

Taos, N.M.

Farolitos, paper bags with votive candles inside, illuminate Taos, N.M. Credit- Walter Bibikov:DaniaDelimont.com

Bonfires blaze nightly in the plazas, bringing a block-party vibe to this New Mexico town. Farolitos (brown paper bags lighted with votive candles) line streets, snaking past galleries and art studios… When the Spanish came here in the 17th century, they brought their culture, and today celebrations blend Catholic and Native American traditions.”

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 improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I Pre-Reading Activities

Stimulating background knowledge: Brainstorming

Directions: Place students in groups, to find out what they already know about Christmas celebrations in different countries.  Next, have students look at the pictures in the article to generate ideas or words about the topic.  Discuss as a class and list these ideas on the board.

Colorful Brainstorming chart from Live It Magazine.

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. This pretty English village in Derbyshire’s Peak District is known for the picturesque ruins of a Norman castle.
  2. At Peak Cavern’s evening songfests participants sit inside the cave — which has great acoustics — to belt out “We Three Kings” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
  3. From Jerusalem, many people make the pilgrimage six miles south to Bethlehem.
  4. The plaza outside the Basilica of the Nativity, which stands on the grotto where Jesus was born.
  5. Posadas are door-to-door processions that re-enact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter.
  6. Tthe most awe-inspiring custom is the century-old competition known as the Noche de Rábanos.
  7. The 403-year-old capital of Quebec province revels in the outdoors at Christmastime.
  8. Just visit into any church or cathedral you happen by.
  9. In Italy there are burlap-and-straw depictions of the Italian witch called La Befana.
  10. Bonfires blaze nightly in the plazas, bringing a block-party vibe to this New Mexico town.

Reading Comprehension

True / False

Directions:  The following statements were taken from the article.  If  a statement is true, write (T) if  a statement is false  write (F). 

  1. Each country mentioned in the article has similar ways of celebrating Christmas.
  2. The English village in Derbyshire’s Peak District is known for its walking paths.
  3. On weekends leading up to Christmas in Derbyshire’s Peak  people can sing in the caves.
  4. From Bethlehem  many people make the pilgrimage six miles south to Jerusalem, to celebrate.
  5. In Oaxaca, Mexico, the most awe-inspiring custom is the century-old competition known as El  Día de los Muertos on the evening of Dec. 23.
  6. Creations such as Nativity scenes, robed kings, musicians, are all carved out of the giant radishes grown locally.
  7. In Quebec City the 403-year-old capital of Quebec province revels in the outdoors at Christmastime.
  8. In Rome the larger-than-life nativity scene in St. Peter’s Square is kept under wraps until Dec. 24.
  9. La Befana, is an Italian santa  said to fly around on a broomstick.
  10. In Taos, N.M. celebrations blend Catholic and Native American traditions.

Grammar Focus

Using Adjectives  to describe pictures    

Directions: Have students choose a picture from this lesson and write a descriptive paragraph using adjectives.

For a review of Adjectives visit ESL Voices Grammar

III Post Reading Tasks

Reading Comprehension Check

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion/Writing Questions

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

  1. Describe how Christmas is celebrated in your country.
  2. Which celebration described in this article is your favorite? Explain why.
  3. Can you see any similarities between the six celebrations?
  4. What new information have you learned from this article? Share it with your group and then as a class.

 

Group Project

Directions: Have students go to this site Santa’s Net  which has a large collection of traditions  from different countries.  Have each group choose a country that celebrates Christmas differently from the ones mentioned here, and describe that  country’s celebration.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

How Christmas Came to the Santa Maria Flats By Elia W. Peattie

“Peattie’s Christmas story will be appreciated by both children and adults. The Lease includes restrictive rules: no running, jumping, and nothing else that might satisfy children’s natural liberties. But it also includes a ‘clause’ about no peddlers or agents entering the building. Is Santa allowed to make deliveries to the children or not?”

ESL Voices Lesson Plan for this post with Answer Key

There were twenty-six flat children, and none of them had ever been flat children until that year. Previously they had all been home children. and as such had, of course, had beautiful Christmases, in which their relations with Santa Claus had been of the most intimate and personal nature.

Now, owing to their residence in the Santa Maria flats, and the Lease, all was changed… Though, to be sure—as every one of the flat children knew—they were in the greatest kind of luck to be allowed to live at all, and especially were they fortunate past the lot of children to be permitted to live in a flat… The twenty-six children of the Santa Maria flats belonged to twenty families.

All of these twenty families were peculiar, as you might learn any day by interviewing the families concerning one another. But they bore with each other’s peculiarities quite cheerfully and spoke in the hall when they met. Sometimes this tolerance would even extend to conversation about the janitor, a thin creature who did the work of five men. The ladies complained that he never smiled…’if only the janitor would smile. But he looks like a cemetery.’

Santa Maria Flats

Only Kara Johnson never said anything on the subject because she knew why Carlsen didn’t smile, and was sorry for it, and would have made it all right—if it hadn’t been for Lars Larsen.

Dear, dear, but this is a digression from the subject of the Lease. It was in the Lease not to run—not to jump—not to yell. It was in the Lease not to sing in the halls, not to call from story to story, not to slide down the banisters…It was in the Lease, too, that no peddler or agent, or suspicious stranger was to enter the Santa Maria, neither by the front door nor the back…It was this that worried the children.For how could such a dear, disorderly, democratic rascal as the children’s saint ever hope to gain a pass to that exclusive entrance and get up to the rooms of the flat children?

“You can see for yourself,” said Ernest, who lived on the first floor, to Roderick who lived on the fourth, ‘that if Santa Claus can’t get up the front stairs, and can’t get up the back stairs, that all he can do is to come down the chimney. And he can’t come down the chimney—at least, he can’t get out of the fireplace.’

Roderick could see for himself. There was an inch-wide opening down which the Friend of the Children could squeeze himself, and, as everybody knows, he needs a good deal of room now, for he has grown portly with age, and his pack every year becomes bigger, owing to the ever-increasing number of girls and boys he has to supply…Nevertheless, hope springs eternal, and the boys each and individually asked their fathers—tremendously wise and good men—if they thought there was any hope that Santa Claus would get into the Santa Maria flats, and each of the fathers looked up from his paper and said he’d be blessed if he did! Nobody could laugh because a boy was found crying!

The girls cried too—for the awful news was whistled up tubes and whistled down tubes, till all the twenty-six flat children knew about it. The next day it was talked over in the brick court, where the children used to go to shout and race. But on this day there was neither shouting nor racing. There was, instead, a shaking of heads, a surreptitious dropping of tears, a guessing and protesting and lamenting.

All the flat mothers congratulated themselves on the fact that their children were becoming so quiet and orderly… It was decided, after a solemn talk, that every child should go to its own fireplace and investigate. In the event of any fireplace being found with an opening big enough to admit Santa Claus, a note could be left directing him along the halls to the other apartments.

A spirit of universal brotherhood had taken possession of the Santa Maria flatters. Misery bound them together. But the investigation proved to be disheartening. The cruel asbestos grates were everywhere. Hope lay strangled! … No one suspected the truth, though the children were often heard to say that it was evident that there was to be no Christmas for them! The day before Christmas was gray and dismal. There was no wind—indeed, there was a sort of tightness in the air, as if the supply of freshness had given out… There appeared to be no stir—no mystery. No whisperings went on in the corners—or at least, so it seemed to the sad babies of the Santa Maria…

Even the janitor noticed it. He spoke about it to Kara at the head of the back stairs, and she held her hand so as to let him see the new silver ring on her fourth finger, and he let go of the rope on the elevator on which he was standing and dropped to the bottom of the shaft, so that Kara sent up a wild hallo of alarm.

But the janitor emerged as melancholy and unruffled as ever, only looking at his watch to see if it had been stopped by the concussion… It seemed to the flat children that they had been asleep but a few moments when there came a terrible burst of wind that shook even that great house to its foundations. Actually, as they sat up in bed and called to their parents or their nurses, their voices seemed smothered with roar.

Sounds of falling glass, of breaking shutters, of crashing chimneys greeted their ears—not that they knew what all these sounds meant. They only knew that it seemed as if the end of the world had come.  After a terrible time the wind settled down into a steady howl like a hungry wolf, and the children went to sleep, worn out with fright and conscious that the bedclothes could not keep out the cold.

Dawn came. The children awoke, shivering. They sat up in bed and looked about them—yes, they did, the whole twenty-six of them in their different apartments and their different homes. And what do you suppose they saw—what do you suppose the twenty-six flat children saw as they looked about them?

Why, stockings, stuffed full, and trees hung full, and boxes packed full! Yes, they did! It was Christmas morning, and the bells were ringing, and all the little flat children were laughing, for Santa Claus had come!

He had really come! In the wind and wild weather, while the tongues of the wind licked hungrily at the roof, while the wind howled like a hungry wolf, he had crept in somehow and laughing, no doubt, and chuckling, without question, he had filled the stockings and the trees and the boxes!

Dear me, dear me, but it was a happy time! It makes me out of breath to think what a happy time it was, and how surprised the flat children were, and how they wondered how it could ever have happened.

But they found out, of course! It happened in the simplest way! Every skylight in the place was blown off and away, and that was how the wind howled so, and how the bedclothes would not keep the children warm, and how Santa Claus got in…And of course all the parents thought and said that Santa Claus must have jumped down the skylights.

By noon there were other skylights put in, and not a sign left of the way he made his entrance—not that the way mattered a bit, no, not a bit…In closing it is only proper to mention that Kara Johnson crocheted a white silk four-in-hand necktie for Carl Carlsen, the janitor—and the janitor smiled!

Read full Story here

Author Elia W. Peattie (January 15, 1862 – July 12, 1935) was an American author, journalist and critic. Wikipedia

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 improving oral skills. At the end of the lesson students will express their personal views on the topic through group work and writing.

I. Pre-Reading Activities

Directions:  Have students examine the photos, then create a list of  words and  ideas that group members think might be related to this article. Next, answer the following questions:

  1. Look at the picture what would you call this building?
  2. Have you ever lived in flat?  An apartment? A house?
  3. Which did you like better?
  4. If you are from another country what are the names of buildings where people live?
  5. Have you ever wished for a gift  but thought that you would  not receive ti?
  6. In the U.S. small children believe in Santa Clause. Do children in your country believe in Santa?

II. While Reading Activities

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. There were twenty-six flats in the building.
  2. The Lease was a strange  one.
  3. The Lease was a strange forbiddance, a ukase issued by a tyrant
  4. The children were lucky to be permitted to live in a flat.
  5. All of these twenty families were peculiar.
  6. The ladies would often gossip in the vestibule.
  7. “If only the janitor would smile.
  8. This is a digression from the subject of the Lease.
  9. But the janitor emerged as melancholy.
  10. They said that Santa Claus must have jumped down the skylights.

 

Grammar Focus: Structure and Usage

Directions: The following groups of sentences are from the article. One of the sentences in each group contains a grammatical  error. Students are to identify the sentence (1, 2, or 3 ) from each group that contains the grammatical error.

I

  1. There was twenty-six flat children.
  2. They had the greatest kind of luck.
  3. There were many flats in the great city.

II

  1. Cecil were evicted, along with his parents.
  2. He looks like a cemetery.
  3. People wanted a cheerful janitor.

 

III

  1. It was over the Lease not to run and not to jump.
  2. The boys and the girls cried at learning the news.
  3. All the flat mothers congratulated themselves.

 

Reading Comprehension Fill-ins

Directions: Place students in groups and after they have read the entire article, have them complete the following sentences  taken from the article. They can use the words and terms from the list provided, or provide their own terms. They are to find the meanings of any new vocabulary.

‘You can see for yourself!’ said Ernest ___.Roderick could___for himself. There was an inch-wide opening down which the Friend of the Children could ___himself, and, as___ knows, he needs a good deal of room now, for he has grown___with age, and his___every year becomes bigger, owing to the ever-increasing ___of girls and boys he has to supply.

WORD LIST: number, portly,  squeeze, pack, tragically, see,  everybody,

III. Post Reading Activities

WH-How Questions

Directions: Have students use the  WH-question format to discuss or to write the main points from the article.

Who or What is the article about?

Where does the action/event take place?

When does the action/event take place?

Why did the action/event occur?

How did the action/event occur?

Discussion Questions for Comprehension /Writing

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

  1. Why were the children called ‘Flat’ children?
  2. What was it about the janitor the families didn’t like?
  3. The story states, Only Kara Johnson never said anything on the subject because she knew why Carlsen didn’t smile, and was sorry for it, and would have made it all right—if it hadn’t been for Lars Larsen.” Can you guess what happened with Kara, Lars and Carlsen?
  4. Why did the children think there would be no Christmas that year at the Flats?
  5. Who is the “Friend of the Children” ?
  6. What was the plan the children thought of?
  7. How did the children’s  plan turn out?
  8. In the end, how did Santa get into the flats?
  9. Why do you think the  janitor finally  smiled at the end of the story?
  10. After reading this story name at least one new thing  that you’ve learned. Discuss what you’ve learned with your group members and share as a class.

1-Minute Free Writing Exercise

Directions: Allow students 1 minute to write down one new idea they’ve learned from the reading. Ask them to write down one thing they did not understand in the reading.  Review the responses as a class. Note: For the lower levels allow more time for this writing activity.

ANSWER KEY

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

Category: Celebrations | Tags:

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!