Buscar este blog

lunes, 17 de diciembre de 2012

Christmas [Yule or Saturnalia]

Christmas at home starts at the beginning of the Advent period setting the decorations. That is four weeks before Christmas Eve. With the decorating of our house, it comes the baking of Christmas goodies, the building of our gingerbread house, the planning for the trip to visit our families and of course, marking and assessing students before they go on holidays.
But what is there behind these celebrations?
Many of the ancient celebrations have a connection with the sun and the cycle of life and the passing of seasons, the harvesting, the duality. What do a mean with duality? If this world has been made of pairs, such as good and evil, man and woman, light and darkness, the celebration of this time of the year is not any other thing than the searching for light. We, at least I do, adore light. We  want our houses pretty well illuminated. This is what we do when we are searching for a place to live.

Yule log

Let's go back in time to the British Isles:  Yule was a Norse tradition of the celebration of the winter solstice. Daylight is so short in the north of Europe, that fathers and sons went to the forest to choose an evergreen tree to bring it at home, so they could recall springtime. Later on the Christians, decorate it with red apples reminding them the Garden of Eden;  and there you go, a tradition was born. . It is said that they sacrified a bull and gathered mistletoe, which is nothing more than a parasite. There is a tradition that it could be the Golden Bow of Aeneas.

The Romans had the festival of the Saturnalia, to honor the god Saturn. Before being assimilated to the Greek god Chronos, Saturn was a god of the agriculture and harvesting. This festival recalls the Golden Age when Saturn was a ruler and there weren't social class differences. People wore their best attires, there was exchange of presents, family gatherings and eating of a sweet with a bean inside, whose finder would be crowned as prince of the Saturnalia. There was even a carnival celebration on the second day and of course, the celebration of the winter solstice.

gingerbread biscuits

Among the soldiers, Mythras, the Persian god, was born on Dec 25, the birth of the sun. If Jesus for the sun for Christians, it was a short step until Dec 25th was declared the Nativity of Jesus's Day on the 4th century.
Gingerbread house www.cocinandoconcatman.com

Christmas is also about giving presents, mostly when your birthday is on Jan 6th

Let's revise some dates in the US history.

Merry Christmas!

Teaching English by Fran | Hanukkah
Teaching English by Fran | Kwanzaa 

sábado, 15 de diciembre de 2012


America is a melting pot. Thanksgiving is a celebration for all Americans; however, when Christmas comes, not all Americans celebrate it. For instance Afro-Americans celebrate Kwanzaa, which means "first fruits"  in Swahili. Kwanzaa lasts for  seven nights from Dec 26 till Jan 1. The family gathers and a child lights one of the candles on the Kinara, their candelabrum (rather similiar to the menorah in Hanukkah). Each candle represents a principle of African culture. There are three green  candles, three red ones and a black candle in the middle.

 The first night, the black candle in the center is lit. One candle is lit each evening and the appropriate principle is discussed. The principles are unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith.
One of the traditions is sipping from the unity cup.

Happy Kwanzaa!
Teaching English by Fran | Hanukkah
Teaching English by Fran | Black History Month

viernes, 14 de diciembre de 2012


Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday celebrated for eight days and nights. It starts on the 25th of the Jewish month of Kislev, which coincides with late November-late December on the secular calendar. It is also known as "the Festival of Lights"

In Hebrew, the word "hanukkah" means "dedication". The name reminds us that this holiday commemorates the re-dedication of the holy Temple in Jerusalem following the Jewish victory over the Syrian-Greeks in 165 B.C.E.

The following Sunday will be the end of the celebration. This year Hanukkah has been being celebrated from Dec 8th till Dec 16 Teaching English by Fran has joined the celebration as it is also part of the Northamerican culture. Some traditions are:

Lighting the menorah: Every year it is customary to commemorate the miracle of the Hanukkah oil by lighting candles on a hanukkiyah. The hanukkiyah is lit every night for eight nights .

Spinning the dreidel: A popular Hanukkah game is spinning the dreidel, which is a four-sided top with Hebrew letters written on each side.

Because of the proximitiy of Christmas, it has become customary to exchange presents.

Happy Hanukkah!

jueves, 6 de diciembre de 2012

St Nicholas

The true story of Santa Claus begins with Nicholas, who was born in Patara, nowadays Turkey. 
He followed Jesus' words to "sell what you own and give the money to the poor," Nicholas used his whole inheritance to assist the needy, the sick, and the suffering. 
He dedicated his life to serving God and was made Bishop of Myra while still a young man. 
Under the Roman Emperor Diocletian, who persecuted Christians, Bishop Nicholas suffered for his faith and was imprisoned. He died December 6, AD 343 in Myra and was buried in his cathedral church
It is said that his relic has healing powers, fostered the growth of devotion to Nicholas. 
Through the centuries many stories and legends have been told of St. Nicholas' life and deeds.  
One of them is he saving some girls to be sold into slavery by tossing coins of gold through the windows and falling by stockings. 
You have more information on the Nicholas Center page.

After reading about St. Nick and watching the following video Origins of Santa Claus, you may be able to answer the following questions:

1. Where was St Nicholas a bishop in?
2. Where did the gold that St Nicholas   
   tossed through the window land into?
3. When did St Nicholas die?
4. Who were the first ones to call St 
   Nicholas, Santa Claus?
5. Who drew the American image of Santa 
6. There is a rumour that a famous company 
   from Atlanta, changed the colour of 
   Santa's attire, although it may not be 
   true, can you name it?

When Clemens Clarke Moore wrote The Night Before Christmas (also known as Twas the Night Before Christmas, he started connecting the idea of St. Nicholas to Christmas. The poem was also known as A Visit from St Nicholas. You can read the full version on this web page.

Later, an American cartoonist gave us the 

latest image of the American icon which you can see in these butter cookies decorated 
with royal icing by Manu Catman.

However, I am attaching a new version by Brandon Heath

After all these stories, children may just be interested in wainting for Santa's (St. Nicholas) arrival on Christmas Eve. So, they'd better watch out!!

Teaching English by Fran |Eggnog
Teaching English by Fran |Carols