Martin Walker students learn worldwide Christmas traditions through scavenger hunt


Special to the Leader-Press


Germans counted down the days until Christmas by marking 24 chalk lines on a door and rubbing one off every day in December. This ultimately led to the creation of the Advent Calendar that is now enjoyed around the world.

In Scandinavia in the 1800s, people decorated their homes and barns with greenery for New Year in order to ward off evil. Today, decorating Christmas trees are a holiday tradition worldwide.

Like contestants on the popular Amazing Race television series, Martin Walker Elementary third graders in teacher Molly Goldschmeding’s class traveled through the hallways of the school learning about holiday traditions in different countries and cultures.

“This activity allowed students to practice going back into the text to find evidence so they could answer different holiday themed questions. This is critical to success in gaining a deeper understanding of what they are reading," Goldschmeding said.

Student Serenity St. Louise said it was such a fun activity, it did not feel like schoolwork.

“We got to go around the hallways and play scavenger hunt,” St. Louise said. “While we wrote down the answers, we also learned facts on different holidays."

Goldschmeding said the hands-on lesson provided many opportunities to deepen students’ background knowledge.

“A lot of the facts and cards that were read were not familiar concepts to the students,” Goldschmeding said. “They were able to not only use their reading skills to answer questions with text evidence, but they were also learning more about the world around them.” 

A Mexican legend tells of a girl who had nothing to offer the baby Jesus on Christmas Eve but a bunch of weeds. When she knelt down to deposit the weeds by the nativity scene, the bouquet burst into bright red flowers. Ever since, Poinsettias, whose leaves are thought to be shaped like the star of Bethlehem, have become synonymous with Christmas.

Colombians illuminate their homes and streets with millions of white and colored velas, or candles, in patterned paper lanterns. You can see a similar tradition now in New Mexico.

In Québec, French-speaking families celebrate Christmas the night before. The tradition originated in France and is similar to the way it’s celebrated in New Orleans.

“They loved reading the different facts about Christmas around the world and talked about them randomly for days,” Goldschmeding said. “It sparked a lot of interest in how traditions have started and how other countries celebrate the holidays. Some of them even began their own research to answer some additional questions they had on their own.”


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