Friday, 28 October 2016

My Favourite Winter Holidays

This week's Unit Study Roundup topic is winter holidays.  I decided to share a little bit about my favourite holidays.  I used to celebrate several holidays with my eldest DD so that we both learned about different cultures and customs.

The first holiday that we would celebrate was Hanukkah.  It is a fun celebration which is the Jewish festival of lights.  We lived in a town where there was a pottery place.  We painted our own menorah together.  She painted one side and I painted the other.

Here is our Menorah with all of the candles alight.  This was on the final night of Hanukkah. 

Hanukkah celebrates the miracle of oil in the temple.  The short version of the story is that there was enough oil left to light the lamp for one day.  A miracle happened and the oil lasted for eight days.  Now, if you look at the picture above, you will see nine candles.   Look carefully at the menorah, do you notice anything?  One of the candles is slightly higher.  This candle is the shammus candle or the servant candle.  Each night, you light this candle and say some blessings.  On the first night you say all three blessings and on the other nights you say the first two blessings.

1. Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments, and commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.

2. Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who performed miracles for our forefathers in those days, at this time.

3. Blessed are You, Lord our G‑d, King of the universe, who has granted us life, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this occasion.

One candle is added to the menorah each night. The first night, you light only the shammus (the one at a different height) and one Chanukkah candle. By the eighth night, you light all of the candles. Candles should be added to the menorah from right to left (like Hebrew writing).

For more information please go  I used to make Latkes.  Here is a recipe similar to what I used to make, I got it from Epicurious


1 pound potatoes
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 to 3/4 cup olive oil
Accompaniments: sour cream and applesauce


Preheat oven to 250°F.

Peel potatoes and coarsely grate by hand, transferring to a large bowl of cold water as grated. Soak potatoes 1 to 2 minutes after last batch is added to water, then drain well in a colander.
Spread grated potatoes and onion on a kitchen towel and roll up jelly-roll style. Twist towel tightly to wring out as much liquid as possible. Transfer potato mixture to a bowl and stir in egg and salt.
Heat 1/4 cup oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking. Working in batches of 4 latkes, spoon 2 tablespoons potato mixture per latke into skillet, spreading into 3-inch rounds with a fork. Reduce heat to moderate and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes. Turn latkes over and cook until undersides are browned, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to paper towels to drain and season with salt. Add more oil to skillet as needed. Keep latkes warm on a wire rack set in a shallow baking pan in oven.

Traditionally foods that use or are made in oil are served for Hanukkah treats because of the miracle of the oil.

Christmas is of course another favourite winter holiday of mine.  Everyone is either really grumpy, or really cheerful or somewhere in between!   If you are a musician, Christmas is a really busy time of the year because you are either playing at concerts or playing carols in the shopping centres!

There are as many different Christmas traditions as there are people who celebrate Christmas.   One of my favourite things to do is relax.  Our family has a quiet day.  We celebrate Christmas over the evening of the 24th and of course during the day on the 25th.  The big thing is that the Christkind (Christ child) brings the presents and we open them after dinner (evening meal) on the 24th.  The Christkind brings the gifts in the German speaking world rather than Santa Claus because Santa Claus - St Nikolaus has already visited on the 6th of December!  On the first Sunday of advent, the children leave their letters for the Christkind on the window ledge and St Nikolaus takes the letter on the 6th of December.

On the 25th, while everyone else around us is having their Christmas, we are enjoying a quiet day and we have the big Christmas meal.  Each year it is always a different special meal but there are two things that are the same, Blaukraut and Kartoffleknödel.  Blaukraut is cooked red cabbage and Kartoffelknödel are potato dumplings.  

On Christmas Eve in the Church of England, there is a special service which is called a Christingle service.  You can make your own Christingle at home very easily.  You need an orange, some red tape, some toothpicks (or cocktail sticks), some candies and dried fruit, some tinfoil, and a candle.   You need to cut the orange at the top and then put the tinfoil inside that hole.  The candle goes in there.  You put the red tape around the middle of the orange.  Place four toothpicks around the orange and then put the candies on the toothpicks (just two or three tiny candies per toothpick).  After you have made your Christingle, you light the candle and can sing some of your favourite carols.

What is a Christingle and what does it represent?  What does it look like?

Here is a picture: 

The orange represents the world or earth, the red tape represents the love or blood of Christ and it is placed around the centre of the world or earth - this is of course the equator.  The toothpicks represent the four poles or four corners of the world, north, east, south, and west.  The candies and dried fruit represent all of God’s creations The lit candle represents Jesus’s light in the world, bringing hope to people living in darkness.

In the church service, we hear the story of the birth of Jesus and the prophecies.  We sing some carols and then we go forward and collect our Christingles.  We return to our seats and then one person lights their Christingle from the Pascal (Easter) candle and then they pass the light on to other Christingles.  Eventually each person is holding a lit Christingle and we sing Silent Night. It is a lovely service and churches are usually packed full.  There is also midnight mass and so one year I went to midnight mass.  The service was done without artificial light and we had communion at the end.  I had never been to midnight mass and wanted to go at least once because I had heard about it on television shows.

Kwanaza is something that I taught my daughter about but it is not something we celebrate or observe.  I heard about it and researched it.  I read about it here.  I think it is a nice celebration.  It goes from December 26th to January 1st.  There are seven core principles of Kwanzaa - one for each day.

The principles are:

  1. Umoja (Unity): To strive for and to maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define and name ourselves, as well as to create and speak for ourselves.
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility): To build and maintain our community together and make our brothers' and sisters' problems our problems and to solve them together.
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics): To build and maintain our own stores, shops, and other businesses and to profit from them together.
  5. Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore our people to their traditional greatness.
  6. Kuumba (Creativity): To do always as much as we can, in the way we can, in order to leave our community more beautiful and beneficial than we inherited it.
  7. Imani (Faith): To believe with all our hearts in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders, and the righteousness and victory of our struggle.
Here is a nice photo of a Kwanzaa candle holder - and I linked to it from here

I think those are some nice principles to celebrate and live by.

New Year's Eve is another favourite celebration and in our family, we like to watch Dinner For One - this sketch is about 11 minutes long and it is about a lady 'Miss Sophie' who is celebrating her birthday.  Her butler James is serving her and her guests.  Every year on her birthday, she had four friends who would join her.  They had a three course meal - soup, main dish, and dessert and each course has an alcoholic beverage to accompany it.  

Unfortunately, Miss Sophie's friends have since passed on and so James, the butler, has to act like her friends.  For every course he asks her if it's 'the same procedure as last year, Miss Sophie' and she always replies with 'It's the same procedure as every year, James!' This sketch is a cult classic in Germany on 'Silvester' aka New Year's Eve.  I hope that you enjoy it.

Please click on the other links to see what the other bloggers in the Unit Study Roundup have posted about:

Elf on the Shelf Stationary {9 Page Free Printables Pack} from Playdough & Popsicles

Festive Christmas Scavenger Hunt {Free Printable} from Crafty Mama in ME

Favorite Children's Books about Santa from The Jenny Evolution

Holiday Learning Activities from iGameMom

Books about Christmas Elves for Kids from CraftCreateCalm

My Favourite Winter Holidays from Tales of Education at Home

Printable Christmas Cards to Color from Mrs. Karle's Sight and Sound Reading

STEM Gifts for Kids from Schooling a Monkey

3 Christmas Tree Activities from My Storytime Corner

Winter Holidays Family Activities List from Planet Smarty Pants