I am an eclectic collector. One of my most prized collections, which continues to grow each year, is that of my collection of “Merry Christmas” in different languages throughout the world. I started collecting these about six years ago when a number of my students had roots from different countries, namely Greece and Hungary. So, in addition to the French, German, Italian and English languages with which I was familiar, I now had the spelling and expressions for “Merry Christmas” for Greece and Hungary. About two years ago, I added Merry Christmas in the languages spoken in Bulgaria and Macedonia, as one of my students had roots in those countries. This most recent Christmas was an incredible year!
To coincide with my Traveling Teddy Bears project, I created a bulletin board that had twenty-three teddy bears (paper), each holding a flag from a different country. These bears were placed around a map of the world that had pin-pointed destinations that our bears had traveled to (we had received postcards from these destinations). Included, with each of the flags were the words, “Merry Christmas” in the language spoken from that country. This year I was able to add: Yugoslavia and Ireland (we have two staff members who have roots there), Belgium (one of the teddy bears was reported to be in Belgium), United Kingdom and England (one of my students had stated having had roots in England), Japan and South Korea, Spain, Denmark, Netherlands, and Afghanistan (one of my students has roots there). What I noticed about the students as they arrived each day, was that they would approach the bulletin board and look for the most recent addition of flags and “Merry Christmas” in the language spoken in that country. Also, during the day when they had completed their work, they would often be seen drawing and colouring one of the flags from the bulletin board.
Additionally, over the course of a week, the students practiced saying, “Merry Christmas” in a language of their choice. In total, there were twenty-three different flags, with sixteen different languages spoken. Students presented, “Merry Christmas” in these languages to our Principal and Vice-Principal. It was incredible the enthusiasm I received from the students to speak those wonderful words! There were many volunteers to speak even the most difficult of these languages.
My Grade 3s ended off their school year with: singing “Silent Night” in two languages: English (one verse) and German (one verse), “O Christmas Tree” in three languages: English (one verse), French (one verse) and German (one verse); and finally presenting their wishes of “Merry Christmas” from different countries to the student body during two of our caroling assemblies. They were so proud!
What I experienced from the students was a sense of wonder and excitement about the world, the different countries, their flags and the different languages that they were able to hear and speak.
This Christmas we were able to enjoy some of the world’s diversity without having left the classroom. I feel that my students will take these memories with them, wherever they go…