About the event
What was once a purely Christian festival, Christmas has become a worldwide celebration and forms a core part of the winter festive period. A celebration of the birth of Christ and the Nativity story, Christmas is a time of feasting, family, gifts and goodwill.
The Bible provides no date for the nativity; 25th December was fixed as the date for Christmas over 300 years after Jesus's birth, as a way to turn pagan midwinter celebrations into a Christian festival. Eastern Orthodox Christians (such as those living in Eastern Europe, Russia, Greece, Egypt and Ethiopia) celebrate Christmas on the 7th January because their church stayed with the Julian calendar rather than the Gregorian calendar, which was gradually adopted between the 16th and 18th centuries.
How to approach it
As with any religious holiday, Christmas is an excellent time to educate students about different cultural traditions and the values that underpin them. Christmas is celebrated all over the world by different denominations and cultures. Explore these differences with your class by asking students to research how Christmas is celebrated in a culture they are less familiar with. Ask students: what is similar and what is different about these different celebrations? What local cultural traditions have blended with Christian ones?
Secondly, explore the values that underpin Christmas celebrations. You could do this by telling the nativity story and unpacking what we can learn from it. Mary and Joseph for example were migrants that had to move because of a government’s decree. They couldn’t find anywhere to stay, but ultimately found safety through the kindness of others. Alternatively you could explore the themes of family, gift giving and good will. Ask: why are these values important to people? What can we learn from this time of goodwill about how we should act in general? How can we behave like this at other times of year in other moments of our lives?
Mary and Joseph were forced to leave their home and needed somewhere to stay. They couldn’t find anywhere but, through the kindness of strangers they were given sanctuary. What can this teach us about modern migration? What values does this story tell us are important?