The Christmas season is a very special time of year for our family. We typically take a break from our regular studies during the month of December and use the time for some creative history and geography lessons. We use crafts, activities, and field trips to help us learn about holidays around the world.
One of our favorite Christmas “field trip” destinations is the EPCOT World Showcase in Walt Disney World. Every year we make several trips to visit the Holiday Storytellers. One of our favorites is “Helga” in the Germany Pavilion. Helga shares information about how the Christmas season is celebrated in her country, including stories about holiday foods, Christmas Markets, the history of the Christmas tree, the tale of the Nutcracker and more.
In case you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Helga, here is her story, courtesy of The Hidden Mickey Guy.
Christmas Market – Christkindlmarkt
During the weeks leading up to Christmas families visit the outdoor Christkindlmarkt for food, drinks and holiday items. The history of these markets goes back to the 1400s. Markets are open daily in cities and towns throughout Germany. To learn more about this year’s markets visit the site of the Original German Christmas Markets.
Using the photos, maps, and descriptions provided in the Original German Christmas Markets site, select 3 markets your family would love to visit. Be sure to make a shopping list of the holiday items you would like to purchase and design a plan for traveling to the various market locations.
You can make your own Christmas tress decorations, similar to those you would find in the Christmas Markets. Using these step-by-step instruction you can create your own German Paper Stars.
Gingerbread – Lebkuchen
The origins of German gingerbread cookies, or Lebkuchen, date back to the Franconian monasteries in the 1300’s. In the early days these tasty cookies were available only in the German cities of Nurnberg, Ulm, Cologne and Munich.
Although the basic ingredients of honey, flour, sugar, eggs, spices, and nuts are common to all Lebkuchen recipes, each region created a slightly different version of the cookie based on the ingredients readily available in the area.
Learn more about the ingredients used in regional Lebkuchen recipes and make some cookies for your family.
During the Christmas Season several of the Walt Disney World Resorts create magical gingerbread displays (and yes, they all use slightly different gingerbread recipes!). One of the largest is the Victorian gingerbread house at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort. Although you would need 800 pounds of sugar to re-create their 16 foot house, you can scale things down a bit and use their recipe to make your own gingerbread cookies at home.
The first wooden nutcracker soldier was crafted by in the 1870s by Wilhelm Friedrich Füchtner. Füchtner was from Seiffen, a small town near the Ore Mountains.
In addition to the wooden nutcracker, the famous ballet The Nutcracker is also a holiday tradition around the world. The ballet is based on the story Der Nussknacker und der Mauskönig (The Nutcracker and the Mouse King), which was written by German author E.T.A. Hoffmann and published in 1816.
Create your own papercraft Nutcracker using this free printable from Learn Create Love.
Learn about the story, music and composer of the Nutcracker Ballet with a Unit Study from Homegrown Learners (Click here to view more details). This guide includes listening links, notebooking pages and more.
We hope you have fun learning about the Christmas traditions in Germany!