By JEROD CLAPP
Some said “feliz Natal,” others said “merii kurisumasu,” but they all wished everyone a merry Christmas in their own way.
Thomas Jefferson Elementary School celebrated Christmas Around the World for the 13th year Wednesday. Third-graders researched 28 different countries and two noncontiguous states in America, looking up the languages spoken, Christmas traditions and how the holiday is celebrated within that culture.
Helen Webb, a third-grade teacher who helped start the event, said her students are always interested to see how other cultures embrace the holiday.
“As the world is getting smaller and new countries are integrating they were struck by how many ways there are to celebrate Christmas within a country because of the people migrating in,” Webb said. “It gives respect for the differences of other people and how they do things that aren’t like us.”
She said along with the presentation students do in the gym to other students in the school, they also write written reports and give an oral presentation in class. She said sometimes students try to adopt the Christmas traditions of the countries they study.
“They immediately want to share it with someone because they assume everyone is like them,” Webb said. “They’ve learned something they think no one else knows and they want to share that.”
Corey Lear, a third-grader, picked Denmark to study. He said they usually eat Christmas rice pudding, but he likes the fact that they’re pranksters for the holidays.
“I was surprised that they play jokes on each other for Christmas,” Lear said. “I would like to celebrate it with my family, friends and grandparents.”
Jennifer Terry’s son, Jovan, made his project about South Africa. She said he thought it was interesting that being south of the equator, they celebrate Christmas in warmer climes.
“I guess the biggest thing he learned is that because South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, they celebrate by going camping and swimming at the beach because the weather is warmer,” Terry said. “They still do lots of things we do, but the weather is the biggest difference between here and there.”
Jovan said if he had it his way, he’d spend his Christmas on the beach like South Africans do.
“I didn’t know they had it in summer or they have food like us and decorate in pine branches,” Jovan said. “I also didn’t know they go camping.”
Disney Mullins, another third-grader, made her presentation on Brazil. She said her favorite part of a Brazilian Christmas is that it looks more like Independence Day in the United States.
“I really like the fireworks at the beach and spending time with your family and going shopping for presents,” Mullins said.