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Traveling the world in one holiday night

Traveling the world in one holiday night

Elementary students experience traditions beyond U.S. borders

In Sweden, Charles City students wove together paper basket hearts for their passport stamp. At the Netherlands, they colored their own Saint Nicholas masks. In France, the kindergarten through third-graders searched for almonds in their pastries to win a crown; in Italy, they crafted stockings to leave for Befana, a Santa Claus-like figure who leaves candy for children in houses as she searches for baby Jesus.

Their European adventures started in the Charles City Public Library. High school students Sandra Bontemp, Astrid Eriksson and Viviana Vinci volunteered to host their home countries at Christmas Around the World, put on by Friends of the Library on Sunday afternoon. Vinci, an Italian exchange student, was excited when organizer Ginger Williams contacted her to help the event. “I thought that was a really great opportunity for us to volunteer for kids,” Vinci said. “I always enjoy those programs, and it was really nice here.”

Students travelled from each country’s table to hear more about national traditions.

They collected passports “stamps” from Vinci, Eriksson and Bontemp in the form of seasonal greetings in the national language, and later found sugar cubes tucked in their shoes, which sat lined up against the wall during the event. Students were also given a free book from the Friends of the Library.

It’s a bit tricky to trim a country’s entire holiday traditions into one craft, but students still got a taste for the season –– in Bontemp’s home country of France, quite literally. On Jan. 6, Bontemp said, families celebrate the journey of the kings’ men by hiding small figurines inside traditional pastries for children to find. Bontemp’s family was able to mail the figurines to her soon enough, so she took a cue from another part of the tradition and hid almonds inside.

“If the adult found (a) dried bean, they have to pay for the champagne for the night,” Bontemp said, adding, “I couldn’t do that for the kids.”

The high school students hoped the event gave a broader glimpse of the world to elementary students.

“They had an opportunity to talk to other people from other countries. They can actually realize that America is not the only country in the world,” Vinci said. “It’s also an opportunity to stay with their parents, because parents were invited as well –– (with) Christmas, it’s a time to spend with your family.”

By Kate Hayden [email protected]

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