Christmas in Spanish Schools
The holiday season is a magical time for all who celebrate Christmas, and even those who don't . This is no exception in Spain and its classrooms.
I came to realize pretty early on that Spain and its education system is not secular. Religion classes are offered in public schools, and while parents can opt their children out of taking such classes, the idea of religion (really, Christianity) being taught in grade school was new to me. Spain's lack of secularism became particularly apparent during the month of December. Streets were lined with Christmas lights and Christmas trees popped up in every major plaza; although, this is quite normal for major cities, regardless of which country they're in. The schools participated in a furthering degree of the Christmas spirit.
Again, the schools were decked out with the regular Christmas decor: ornaments, garland, snowflakes, and other seasonal decorations. However, it was unique and a little surprising for me to notice all the nativity scenes throughout the school. From students' handmade shoe box versions to the official one constructed by elderly members of the town, this religious decor moved away from the commercialized decorations typically seen in schools. During the final days before break, each class went to see the town's handmade nativity scene. This year's was the scene of Bethlehem, and it was unlike anything I had ever witnessed. Every single item in the building, including the building itself, was handmade over the previous year (each year's is different from the year prior). You can check this year's and all the previous ones here: http://asociacionbelenistacamarma.blogspot.com.es/
(I apologize for the poor picture quality, these were taken via Snapchat on my iPhone 5S)
Other holiday school festivities included a Christmas card competition across 6th grade, a school wide Christmas performance (for which students practiced their songs and dances for many hours), the reading of Christmas stories in the decked-out library, and writing letters to pen pals in Poland about their Christmas traditions. While this isn't intended to critique the Spanish way of celebrating the holiday season (I acknowledge that many public schools across the U.S. also participate in Christmas-themed traditions despite the fact that they're public schools), I found it interesting just how intense and religious Christmas celebrations are in public schools without, what it seemed like, consideration that not all students may participate in this holiday. (Note: Yes, Spain is a predominantly Catholic country, but there are many Muslim people living there, hailing from Northern Africa, Turkey, and the Middle East, and I'm sure, other religions, too.)