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The Belén (Christmas Take 2)

As soon as I returned to school after the puente holiday, I began helping the art teacher to set up the nativity whenever my other teachers could spare me. The nativity scene (or belén) that my school set up was tied to India, the country that classes were paying special attention to this year. Every age of student created artwork for the belén: the young ones (infants age 3 & 4) painted stars and wrapped string around them to hang in the air above the scene, the next age level created snakes, the second and third graders painted elephants, the older students created houses and people figures out of cardboard and chess pieces.

Part of the goal of the project was to teach the children about the beautiful traditions and culture of India as well to bring awareness to the difficulties facing a country that is relatively newly-independent. As with any project, sometimes execution was a bit wonky (let's just say there was a video clip made in which the sixth graders said, "Our project this year is set in India. In India there is a lot of poverty. Merry Christmas!"), but I do think the children learned a lot about Indian history and gained a lifelong interest in another country's culture and way of life. The kids loved reading stories about Divali (the Hindu Festival of Lights) around Halloween, which was extremely fun for me.

The belén! It was setup right outside the comedor (dining hall), facing the front desk.


A fuller view of the nativity. See the Indian flag in the background? A fellow CIEE auxiliar painted that!

One of the most exciting parts about the Christmas celebration at my school (It still feels strange to me from an American perspective to have holidays that are so tied to the Catholic Church; when I mentioned Chanukah, I had to explain the holiday to all of my students because they had never heard of it), though, is that the children all learn songs to perform in front of their parents. I work primarily with third grade and fourth grade (though I have classes with every other grade except first grade), so I learned their songs with them. They perform two English songs and a Spanish song, and third and fourth grade's songs were "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree," "Happy Xmas (War Is Over)," and "La luz que nace en ti" ("The Light that shines from you"--literally it would be "the light that's born in you," but from what I understand of the song, I think the literal translation makes it sound like it is referring to the light that you shine with/your individuality and loses the point that the light is shining out of you, connecting you to all who see your light). They all had adorable dance moves to help remember the words to the songs; my kids would all "hop" on the line "at the Christmas party-hop" in "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree." 

The children had so much fun, and the songs and belén were incredible. Seriously, the art teacher and religion teacher are so creative; no wonder there are so many Spanish master painters and artists.

Now all that's left to say is ¡Feliz Navidad y Prospero Año Nuevo!


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