Thursday, 18 December 2014

And the Winners Are….

      This year's Christmas card competition was judged on Wednesday, December 17.
      Picking the best cards was a hard decision. The judges, our English professors, considered each design. Sometimes they disagreed. Finally, they voted.
     After all the discussion, debate, and votes, we now know who the winners are!
      1A: Yolanda Girón Aguilar won first, and Cinta Toscano Pérez took second.
      1B: José Manuel Blanco won first, and Andrea Gómez Ruiz took second.
      1C: Nazaret Calado Toscano won first, and Lucia Torres Sánchez took second.
      1D: José Manuel Márquez Carillo won first, and Marta Cartes Camacho took second.
      The winning Christmas cards are shown here, but there were many others that were considered. In the entrance to the high school you can see them: they're posted in the display case next to the Nativity Scene.


      Congratulations to all the contestants, and of course, to the winners. Great job!

Saturday, 13 December 2014

It's Christmas Time Again!

Merry Christmas, Everyone! 
Soon we'll all be off enjoying the holidays. Last year, we published three Christmas items on the bilingual blog: an interactive book with lots of activities about Christmas; a story about Christmas traditions in the U.S.; and a story about U.S. history that tells how Christmas almost didn't come in the early days of the country. If you missed these blog posts, you can go to the archive and find them in December 2013.
For 2014, we have a new post about Christmas stockings (one of my personal favorite holiday traditions). You can find it below this post.
I'm providing some web sites here that might be enjoyable for you:
(1) Traditional Christmas music standards with a great video of winter in city and wilderness:
(2) A summary of the "top 10 Christmas movies" with clips is found at:
(3) It's a Wonderful Life , the film considered by many to be the best Christmas movie ever, can be found at:
(4)  YouTube offers a list of films for free; some of the list look like trailers, but others are full length films.
Remember! Watching films in English is a great way to improve your listening and speaking skills. (And it's also fun.)
The time Santa got stuck in on an
Irish roof
Putting up the San Juan del
Puerto Christmas Tree (2013)

Christmas lights in a Las Palmas park,
Gran Canaria 

Thursday, 11 December 2014

From Odin's Boot to Christmas Tradition

      Christmas Stockings are a popular tradition in the U.S. "Stocking" here means a sock, the covering you wear on your feet. You might ask: "What does THAT have to do with Christmas?"
       Before the stocking, there was a boot, and before Christ was born, there were other gods. In Northern Europe, children often filled boots with carrots and hay for the god Odin's flying horse, Sleipnir.  Odin left the children presents in return for their kindness.
        Later, Christian saints  took the place of the old gods.  Saint Nicholas lived in 4th C. Turkey, and was known for his generosity. Since the time when his legend came to Europe, Dutch children have put shoes beside their fireplaces for St. Nicholas' Day. This tradition began as a way to feed St. Nicholas' horse, but with time, the horse disappeared. Then St. Nicholas, or sinterclaus, put a present into the shoe of a child because the child was good. Dutch immigrants brought the shoes to America in the 17th Century.
         Gradually, the shoe was replaced by a stocking in America. The sock comes from a legend about St. Nicolas. There are many versions, but the basic story is this: There was a poor man with three daughters. He had no money, and so could not pay a dowry (the gift a girl's father had to give to the man who wanted to marry her). If he could not give a dowry, the daughters could not marry. He feared what would happen to them when he died. They would be unprotected, with neither a father nor a husband.
           St. Nicolas heard about this and wanted to help. He quietly went into the father's house in the night and left a gold ball (or a bag of gold) in some stockings that were hanging by the fireplace to dry. The young women and their father were overjoyed to find this gift in the stockings.
          Then again, it's also possible that the custom came from another belief: one Christmas Eve, Santa Clause dropped some gold coins as he came down the chimney. They fell into a stocking that was drying by the fire. After that, children regularly hung stockings by the fire in the hope that Santa would drop something when he traveled through the chimney.
           Fast forward to 1823. That year, Clement Clarke Moore made up a poem for his kids that talked about  Christmas stockings:
               'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
               Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
               The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

               In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there.
                                             excerpt from "A Visit from Saint Nicholas"
                                             (1823: Clement Clarke Moore)
           The poem was an instant hit. It was republished in many newspapers. Christmas stockings became immensely popular--and remain so to this day.
            Typically, a Christmas stocking is filled with things like oranges (said to represent St. Nicholas' golden ball) and chocolates. Small toys may be put into it, as may decks of cards. Sometimes more important gifts are put into a stocking, small items like a piece of jewelry or a memory card or a pen drive. You can even slip an iPod or an iPhone case into a stocking.
            In our house, my parents had a rule about Christmas morning. It was one of the few days they could sleep late. My brother and I were not to disturb them before 8 a.m. But "Santa Clause" always came on Christmas Eve to leave us stockings: there would be fruit so we wouldn't be too hungry. There were often toys or small books to entertain us. Sometimes, we found tiny games that we could play with each other while we waited. Now, so many years later, on the rare occasions when we can spend Christmas together, my brother and I still make Christmas stockings for each other.