Here at Sovereign Hill we are getting ready for Christmas with some colonial-style decorations, even our animals are getting into the spirit. Some photos are included below and you can see more on the Sovereign Hill Facebook page.
During the last two weeks Sovereign Hill Education have been celebrating the festive season with a special activity program called Christmas in the Colonies. Over two weeks, a thousand students visited us to try their hands at some Christmas activities. These included reading and acting out the classic 1843 story The Night Before Christmas.
This story was first written during the colonial-era and tells the story of St Nicholas (not Santa) whose sleigh-pulling reindeer team did not include Rudolf – he wasn’t born yet, you see! There are also other historical references in the book such as: nightcaps, sugarplums, shutters, and sash windows.
Another activity the students enjoyed was to make marzipan fruit. Using marzipan (or in our case the modern equivalent of nut-free almond-flavoured icing) and cloves to mould fruit shape treats was a common activity in the colonial home. Fresh fruit was often in short supply so making marzipan treats was a good, albeit unhealthy, alternative.
Making Marzipan Fruit is a great activity for students of all ages, the older they are the more complex their fruit designs can become. It would be a great end-of-year activity in the classroom or a holiday activity at home. There is a good blog post here with instructions on how to make the fruit.
Exploring past Christmas traditions with students is a great way of exploring history. It clearly illustrates differences in wealth, materials and customs. If you would like to explore this in the classroom we highly recommend the BBC series Victorian Farm Christmas and their fantastic online resources, which include many more historic craft activities suitable for kids. Another excellent site for traditional Christmas activities is the Brighton Toy Museum.
We hope you have a very Merry Christmas!
For newspaper clippers highlighting Christmas celebrations in Ballarat and the Western District in the 1850’s see Merron Riddiford’s great post: http://mywdfamilies.wordpress.com/2011/12/18/a-pioneer-christmas-1850s-style/