Thursday, December 23, 2010

St. Nicolas

I woke up on December 1st already expecting something out of the ordinary. After all, it was the St. Nicolas Journée à Thème at school and it would be the first time I would be teaching solo at the primary school. Still, I went downstairs and ate breakfast like usual...and didn't even notice the chocolate in my shoe that was sitting on the staircase until my host father pointed it out. At first, I was rather confused, because I thought that St. Nicolas was on December 6th. As it turns out, children put their shoes out for St. Nicolas starting on the 1st, and then each day until the 6th. So each morning, I came downstairs to find some chocolate in my shoe. Then on the 6th, it was a bigger celebration. There wasn't anything in our shoes, but I walked into the kitchen to see the table full of food, candies, and a gift for each of us. So, now we have enough chocolate to last until Easter and I have a new wallet.

This is from December 1st:


So, as for the Journée à Thème. Athénée Royal d'Arlon has unquestionably the most kickass St. Nicolas celebration. To give an idea how excited the Rhétos were, here's a poster my host sister made. It was hanging in the window facing the courtyard for more than a week before the event, along with a countdown to the day.

I know a lot of schools had visits from St. Nicolas, but I doubt many of them had a visit like this. So here we go...there are about 100 Rhétos at Athénée and we are separated into 4 classes: A, B, C, and D. I'm in 6°C. Anyway, each class elected one student to dress up as St. Nicolas.

The rest of us wore all black and painted our faces black, like this:


Then, during the 10-minute recreation period (most days it's 20 minutes, but on Wednesdays it's only 10 because it's a shorter day), we Rhétos ran out into the courtyard and attacked the younger students with paint and tape, all while making as much noise as possible. At the end of the 10 minutes, every single student had a face full of paint. Many students had paint in their hair and clothing as well.

But that's not the end of it.

During 4th hour, we attacked again. This time, each Rhéto class was assigned a hallway or certain classrooms. We pounded on the door, entered, and plastered the already very colorful students with yet more paint. Then, we sang a song about St. Nicolas. Any student who didn't sing got an extra faceful of paint.

And then we threw them some candy.

My fellow Rhétos were very much more intense about the day than I was, mostly because they had put up with getting painted for the past 5 years. Here's my class after 4th hour:


After St. Nicolas, all the Rhétos traditionally go to a café in town, still with painted faces, and drink all afternoon. However, since I work at the primary school on Wednesday afternoons, I didn't go. Danielle was on a Rotary excursion, off to a Marché de Noël. So I had the class solo. During the first hour, I described the parts of a house. I drew a basic house on the board and then allowed students to come up and draw and addition to the house. Then, I told them the English word for whatever the student had drawn.

During the second hour, I used the house theme for an activity. It was originally inspired by gingerbread houses we make at Christmas in the United States. We used biscuits, different types of spreads, and candies to create houses. Many students brought their creations home to show their parents, although some did eat their houses right away.

So, here's our class with their houses, some of them half-eaten:


I'd say it was a successful day.

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