What is your favorite holiday story? Why?
Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol" in 1843. How do you think the story would be different if he had written it today?
Think of another holiday story. What message do you think it tries to deliver? What does that message tell you about the author's view of society or that holiday?
According to the article, one reason Charles Dickens wrote "A Christmas Carol" was to change Victorian society and stimulate charity. He succeeded in doing that. People still read "A Christmas Carol." Do you think they still hear and respond to its message? Why or why not?
- Inform students that an artifact is something made in the past that reflects what life was like during that particular point in time. Tools, weapons and pottery are common artifacts. So are ancient homes, boats and drawings. As a class, discuss why Charles Dickens' story A Christmas Carol could be identified as an artifact, too.
- Point out that historians learn about the past when they study artifacts. And the more artifacts they have, the better. Each artifact they find may reveal something new about the topic.
- Instruct students to select one December holiday they would like to learn more about. Then have them use the Smithsonian Institution's collections to investigate artifacts related to that holiday. Tell students to use both broad terms, such as Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, as well as more specific words, like menorah or Santa Claus, as they conduct their research.
- Encourage students to select their favorite artifacts, analyze the artifacts to determine what they reveal about the holiday and write a brief report on their findings.
CUSTOMIZE THE LESSON:
As store ads fill your mailbox at home and spam fills your inbox at work, rekindle your holiday spirit with the hand-made holiday cards featured in this Smithsonian exhibition. The cards offer insight into how the artists imagined the holidays. They may also spark ideas in students as they create their own holiday cards.
The Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa holiday traditions feature an incredibly diverse range of musical accompaniment. Explore this “singing map” from Smithsonian Folkways Recordings to enjoy a wide variety of holiday music from around the world.
Read this Smithsonian article to learn why a unique menorah at the American History Museum is a tribute to liberty and a poignant reminder of what we celebrate.
In this Smithsonian Learning Lab activity, students will analyze resources to learn about the background and cultural significance of the holiday Kwanzaa.
Use this collection from the Smithsonian Learning Lab to view and analyze depictions of Santa Claus from ads, paintings, photographs and stamps from 1837 to today.
Use this lesson from the Cooper-Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum to examine the unique and diverse historical artifacts that people have designed to fulfill their everyday needs (i.e., food, water, shelter) in extraordinary ways. As a culminating activity, students will create a pictorial timeline to show what they learned.