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The Legend of St. Nick
The legend of Santa Claus has been transformed in many ways throughout the years, but has never failed to keep an audience's attention. There are so many versions of his story, that each one is unique from the other. In my teaching experience, however, I have found that the legend of St. Nicholas is the one that seems to stick with most people and the one my kids enjoy listening to and believe the most.
I have since used this Christian story of St. Nicholas to provide my students and their audience with an entertaining way of understanding Christmas tradition and how they are all in some way connected to both history and music. It is for this reason that I have created a musical idea that brings traditional Christmas song and the story of the origin of Santa Claus (one version) together. Here is how I established this portion of the musical:
The Legend/Story Itself
I searched through many resources to find a good legend of St. Nicholas that has a Christian value and meaning to it as well as one that is easy for my students to read and interpret. I think it is a great one to use in the classroom as well for it teaches the students the value of giving and performing good deeds for others. It reinforces the "do onto others as you would have done onto you" theory. Here is an excerpt from the story of St. Nicholas that I found entitled, The Real Santa by Carol Myers:
" ...Nicholas continued helping people. He always tried to help secretly. He didn't want any attention or thanks. Years passed and he was chosen to be a bishop. Bishops look after their people as shepherds look after their sheep. And that is what Nicholas did. When there wasn't any food, he found wheat; so no one went hungry. He always helped people in trouble. All his life Nicholas showed people how to love God and care for each other."
(You can read this story in its entirety at the Saint Nicholas Center.)
I then chose two students from the 8th grade class to read this version of the Santa Claus legend for the audience and I wrote each verse on an index card for presentation purposes.
Next, I had to select the Music classes that were going to perform and the songs that would be appropriate for the legend of Santa Claus. I decided to start the musical portion with the Kindergarten, 1st, and 2nd grade classes combined, singing Santa Claus Is Coming to Town and Up On The Housetop. How can you go wrong with these two, very easy and well-known Christmas songs of which the kids already know most of the lyrics? Piece of cake! Now what?
My first thoughts for costumes were, "How am I going to get all of these kids to look the same and move the same? How is this going to work, especially on a budget?" Simple; the Dollar Store! If you have one by you, every Christmas season they usually have Santa hats for $1 each. I first, however, sent home a parent letter asking for any Santa hats to be donated for the show and I then bought the rest. For about $45, we were all set! I had also asked all of their classroom teachers to help in making paper Santa beards to match their hats, which they so kindly obliged to and of course, I had them all wear red for the performance. They looked adorable!
The hardest part about working with younger students on a musical, is coordination. For this group, I used very big hand motions in Santa Claus Is Coming to Town that somewhat matched the lyrics for ease of remembering. During Up On The Housetop, I had half of the group use tambourines on the "Ho Ho Ho, who wouldn't go?" part and the other half used rhythm sticks for the, "click, click, click" part. On the words "Down through the chimney with Good St. Nick" I had them all sit Indian style and put their heads down. The parents got a huge kick out of it and it was easy to get everyone up at the same time, bow together and exit the stage for the next group.
The legend of St. Nicholas and the origin of Santa is one that brings smiles to all types of faces each year although some of us will always remain skeptical. This musical idea will help to expose your students to the oral traditions of storytelling and singing combined that may convince them otherwise.
Do you believe?
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