Christmas in Australia is influenced by European traditions, but there are some big differences. Christmas takes place in the summer in Australia, since it’s in the Southern Hemisphere.
That’s an excellent opportunity for a science lesson. For this activity, you’ll need some things:
- Make word cards with the names of the months (cut up a Months of the Year Chart) and the seasons. Carson’s Calendar/Weather Pocket Chart includes all those things and makes the process easy.
- two or more Inflatable Globes
- a lamp with a bare bulb
- pieces of seasonal clothing such as mittens and sunglasses
- Place a lamp with a bare light bulb in the center of the room.
- Use Mavalus tape to form an X on the floor with the lamp in the center.
- Hold up the month word cards, read them together, and make certain that students are clear on all the months. Do the same with the seasons.
- Review the seasons if necessary.
- Use the word cards to explain that the equinoxes and solstices are the first days of the seasons.
- Mark the ends of the tape on the floor with the equinoxes and solstices.
- Place the card for “December” by the “winter solstice” card. Place the June card by the “summer solstice” card. Have the students place the remaining month word cards on the floor in the right places between the tape spokes.
- Find and mark your location on the globes being used.
- Invite volunteers to hold the globes. The globes should be held at an angle of 23.5 degrees. Model this for the volunteers; it is not necessary for young students to remember this number. The angle should be the same for each globe. Have the volunteers stand by the word cards for June and December. If you have more globes, distribute additional volunteers around the circle
- Explain that the light bulb represents the sun, and the globes represent the earth at different points in its orbit around the sun.
- Ask students to help you determine which piece of seasonal clothing each volunteer should wear. Distribute the clothing according to the seasons.
- Turn off the classroom light.
- Have the volunteers stand on the tape lines.
- Observe how the light from the bulb falls on the globes.
- Have students say, write, or draw what part of each globe is in full light.
- Now mark Australia on the globe. Repeat the experience with new volunteers. Conclude that the Northern and Southern Hemispheres have their seasons at opposite calendar times.
If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, simply reverse the procedure, demonstrating your location first and following up with a location in the Northern Hemisphere.
Follow up by reading The Reasons for Seasons by Gail Gibbons.
Since Australia celebrates Christmas in the summer, people decorate with flowers. Make paper flowers for your classroom Christmas tree. Many people take a break from work and school and go camping. The traditional Christmas meal is a barbecue on the beach.
One famous custom in Australia is “Carols by Candlelight,” community singing in parks all over the country. Since it began in 1937 in Melbourne, this has grown to be an important Australian tradition. There are often bands, food stalls, and even fireworks as well as carols and candles.
This custom, now a fun festival, began in response to loneliness at Christmastime. In the United States, service learning projects in the holidays tend to focus on people in financial need, as schools gather warm clothes or food for people in their communities.
In Australia, one-person households have been increasing since the 1950s, and concern often centers on those who are alone at Christmas. Gathering the whole town to sing together on a summer night is one solution. Consider having your class adopt someone who is alone at Christmas and visit or write to that individual.