My daughter’s school decided to learn how different countries celebrate the Christmas holiday season. Each class was assigned a different country. My daughters class was assigned Italy. As the homeroom parent I was asked to join in on the planning. I was thrilled! Being of Italian descent I was excited to share with my daughter and her classmates a few Italian Christmas holiday traditions. To kick off this series of crafts that I did with the kids, the teacher provided an introduction to Italy that included general information, geography, and vocabulary. I was in charge of sharing and creating crafts for the next three fun traditions: Dominick the Donkey, La Befana, and Pizzelles. Today I will share the books, games, coloring pages, and baking that went into these three traditions.
Dominick the Donkey is…well…just plan fun! I started by reading the class the book, Dominick the Christmas Donkey by Joe Giangiacomo. This is a colorful and cheerful book about a little donkey who helps Santa save Christmas for the children of Italy! You can find this book on Amazon in Kindle version.
After the kids were introduced to Dominick with the storybook, we played “hot donkey.” I had the kids stand in a larger circle. I played the beloved Dominick the Donkey Christmas song by Lou Monte and the kids passed around a plush donkey…whoever was left holding the donkey when I stopped the song was out. This went on until we had a winner! The kids enjoyed the game so much that they asked to play a second round. I think everyone was singing “Chingedy ching, heehaw, heehaw” by day’s end! This song can be downloaded on Amazon and ITunes. The plush donkey was found on Amazon. The kids had a GREAT time!
To celebrate the “hot donkey” game and EVERYONE being a winner….the kids were treated to Italian candy. Consider having the kids try Torrone or Glitterati! Both of these candies can be found on Amazon.
The class was also given a Dominick the Donkey coloring page to color as they desire. Inspire the kids to use their imaginations! Your free Dominick the Donkey printable is below.
For the Dominick the Donkey Coloring Page see here: dominick-the-donkey-coloring-sheet
These next two Italian traditions/crafts are scheduled for the class, but have not been done as of yet. However, I wanted to get these ideas out to my readers so you could enjoy them too for this holiday season.
One of my absolute favorite Italian Christmas Traditions is la Befana. La Befana has been around in Italian tradition much longer than Santa Claus. Santa was not introduced until World War II. To make this simple for the kids I will explain her role as “Santa’s Helper.” This story is about an old woman who lives alone and all she does is sweep and bake. One night three wise men come knocking at her door requesting supplies for a journey and inviting her to join them in search of a baby king. La Befana wants no part in this…she has way too much sweeping to do. The wise men set off on their journey. La Befana then begins to have second thoughts. She too wants to find this baby king. She packs a bag full of sweets that she has baked and sets off on her own journey. She stops at each house in search of the baby king on January 5th, the night before Epiphany. She is sometimes known to sweep the rooms of the children so it is a tidy place for a king. Not knowing for sure if the child she greets is the king or not she leaves a sweet present for each child. Some believe she leaves these presents in stockings. Then she is off to the next house. As her story evolved she has been known to ride her broom from house to house. She has a sweet witch-like appearance.
I have several Befana books. My favorite is by Tomie DePaola, which I will read aloud to the class. I will take all books into the class to let the kids look at the pictures. All of these books were purchased on Amazon.
The classmates were given a la Befana coloring page. You can find your free la Befana coloring page below.
For the la Befana coloring page see here: la-befana-coloring-page
Now, if la Befana thinks the child she is visiting is NAUGHTY she might leave them a piece of coal! To surprise the kids in the class they will be given “coal candy.” This candy is actually solid milk chocolate that looks like rocks of coal. I found this candy on Amazon. The think the kids will think these are hilarious! In Italy, a similar “coal candy” is given to kids.
My last craft, and absolute FAVORITE, with the class was making homemade pizzelle cookies! I will bring my pizzelle iron right into the classroom! Preparing for this brought back wonderful memories of my grandmother making these cookies for me as a small child; I can hear Dean Martin Christmas music playing in the background. I will share with the class the history of the Pizzelle: They are the oldest known cookie! It is generally believed they orginated in the Abruzzo region of Italy in ancient times to mark celebration. Initially, these were baked over an open fire. Pizzelle irons evolve; initial ones where known to a family crest embossed in them. These primitive irons would have been forged by blacksmiths. These cookies are traditionally made for Christmas, Easter, and weddings.
I’m sure the kids will be thrilled with their sweet treats. The class will also given a wonderful Pizzelle Coloring Page which you can find below. I worked with an amazing graphic artist, Michal Eshkol, at https://www.etsy.com/shop/pickApixel . Michal was absolutely wonderful to work with; these perfect replica images, plus many more, were created after sending in pictures of my pizzelle iron grates.
The free Pizzelle Cookie coloring page can be found here: pizzelle-cookie-coloring-page
I’m hoping this will be a wonderful Italian Christmas season for my daughter’s class. I love how excited they are about learning. Other Italian Christmas traditions to consider sharing with your children are letters to Babbo Natale (St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6th), how to bake Panettone, and the Feast of Seven Fishes.
*Stay tuned for doll sized version of these crafts!
*Craft on…and Buon Natale!!
Clara Kamel says
it’s great to have this info – it will help
Wow! What a fun class! Sounds like the kids had a really fun time learning about Italian Christmas traditions!
How nice for the children to learn the traditions of other countries. Thank You for sharing.
Karen Owen says
So cool I did not know this! My kids love the Dominic the Donkey song!