Tuesday, December 22, 2015

'Tis the Season for Faeries, Talking Animals, and Other Pagan Things

All this happened last week, but I am just getting around to blogging about it.

St. Al's, the local Catholic school, had a reading week just before Christmas. Since they are my adopted practice ground, they called me in to visit all the grades in one day, and share some Christmas stories. I was happy and excited for the opportunity - I already know the kids, the kids know me, and telling to them is always a fun experience. On top of that, I decided to completely re-do my holiday repertoire for this year, and gather some brand new, shiny Christmas stories.

I ended up taking 5 new stories to St. Al's for intensive testing, and all 5 worked out great. Two came from Taffy Thomas' amazing Midwinter Folk Tales collection (The Apple Tree Man and the Christmas Cat). One I discovered thanks to the amazing #FolkloreThursday people on Twitter - it is called The Faeries' Mist-Gate, and it comes from Rosalind Kerven's book. I found both Mist-Gate and Apple Tree Man in other, older collections of English folktales as well, and I enjoyed the research immensely. Apart from these three, I also crafted my own version of The Christmas Truce for the older kids, as well as a composite telling of the Little Camel, from Syria.

(Apple Tree Man image by Stephanie Law, visit the original page here)

I ended up visiting 8 classrooms in one day - every grade between Kindergarten and 8th, except for 5th (I don't know how the schedule missed them). I told for half an hour in each, which allowed me ample time to tell at least 2-3 of the stories in different combinations. In the end, I told the Apple Tree Man and the Mist-Gate 6 times each; the Christmas Cat 5 times, and the Camel and the Christmas Truce 3 times each. It was an intensive crafting experience, and I came out of it with my own, shiny new versions of all 5 of the stories.
The kids responded to all of them really well. They absolutely loved the Christmas Cat (God bless Taffy Thomas), were very touched by the Christmas Truce (although none of them studied World War I yet, so it was all like a fairy tale to them), and followed the Mist-Gate (my personal favorite) with tense excitement. The little ones were especially bouncy with holiday cheer; I got dogpiled by Kindergarten again (one of them asked if she could keep me and take me home), and a little girl almost hyperventilated when I walked into the classroom. All I had to say was "I have Christmas stories for you," and they were all ready for the magic.

Once again, I was amazed at the questions they asked in the end. Almost all of them wanted to know more about the fairies - why they don't like salt, why they don't like the sound of bells, and most of all, why they kidnap babies. Similarly, we talked about Christmas customs, apple trees, and the widespread belief that animals can talk on Christmas Eve (the little ones wanted to know if that was true; I suspect I might have caused some late night annoyance to some parents in town). The older grades had a lot of questions about WWI that soon turned into a pop quiz that I scrambled to answer well. In the end, I was happy I did my homework with all the stories - once again, the extra research I did in advance helped me answer all their questions.

I am very content with my new repertoire, and I had a lot of fun with the kids. It was the perfect ending to a semester, and a perfect opening for the holiday season.

1 comment:

  1. What a satisfying day it must have been. Have a wonderful Christmas!!