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Christmas around world event blends cultures, customs
Celebration included stories, carols and crafts
World Language Academy Principal David Moody reads “Bear’s First Christmas” Tuesday night to students and parents at the school’s international Christmas Celebration at Blackshear Place Baptist Church. Students listened to stories about holidays in different cultures read to them by school faculty. - photo by DALLAS DUNCAN

OAKWOOD — Blackshear Place Baptist Church was packed to the gills Tuesday night as World Language Academy students, faculty and families celebrated an international Christmas.

Parents snapped photos and videos as their children, clad in pajamas and holiday-themed face paint, sang carols in three different languages.

Principal David Moody and other faculty read Christmas stories from around the world as children dined on milk and cookies, and several rooms were set aside to create gingerbread friends, poinsettias and snowflakes.

"It's a celebration of different cultures around the world," Moody said. "It's just a good reason for our World Language Academy family to get together before we say goodbye for the holidays."

Moody read the story "Bear's First Christmas," but other stories included the Italian book "Strega Nona" and a Hanukkah story.

Another book was about the poinsettia, which is associated with a popular Mexican Christmas legend in which a little girl gave a humble bunch of weeds to Jesus at her church's midnight service. The weeds turned into the poinsettia.

Maite Perez-Rohlfs, who teaches gifted Spanish at the school, created the international celebration four years ago.

"I was fascinated by all the cultures represented by our staff," said Perez-Rohlfs, a Puerto Rican native. "I wanted our new World Language Academy family to learn as much as they could about each other. The idea of ‘holidays around the world' came to mind."

She said the event allows teachers to read holiday stories from their own cultures and explain the customs.

"I hope it's bringing a lot of families together," said Marcela Nogueras, 11, a sixth-grader at World Language.
Nogueras' mother, Sylvia Murillo of Flowery Branch, came out especially to watch her daughter perform in a skit.
"It's not all about academics all the time, it's about this type of event that brings the community together," Murillo said. "They're all excited about performing."

Sylvia Langford, World Language's music teacher, said in the past, students would carol through the school hallways, but this year they took a different approach.

"They're singing a couple of Hispanic Christmas carols, American and Chinese carols," she said. "All 700 of them are performers. We got the whole school for this."

The culmination of the event was Moody reading aloud "Twas the Night Before Christmas" to the nearly 1,000 who attended.

"I hope that coming together as a family during this special night we can put all our cultural differences aside and realize that there is a lot to learn from each other," Perez-Rohlfs said.

"It's been a very popular night for everybody. The children look forward to it and the whole family usually comes to enjoy this night."