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School celebrates Christmas traditions from other lands
Caden Caldwell gets a hand from mother Penny in making a paper lantern at the World Language Academy’s second annual Holidays Around the World event Tuesday evening.

Students of the World Language Academy learned Tuesday that other cultures somehow manage to celebrate Christmas without Santa Claus.

At the academy’s Second Annual Holidays Around the World event, parents joined hundreds of children in wearing pajamas and crowding around teachers to hear holiday bedtime stories from other cultures. They snacked on milk and cookies as they soaked in holiday traditions from Nigeria to South America.

"I think it’s important that they know how other people around the world celebrate the holidays and come together as families," said World Language Academy teacher and Puerto Rico native Maite Perez-Rohlfs. "... It shows them that we’re part of the world. Not everyone may share our same beliefs, but we can come together and share a special time."

Children learned about Italy’s La Befana, a Christmas witch who was so caught up in her house work that she missed the three wise kings as they sought out the baby Jesus. La Befana visits children each year and bears small gifts of tangerines and nuts as she continues to search for the holy child.

They also learned of Puerto Rico’s Three Kings Day that takes place on Jan. 6. Children fill boxes with grass for the kings’ camels on Jan. 5 and place them under their beds. Tradition dictates that the kings’ camels munch on the grass while the kings bring candy and gifts to children on their way to visiting the Christ child.

Children also sang songs from other countries and made crafts.

They made nativity sets and Colombian paper lanterns used to illuminate the streets from Dec. 7, Day of the Virgin, to Christmas Day. The lanterns are strewn along roadways in Colombia on Dec. 7 to show Mary the way to the inn, Perez-Rohlfs said.

Dave Moody, who has returned to the World Language Academy as principal, said the holiday night is a time to celebrate the school’s own diversity.

"We want to get families and community together to continue to get to know each other is the biggest thing," he said.

T.J. Pattillo, parent of two World Language Academy students, said his kids have been excited about the event and enjoy singing Christmas songs in Spanish. He said he’s all for kids exploring different holiday traditions.

"It basically puts everyone on the same page on what Christmas is all about," he said. "It’s about family. It’s about loved ones. And most of all, it’s about the creator."