Storytelling Starters – In the Spirit of Christmas 1
Giving is at the heart of the Christmas story. It’s central to storytelling too. Sharing a story, you pass on something the recipient can either keep and ponder or pass on to others. Last week I was contacted by someone enquiring about a story I told over twenty years ago. The story had been remembered and often retold. And it hadn’t been ‘mine’ to start with, but one of those traditional stories that gets remade from teller to teller.
In the Spirit of Christmas starts today with two items focused on children. The first is a Christmas-time chant – and I’m including it in this first Christmas blog in the hope that it will give any of you who work with children plenty of time to get to know it before sharing it in the run-up to Christmas.
The second item is a story generally known as The Little Fir Tree.
Going to See Father Christmas is a chant I created myself but on a traditional pattern. I’ve used it many, many times, always with enormous enjoyment both for myself and my audiences. As my pattern (for I believe in recycling tried and true materials), I used the well-known action chant, Going On A Bear-Hunt, which you may already know either in its traditional oral form or from Michael Rosen’s book of that name.
Going to See Father Christmas:We’re going to see Father Christmas, Christmas, Christmas Oh what a chilly day! I’m not scared! I’m not scared! Oh look … it’s a busy supermarket with everyone doing their last-minute shopping! We can’t get over it, we can’t get under it, We’ll have to push through it. ’SCUSE ME!… ’SCUSE ME!… ’ SCUSE ME!… We’re going to see Father Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. Oh what a chilly day! I’m not scared! I’m not scared! Oh look … a frozen lake! We can’t get over it, we can’t get under it, We’ll have to slide across it. SWISH!…SWISH!…SWISH!… Everyone across? We’re going to see Father Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. Oh what a chilly day! I’m not scared! I’m not scared! Oh look … a wall of ice! We can’t get over it, we can’t get under it, We’ll have to scrabble through it. Scrabble! Scrabble! Scrabble! Scrabble! Everyone through? We’re going to see Father Christmas, Christmas, Christmas. Oh what a chilly day! I’m not scared! I’m not scared! Shh! Can you hear the sound of reindeer bells? TING!… TING!… TING!… Can you see a lighted window? It must be Father Christmas’s House. Let’s tiptoe over and peer in. Look! There’s Father Christmas wrapping presents. And look, he’s wrapping a present for me. And you! Quick! We’ll have to get home before he reaches our house. Run! Back through the wall of ice. Over the frozen lake. Through the supermarket…. only a few people left. Quick! Into the house. Up the stairs. Jump into bed. Oh, oh, here’s mum! Mum, we’ve been to see Father Christmas And he’s got a Christmas present for me! And you!
A tip to help you learn the chant:
Listening to someone else telling a story or singing a song is often far easier than trying to learn it off the page. If you want to hear me telling Going to See Father Christmas, go onto my main website and click through onto Listen to a Story on the menu on the left-hand side. Going to See Father Christmas is the first item. Do please use my chant but I’d be glad if you remember that it’s © Mary Medlicott (2004).
And twelve tips to get your audience joining in:
Clasp your arms to your body and shiver noisily to suggest the chilliness of the day.
Say ‘no’ by shaking your head when you say you’re not scared.
Raise your elbows in a peremptory way as you fight your way through the supermarket.
Swing your arms to suggest skating across the frozen lake
Scratch in the air with your fingers as you make your way through the wall of ice.
As soon as you hear Father Christmas’s reindeers, start singing the Jingle Bells song.
Bring in names of children around you when you notice Father Christmas’s presents.
When you run home, go very fast.
Thump your knees to suggest running to bed.
Pull an imaginary duvet over your head.
Pretend to sit up and look lively when Mum arrives.
And here’s one of my favourite Christmas stories. I don’t know where it originated but I’ve heard it told in different ways by several different storytellers, professional and otherwise. It inclines to the sentimental but is touching nonetheless and it has an important message. It is highly adaptable for different ages of children and family occasions.
A Story: The Little Fir TreeThere was once a little fir tree that felt all alone in the forest. The other trees were bigger by far and sometimes they became boastful. Some said they were the biggest, some said they were the strongest, some said they produced the most beautiful wood, some said they produced the juiciest fruit. The little fir tree felt very sad. He wasn’t tall. He wasn’t strong. No-one sought him for his wood or his fruit. He longed to be appreciated but he didn’t think he deserved it. Then one day just before Christmas when snow was thick on the ground, two children ran into the forest. They were calling and laughing and looking around and when they saw the little fir tree, they stopped and said to each other, ‘This little fir tree is just right!’ Then they called to their parents, ‘We’ve found it! We’ve found it! Come here, we’ve found it.’ When the parents arrived, they agreed with their children: the little fir tree would be just right. But when the father brought out his spade and started digging round the fir tree’s roots, the little fir tree felt very afraid. He didn’t know what the people had meant when they said he was just right. He had no idea what was going to happen. He didn’t know if he’d be safe. But then he realised that the father was taking very great care. He didn’t harm even one of his roots. He tucked him into a bucket of earth with plenty of earth around him to keep him steady and then he carried him carefully till they came to a house. Inside the house it was bright and light and very warm. There were lots of decorations. The little fir tree was given pride of place in the family’s sitting room and the children covered the bucket where the father had put him with a piece of red coloured paper. Then the children fixed a silver star on the top of his topmost branch and hung his branches with sparkly tinsel and bells. The little fir tree began enjoying himself. For the first time in his life, he felt appreciated. That Christmas was a wonderful time. The little fir tree enjoyed everything about it, even the night-time when everything was quiet and stars shone through the window. And after Christmas he didn’t mind at all when the family took him into their garden and planted him next to the hedge. He felt very safe and he felt very loved and everything else felt good as well now that he knew that he’d been just right.
A note on the photos - Christmas Tree No. 1 is a Karrie Barron Christmas card. Second one down is from a glass-blowing workshop on the island of Murano near Venice. Third down is part of a little South African tree made from soft drinks cans. Fourth is a tree carved from a single piece of wood, bought in Ledbury, England. Finally, in number five, along with the South African, Murano and Ledbury trees is a home-made cardboard tree I made for some Christmas storytelling two years ago.
You can also read occasional blogs by me on the Early Learning HQ website. Early Learning HQ offers hundreds of free downloadable foundation stage and key stage one teaching resources. It also has an extensive blog section with contributions from a wide range of early years professionals, consultants and storytellers.
For details of the Society for Storytelling, click here.
Next week: In the Spirit of Christmas 2 – a story for family occasions