For Educators

For Educators

The stories on this page are designed to match the Grade 2 Ontario curriculum for heritage:

Timmy Discovers His Family’s History

Cooking German Food with Papa

An Excursion with Opa to the Kitchener Christkindl Market

Timmy Discovers His Family’s History

Excited for a weekend fishing trip with his grandfather, Timmy instead stumbles upon some old Christmas ornaments in his grandmother’s attic. Oma Kati (Grandma Kati) begins to explain to Timmy where her family comes from.

Timmy is seven years old. He lives in Kitchener with his sister, Anna, and his parents.

Today, Timmy is visiting his grandma, Oma Kati. Timmy loves visiting Oma Kati because her house has a huge backyard with a giant cherry tree Timmy loves to climb. Today, Oma Kati and Timmy want to go fishing. Timmy is really excited. He hopes to catch a big fish to bring home to his parents and sister that evening.

Oma Kati welcomes her grandson with a big hug, and before you can say “fishsticks,” Timmy runs up the stairs to the second floor and climbs the ladder to the attic. He knows Oma Kati always stores the fishing rods up there.

The heavy attic door opens with a squeak. The attic is huge and a little bit spooky, but Timmy isn’t scared.

“Slow down, Timmy! I’m sure the fish won’t run away!” Oma Kati shouts up the ladder.

Timmy doesn’t listen to Oma Kati, though. Instead, he trips over two old, yellow rolls of carpet and then falls on to a pile of big, brown boxes.

“Owww, my hand, my hand…” moans Timmy and Oma Kati comes right over to have a look at it.

“Oh dear, let me see what happened,” Opa Karl says.

Timmy shows his grandpa his hand. Opa Karl gives it a kiss and climbs back down the ladder to get a tea towel and ice pack. While Timmy is waiting, he looks around and notices that some items have fallen out of a box: pine cones, paper stars, and red candles.

He picks up one of the stars and looks at it. It looks old to Timmy, because its edges are yellow. However, it’s still very beautiful and has fine gold lines on it. Opa Karl comes back and carefully puts the tea towel and ice pack on Timmy’s hand. He puts his arm around Timmy and notices the paper star his grandson is holding.

“Do you know what that is?” Opa Karl asks.

Timmy shakes his head and Oma Kati picks up all the pinecones, paper stars, and candles and places them on his lap.

“These are Christmas tree decorations. They’re like the ones we made when we were children. I made those paper stars the year after we came to Canada.”

“Paper stars and pinecones? That sounds pretty boring. Who would put that on a Christmas tree?” Timmy asks. He doesn’t want to be rude, of course, but he wants to know!

Timmy knows that his family usually sets up their plastic Christmas tree by the middle of December. Then they decorate it by adding lights and lots of Christmas ornaments. Many of the ornaments are colourful, sparkling balls. Paper stars and pinecones don’t sparkle.

“It wasn’t boring at all,” explains Oma Kati. “Things were just different. Your opa usually went to the forest with his brother to cut down the most beautiful Christmas tree they could find. They set it up a few days before Christmas and I decorated it with lovely candles, pinecones, paper stars, and apples. It was very beautiful.”

“Oh,” replies Timmy. He pictures going into the woods on a snowy winter day to cut down a tree. He thinks that would be exciting.

Timmy takes the ice pack off his hand and wiggles his fingers. He smiles at Oma Kati.

“All better?” his grandma asks.

Timmy nods, and Oma Kati continues with her story. “On Christmas Eve, after church, we all sat down around the tree and sang Christmas songs and the kids got small gifts, like fruits or nuts, or sometimes handmade mittens. We celebrated just like we did back in Germany before we left.”

Now Timmy is confused. He didn’t know Oma Kati was actually from Germany.

“Before you left? Where is Germany? And why did you leave?” Timmy asks.

Oma Kati smiles at all the questions.

“Let’s go to the living room. I can show you everything on a map.”

Down in the living room is a big map of the world on the wall. Oma Kati points to where Germany is in Europe. Timmy is surprised by the big ocean between Europe and Canada. Timmy sits down on a couch.

“I had an uncle already here in Canada. He wrote that he liked it and that your opa should be able to find a job. So, in 1962, your opa and I left Erfurt in Germany and took a ship to Canada.”

She points to the top of Germany and draws a line out of Europe, across the Atlantic Ocean, and down the St. Lawrence River to Montreal.

“It was a long and exhausting journey,” Oma Kati says, “and we didn’t know what to expect when we arrived. But people were very friendly and we could live at my uncle’s place for the first few months.”

“Only one uncle?” Timmy asks. “Weren’t you lonely?”

“Ah, but you see, we weren’t the only people from Germany in this area. Many Germans have moved to Kitchener over the years. We missed our family, but we made many new friends, too.”

Oma Kati sits down next to Timmy, and they both look at the map for a few minutes. Oma Kati then looks at Timmy’s hand again.

“You know what?” she says. “Maybe we should move the fishing trip to next weekend. Let’s have some ice cream and if you like, I can show you some pictures from our first few years here in Canada. What do you think?”

“That sounds like fun!” shouts Timmy.

Oma Kati and Timmy go to the kitchen, enjoy some ice cream, and then sit back down in the living room. Oma Kati pulls out a photo album from a shelf and opens it up to the first page.

“These are my mother’s parents,” she begins. Timmy snuggles in close to her and listens intently to his grandma’s stories.

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Cooking German Food with Papa

Papa is celebrating his birthday and wants to offer his guests traditional German food. Let’s see what he cooks!

This story is still being written.

Today is Papa’s birthday. He sometimes misses the German food his mother used to make when he was a child. So for tonight, he has invited friends over for a German dinner. Sammy offers to help him in the kitchen.

For the main dish, they will serve roast beef with red cabbage and potato dumplings. For drinks, Papa will offer Apfelshorle, which is a mix of mineral water and apple juice. For dessert, he has bought yummy plum cake from a German baker, and he will offer his guests coffee and tea.

To make the main dish, Papa rubs the beef with flour, salt, and pepper and then puts it into the oven.

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An Excursion with Opa

Opa Karl teaches Melanie about Christmas in Germany and the Christkindl Market in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada.

“I have a surprise for you!” are Opa Karl´s first words when he picks up Melanie and her brother Robert from their home.

“A surprise? What is it?” asks Robert.

“You´ll see!” answers Opa Karl mysteriously and winks at him.

He opens the car door so the kids can climb in. Click-click. The seatbelts are fastened, the engine starts, and Opa Karl backs out of the driveway.

It’s early December. The first snowflakes of the season are slowly falling on to the rooftops, trees, cars, and roads.

“Waterloo looks like it’s covered in icing sugar!” Melanie says. She leans her head against the window and falls asleep.

Once they arrive, Opa Karl finds a parking spot. He makes sure the children are wearing their warm winter coats, gloves, toques, and scarves. He takes each grandchild by the hand, and they walk down the street towards a big crowd.

Melanie can smell cinnamon, sweet juices, and fried meat. “Mmmm…it smells so nice!” she says.

“Here we are!” says Opa Karl. “This is the Christkindl market!”

A huge evergreen tree with hundreds of beautiful lights towers over the market. There are also wooden booths with evergreen branches and Christmas lights hanging on them. The vendors inside the booths are wearing warm winter jackets, and they have warm smiles on their faces as they sell food and drinks to people.

Melanie is surprised by all the people she sees! Some are walking around. Some are standing in small groups and talking. Some are buying things at the booths.

“Christkindl markets are a German tradition,” explains Opa Karl. “We only have them during Advent. They have been around for hundreds of years in Germany and they’re in cities and towns all over the country. People sell food, drinks, and arts and crafts. Visitors come to buy these things and enjoy the atmosphere and the different events.”

It’s crowded. Melanie and Robert hold their grandpa’s hands so they don’t get lost.

Opa Karl, Melanie, and Robert come up to a wooden booth. Melanie stands on her tip toes and sees a grill. There’s a fire underneath it and sausages cooking on top of it. Opa Karl orders each of them a “bratwurst in a bun.” The vendor picks up a sausage from the grill and puts it in a bun. Then he adds sauerkraut and mustard to it.

“Sauerkraut in a hot dog bun?” says Opa Karl. “That’s new for me! In Germany we eat a lot of bratwurst and sauerkraut, but we don’t put them together in a bun. What a great idea!”

The sausage and sauerkraut smell really good. Robert bites into one end of his sausage and Melanie bites into one end of hers. “Yummy!” they both say.

Opa Karl takes a big bite of his. When he lifts his head, Melanie and Robert laugh: Opa Karl has sauerkraut hanging over his big mustache!

After they eat, Opa Karl wants to show them the inside part of the Christkindl market, so they enter the city hall. Because it’s much warmer inside, they take off their jackets.

Now, instead of people in booths, they see people behind tables. Some of them have nativity sets, candles, toys, wood products, knitted goods, or nutcrackers for sale. Others have traditional German Christmas food like gingerbread, roasted almonds, pastries, and candy for sale. Opa Karl buys each of his grandchildren some roasted almonds and gingerbread.

Opa Karl stops at a booth selling something Melanie has never seen before. These look like wooden pyramids with several floors. Each one has a moving propeller on top

“Opa, are these skinny dollhouses?” she asks.

Opa Karl laughs. “No, Melanie. They are called Christmas pyramids.”

Melanie stares at the Christmas pyramids with her eyes wide open. Each floor has beautiful carvings. Some of them are of angels and trees, and others are of people.

“Does the propeller on top move by itself?” Melanie asks.

“Almost!” says Opa Karl. “There are little candle lights attached to the pyramid. The heat from their flames makes the propeller turn. When I was a child, I was also very fascinated by these pyramids. Before Christmas, we always had a very beautiful one in our living room as a decoration. I loved the light and the slow-moving shadows it made on the walls.”

After walking through the rest of the Christkindl market and looking at all the interesting wares, the three decide to go outside again.

“Brrr, it’s cold outside!” complains Robert and puts on his hat.

“At least we could warm up inside for a while,” says Opa Karl, smiling. “In Germany, Christkindl markets are only outside. So people drink a lot of hot drinks to make sure they don’t get cold.”

Melanie perks her ears: she hears a choir singing. She looks around and sees a stage at one end of the market. Lots of men and women are standing on it and singing German Christmas songs. People are gathered in front of the stage and listening. Robert wants to go closer and so they make their way through all the people towards the stage, find a spot where they can see, and listen to the music while they snack on some gingerbread.

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