•  Cernan Earth and Space Center

    Celebrations of Winter

    Grade Level: All ages, but best for 3rd grade and up 
    Length: 42 minutes
     
    Celebrations of Winter is a multimedia program that uses slides, panoramic scenes, video, a C-360 wraparound film segment and a variety of special effects to illustrate how different cultures throughout the world celebrate the winter season. Celebrations of Winter is available to groups from mid-November through early January. 
     
    Celebrations of Winter begins with a picturesque montage of winter scenes and a brief discussion of how people throughout history have looked to the sky to track the progression of the seasons, especially the passage of the shortest day of the year in late-December and the promise of longer days to come. A few of the more prominent winter stars and constellations, including Orion the Hunter and Sirius (the brightest star in the sky), are identified using the planetarium star projector. 
     
    The remainder of Celebrations of Winter illustrates how different religions and cultures around the world celebrate the wintertime season. The first part of this discussion centers on the Christian story of the Star of Bethlehem, and speculates on what the star may have been, if in fact it was an astronomical event at all. Several celestial explanations are raised and discussed, including a nova, supernova, comet and a close alignment of bright planets. The next section of the program focuses on the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah, how this religious holiday originated and how it is celebrated today. Next, the program explores the various ways that people celebrate the onset of a new year, through family feasts, religious observances, and sometimes by wearing wild costumes or staging extravagant fireworks displays. 
     
    Celebrations of Winter next travels to various places in the world to explore how Christmas is celebrated throughout the world. The program then returns viewers to the United States to highlight the fact that our culture borrows its holiday traditions from many other cultures scattered throughout the world. 
     
    A video segment celebrating the beauty of a winter wilderness is presented next, followed by a C-360 wraparound film segment that takes viewers on an exciting toboggan ride and ski run giving them a "you are there" perspective. The planetarium program concludes with a brief conversation with Santa Claus and the origins of St. Nicholas.