When your classroom is full of 20 – or more – students, chances are when the holiday season rolls around there are a handful of different traditions being celebrated. This time of the year offers a wonderful opportunity for your students to learn about how different cultures celebrate holidays in December, the importance of giving back, and the value of sharing traditions.
We’ve rounded up seven ideas for the classroom that are sure to ignite holiday cheer, no matter what the celebration may be.
1. Holidays around the world flight.
Take your students on an imaginary flight around the world to visit five countries with unique holiday traditions. Kids will create their own passports before they depart, and “in-flight” snacks will be served that mimic traditional holiday treats in different countries. (Tip: If you live near a Trader Joe’s, they offer tons of seasonal holiday delights from all over the world!) Once you land in each country, pass out worksheets that explain their traditional holiday foods, songs, and customs.
2. Family recipe book.
Ask your students to think about their favorite food during the holidays. Is it Christmas cookies baked with grandma? A West African stew served during Kwanzaa? Print out blank recipe cards and ask each child to bring one home and have a caregiver help them write down the recipe. Once everyone returns their cards, make a holiday cookbook, and give every student a copy to keep.
3. Holiday food, toy, or clothing drive.
No matter what you celebrate, a core theme of the holiday season is the spirit of giving. Create a community in your classroom by asking each student to bring in items of clothing that no longer fit them (in good condition), toys they no longer play with, or canned food items from their kitchens. Spend an afternoon visiting a local Goodwill or food bank and deliver what you collected as a class. Your students will quickly learn that there is no better feeling than knowing you helped put a smile on another child’s face.
4. Handmade toys for shelter dogs.
Here’s another giving back activity that will have tails a-waggin’. Ask each of your students to bring in a large sock or two (go ahead and steal an old pair of dads!). Students will tuck a tennis ball inside a clean sock and tie a knot at both ends so the ball stays in place. They can then decorate the sock toy with non-toxic markers and donate them to the local dog shelter. Ask if a shelter volunteer could take a few photos of the dogs playing with their new toys for you to hang up in your classroom.
5. Write holiday cards for troops.
Brighten the holidays for soldiers overseas by having your class design and write holiday letters. Check out Doing Good Together or Operation Christmas Cards 4 Troops for details and deadlines on sending out cards.
6. Holiday creative writing prompt.
Have each student answer the question, “What does ‘holiday spirit’ mean to you?” and share their responses. This is a great way for your students to learn more about each other’s cultures and traditions around the holidays.
7. Global holidays group activity.
No other month of the year presents itself with as many global celebrations as December. Depending on the number of students in your class, break up the class into small groups of two or three and assign each group one of the following multicultural events:
• Saint Nicholas Day (Christian)
• Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican)
• St. Lucia Day (Swedish)
• Hanukkah (Jewish)
• Christmas Day (Christian)
• Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian)
• Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish)
• Kwanzaa (African American)
• Omisoka (Japanese)
• Yule (Pagan)
• Saturnalia (Pagan)
Each group will research the traditions associated with their celebration and present their findings to the class. Later the class can compare which events share similar themes such as music, food, gifts, and rituals.
Need more ideas for celebrating the holidays in the classroom? Check out 25 ideas for your classroom holiday party.