Why it's important to teach students about Christmas around the World

"Classical" Christmas is an exciting time for students as it is, but it can get even more exciting if you start exploring how Christmas is celebrated around the world! 

Christmas celebrations have found their way into all parts of the globe. Whether it is an official holiday, or just celebrated by a specific community in a given country, the holiday assimilated local customs, creating a very special Christmas experience in every region of the world. For example, imagine Christmas in the tropical regions!

Here are some reasons why you should go beyond your backyard and teach your students about Christmas around the world this season.

Studying cultural diversity

Teaching your students about how Christmas is celebrated around the world will enrich their cultural awareness, their perception of the human diversity, and of course - it can be fresh and fun.

By looking at interesting customs from other countries, children will naturally feel the sense of awe related to cultures different than theirs. This will make them appreciate other societies' traditions and the diversity that the world offers, making them less susceptible to become close-minded as they grow up.

The fun of the unusual

Your community's version of Christmas must be beautiful, but as children grow up, they might get a bit tired of repetitions. Older students are always interested in the offbeat and the unusual. Studying Christmas cultural practices worldwide might be just what you need to keep them interested in this part of your curriculum.

Imagine what Christmas would be like Down Under, where Christmas celebrations are the beach are very popular. 

Putting exchange students in the spotlight

If you have exchange students in your class or those that have permanently moved from another country which celebrates Christmas, ask them to do a show-and-tell presentation about their community's Christmas customs. If they don't have any items to bring with them, they can just prepare a slideshow which tells a story about their traditions and rituals, and perhaps include a Christmas-related family photo. That will help the new student's confidence by giving him or her a special role. Also, it is always amazing how children can engage and inspire one another.

Different, but the same

Studying various customs dedicated to the same holiday teaches kids a valuable lesson - that people might differ in their ways superficially, but that the essence is the same. People around the world can share the same values, even though the superficial variability might seem significant at first glance.

You can expand this story by explaining that all world religions and beliefs essentially share some basic ideas - that people should love one another, seek peace, help out to those in need, and refrain from doing things that hurt others.

There are many easily available online resources to help you find the most interesting examples for your students. No matter which ones you choose, remember to keep the lessons light and enjoy the Christmas trip around the world together with your class.

Looking for some low prep options this Christmas to explore Christmas Around The World? Why not check out my Christmas Around The World Celebration Booklet, Christmas Around The World Research Project, or Christmas Around The World Scavenger Hunt? Students love these around the world Christmas resources and learn so much about diversity from them. 


Six fun ways to incorporate Christmas into your teaching this December

As the month of December approaches, the spirit of the holidays will probably start to make an influence on your students. Perhaps they will become livelier, more talkative, and more eager to get creative.

That's where teachers creativity comes into the picture, to help bring out the potential that this new energy carries. Preparing and adapting fun and engaging Christmas-related activities is the crucial part of creating a great holiday atmosphere in your classroom.

If you are a new teacher, before making any plans, remember to consult your older colleagues about your school's policies and rules about celebrating holidays that are rooted in religious traditions. Ask them what their strategy to teach about holidays is. Many schools have opted for strictly secular curriculum, which doesn't allow religious imagery or anything related to worship to be included in holiday activities and lesson plans.

Here are some creative and inclusive activities you can try in your class.

Making pine cone Christmas trees

Making miniature Christmas trees out of pine cones is so rewarding because these miniature fakes can look very attractive. Also, it is so easy. You just have to find the cones (black pine cones look the best) and paint them green. Light touches of white can be added to create a snow effect. In the end, add decorations made out of play-doh, beads, or other materials.

Besides providing students with a rewarding craft activity, these Christmas tree miniatures may also be a good solution for classrooms which don't practice having a big Christmas tree.

Christmas cards

Christmas cards are one of the holiday craft classics, and children just love making them. Options about what to put on a card are endless. For a touch of personalization, make hand-printed cards - always a favorite with adults to whom the card is intended to since child’s handprints make such precious memories. And even more conveniently, a green print of a hand can serve as a Christmas tree canopy!

STEM Christmas activities

Incorporating Science, Technology, Engineering and Math assignments and challenges into Christmas crafts are becoming quite popular. It may not be obvious at first, but objects that are the result of STEM activities can be really attractive and Christmas-y. For example, look at these sparkly, glittery math and chemistry inspired shapes and objects.

Learning about other Christmas season holidays

Depending on their home and school environment, younger students may not even be aware of the existence of other holidays that come around at the same time as Christmas, such as Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. Also, maybe they don’t know that Christmas is celebrated in various ways all around the world. Try to find a light and fun way to talk about Christmas-time diversity. Including a lot of visual resources will help you achieve the goal.

If you are looking for easier options for celebrating Christmas Around The World then check out my Christmas Around The World Booklet, Christmas Around The World Scavenger Hunt, or Christmas Around The World Research Project. 

Create a unique Christmas school newspaper

You can create a special holiday edition of a school magazine – even if there is no official magazine in your school, your class can have its own this holiday season. Depending on what skills you’d like to boost, you can have them create it with the help of the computer and then print it out, or it can be hand-written and hand-painted. Things that can be included inside are illustrations, favorite holiday songs, and interviews with students on how they celebrate Christmas and other holidays. This is another great way to celebrate cultural diversity. 

Remember kindness 

Children will be very focused on presents around Christmas time. Sometimes they get so obsessed that they can’t seem to think about anything else. To curb this a bit, together you can list ten kind things that we can do for other people.

The Christmas special episode of the Bear in the Big Blue House show could be a good addition – in this episode, the tenants of the Big Blue House provide a home for a homeless dog, and all while studying various holiday customs and of course mindfully exchanging gifts.

Hopefully, you will manage to remind your students that, regardless of variations in customs and material things involved, the essence of all holidays is to bring more love and kindness into our world.

Have a lovely Christmas season!

How to Have a Christmas Movie Day with Santa's Movie Theater

Christmas has a special place in my heart. Along with the magic of Christmas that is inherent in many young peoples childhoods, it also became a time of hope for me as an extremely ill and pregnant first-time mother. My first born was due December 23rd, 2016 and I suffered the whole pregnancy with hyperemesis gravidarum. A condition that saw me hospitalized many times, with IV fluids being my only form of hydration. I was unable to eat, drink, or be merry, so the light at the end of the dark tunnel that was hyperemesis was very timely aligned with Christmas and all its joyful associations. I gave birth to my beautiful daughter precisely one week before Christmas. It was the best gift in the world. Now, Christmas is a time for celebration in our household that symbolizes more than just the magic of Santa but also embracing the best gift of all, our health. To make the most of the festive season we have started a range of family traditions. The new one this year is having a festive movie day, enter Santa's Movie Theater. 

The concept of Santa's Movie Theater came to me while I was thinking about the importance we should place on quality time with one another. Gifts are great and all, but the true magic of Christmas comes with the gift of one another's time, not money. For parents, Christmas is a time that can often be financially horrific. By starting traditions such as a movie day, rather than starting traditions of lots of costly gifts, it sets parents up for a more relaxing holiday season. After all, all kids really want is for their loved ones to be happy, not stressed and broke. For teachers, the same goes. The financial cost of being a teacher is already high, embrace classwide traditions so that you don't have to spend big bucks at Christmas time. 

For those on a shoestring budget, take this blog post and DIY your own Santa's Movie Theater. Yes, I have developed a resource for this that is an original concept I have come up with, but I am more than happy for you to get inspired by this and make your own set-up. The more joy spread, the better. However, this idea may not be copied for commercial purposes, that'd be a Grinch move (before he got into the festive spirit, not cool man, not cool). 

Right, now let's get started. First off what makes a Santa's Movie Theater a theater is the popcorn. Let's be real, we all go to the movies for the delicious treats as well as the actual film. 

To replicate the feel of a theater, you will need to set-up your own mini theater cafe/ treats station. For mine, I included candy canes, reindeer fruit, gingerbread people, popcorn, reindeer snacks (carrots), and hot chocolates. 

For the hot chocolates, I created a separate drinks station where the hot chocolates could be ordered and collected. 

If you are a parent or caregiver doing this at home and you want a bonus idea, then go a step beforehand and bake the gingerbread people yourselves. Children love to cook and decorate. It's such a fun activity for families to do with one another. 

Alternatively, if you are a teacher, a bonus idea is to make the popcorn as a class and discuss the steps involved in cooking popcorn. You can document your popcorn journey as you go for evidence of learning. 

I opted for strawberries for my cafe. This was less to do with me being loaded (I'm not) and more just because they are in season here in New Zealand at Christmas time. The sign has a strawberry on it, but this is just a fruit symbol. Any fruit will do, the reindeer aren't picky.  

To make the mood cozy, you can add a pile of cushions and blankets for your child or children to use. Even if, like me, you live in a place where it is summer at Christmas time, it's fun to get all cozy and watch a Christmas movie. Of course, the cushions and blankets aren't reserved just for the kids (nor are the gingerbread people for that matter), we like to get cozy too. 

For our family set up, I used Santa Cash, and everyone got $10 worth of it. I used the pricing shown on the Santa's Cafe Menu and told everyone to choose what they wanted. 

My five-month-old laughed and opted for his usual milk, my twenty-three-month-old made a beeline for the popcorn and redecorated the living room while having the time of her life, and my 338-month-old took it seriously and ordered a hot chocolate and gingerbread person. I too ordered a hot chocolate and a gingerbread person. Unfortunately, the kind and lovely theater staff lady had ended her shift when I went to order mine, and the theater staff man just sat there eating his own gingerbread man and drinking his hot chocolate. I'll tell you, as fun as this theater is it is terribly hard to get good staff around here. 

To get everyone's orders, create order forms so you know how many of each item you will need. 

After you've set up your cafe, you will need to get your actual movie theater itself sorted. A screen of some description with access to your Christmas favorite, cushions or couches, blankets, and of course a sign to let your well-meaning neighbors or fellow teachers know that you mean business when you are at Santa's Movie Theater. 

To make the setup as real as possible, pop up a Santa's Movie Theater sign, make Admit One tickets, and put up an opening hours sign. You could also make a get your tickets here sign for dramatic effect. 

If you want to be really extra then make some job ID cards too. Younger children absolutely love these as it's a fun chance to incorporate pretend play with Christmas, two of the best parts of childhood, wrapped up into one ball of fun. 

Right, now you are good to go. Pull the curtains, tuck yourself into a comfortable position, grab your treats, and enjoy! The memory of this moment will be talked about for decades to come. 

Loved this idea but don't want to DIY it? Head over to my Santa's Movie Theater digital download to get all the printable resources featured above.