Posts Tagged ‘ Christmas ’
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Or so the song goes. There are many ways you can celebrate Christmas with your students. Let HelpTeaching assist you with resources, worksheets, activities, and links to educational content for every taste.
What is Christmas?
Christmas is a season of gift-giving, feasting with family, reconnecting with friends, and decorating homes with lights, wreaths, and trees. For others, it’s all that and more. Christians celebrate Christmas because it marks the birth of their savior Jesus Christ. Christmas means different things to different people.
History of Christmas
The first recorded Christmas celebration was in Rome on December 25, 336 CE. That’s more than 300 years after the time when Jesus was born. In the Roman calendar, December 25 was the winter solstice, which was considered a Pagan holiday. A fourth-century sermon by St. Augustine explains why Christian leaders felt this was a fitting day to celebrate Christ’s birth: “Hence it is that He was born on the day which is the shortest in our earthly reckoning and from which subsequent days begin to increase in length. He, therefore, who bent low and lifted us up chose the shortest day, yet the one whence light begins to increase.” The story of Jesus’ birth is found in the Bible. Christians believe Jesus is God’s son, so that’s why his birth is so special.
Christmas remained a religious holiday in the West for many centuries gaining popularity in the middle ages. The non-religious aspects of Christmas developed over time and in the last hundred years or so, many people on all continents celebrate the holiday in a more secular way. Religious celebrations of Christmas are still held around the world.
Ho, Ho, Ho…
The jolly ol’ big guy in the red flannel suit is one of the most familiar symbols of Christmas. The tradition of Santa Claus evolved from the true story of the Christian bishop who became Saint Nicholas. The real Nicholas dates from the fourth century CE, and his legendary secret gift-giving gave rise to the traditional Santa Claus, a name based on “Sinterklass”, the Dutch rendering of Saint Nicholas.
Our modern image of Santa Claus came about through the blending of several images and stories in the 19th century. Clement Moore’s poem “A Visit From St. Nicholas” (better known today as “The Night Before Christmas“) was published in Troy, New York, in 1823. Moore’s description of Santa as a “chubby and plump” elf whose reindeer-pulled sleigh lands on someone’s roof became inspiration for cartoonist Thomas Nast’s illustration of jolly St. Nick in 1863. The look of Santa in a red suit with a long white beard became seared in the American mind with the 1930’s Coca-Cola advertisements created by artist Haddon Sundblom.
Around the world
Different cultures around the globe have a variety of ways to celebrate Christmas. Here are few traditions from around the world:
- In Japan, despite only 1% of the population claiming to be Christian, people flock to Kentucky Fried Chicken for their Christmas meal. People order their boxes months in advance or stand in line for two hours or longer to get their “finger lickin’ good” food.
- Iceland celebrates not twelve, but thirteen days of Christmas. On each of the thirteen nights before Christmas, Icelandic children are visited by the Yule Lads who put either candy (if they’ve been good) or rotten potatoes in their shoes while they sleep.
- In Brazil, many Christmas traditions come from Portugal, as Brazil was once a Portuguese colony. Nativity scenes, known as presépio, are very popular. They are set-up in churches and homes all through December.
- In Uganda, the proper name for Christmas is Sekukkulu. Churches are the center of the celebrations with church bells ringing and carols sung by candlelight. A Christmas feast of matooke and grilled chicken is served. Matooke is a starchy variety of banana which is harvested green, peeled, and then steamed and mashed.
- In New Zealand, Christmas comes in the middle of the summer vacation season, so lots of people spend time on the beach, camping, or at their baches (holiday homes). Kiwis often have a Christmas barbecue featuring grilled ham slices, venison, and shrimp. The Christmas tree in New Zealand is the pōhutukawa with its bright red flowers blooming in mid- to late December.
- In Lebanon, Christians build manger scenes called nativity cribs in their homes. The crib is more popular than a Christmas tree. Santa Claus is known as Baba Noël, and people eat sugared almonds drunk with cups of strong coffee.
There are loads of ways to keep your little elves busy right up to the big day, and to keep them engaged after they get tired of playing with their new toys in the days after Christmas. Take a look at Christmas: 12 delightful recipes for the best family time from the charity World Vision for recipes not just for food but for family enrichment, too.
Christmas cooking ideas
Christmas cooking is more than just baking cookies! And it can be a great learning experience for children.
- Mix up your holiday recipe tradition with these 15 Kid-Friendly Vegan Christmas Recipes For The Whole Family to Enjoy from OneGreenPlanet.org
- KidsWorldCitizen.org cooks up some great kids’ Christmas international recipes while teaching about how the holiday is celebrated in different cultures.
- PBS offers up these recipes for holiday treats, too.
Christmas craft ideas
- Try this Santa Candy Holder from SantaGames.net suitable for older elementary children
- Learn how to make Christmas tree decorations from buttons at Gathered.how
- Here are 7 easy holiday craft ideas for kids from Easy Kids Craft
- Check out these 12 Christmas activities for toddlers and preschoolers at Teachingmama.org
- Kids will love learning how to draw their favorite Christmas images at ArtProjectsforKids.org
Christmas, language arts, and math
Our friends at KidsKonnect have a sleigh full of Christmas worksheets and activities:
- Christmas Facts & Worksheets
- Christmas Traditions Facts & Worksheets
- Santa Claus Facts & Worksheets
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Facts & Worksheets
- Christmas Elf Facts & Worksheets
- History of Christmas Facts & Worksheets
- Nativity of Jesus Facts & Worksheets
- North Pole Facts & Worksheets
Christmas has inspired so much great literature, and it will inspire your students to write creatively, too.
- Perhaps the most popular and famous Christmas tale is Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Help Teaching has resources to accompany classroom or individual reading of this special story.
- Kids will have creative fun making their own versions of Clement Moore’s classic poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
- You can keep the holiday rolling as kids explore the theme of the Twelve Days of Christmas
- Children love Dr. Seuss, so why not include a reading of How the Grinch Stole Christmas to your holiday? Use the accompanying worksheet to assess understanding of the story.
- Storyline Online presents the Brothers Grimm tale “The Elves and the Shoemaker” free. This 6-minute video aimed at 2nd – 3rd grade is produced by the SAG-AFTRA Foundation which streams free videos featuring celebrated actors reading children’s books alongside creatively produced illustrations. They even provide a free, detailed teacher’s guide to the story packed with lesson ideas and worksheets.
- The Indianapolis Public Library has plenty of Christmas read-alouds on video and free printed resources, including Christmas worksheets with Curious George and Pete the Cat.
- 61st Annual LA County Holiday Celebration. This free virtual Christmas Eve event will be streamed live 3-6 p.m., Pacific time
- Thinking of hosting your students for an online holiday party? Consider these tips offered by TeachingDegree.org.
Merry Christmas from all of us at Help Teaching!
Image Source: Freepik.com
The holidays are the perfect time to curl up with the kids or gather all of your students on the rug and read a good book. Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa, or just want a nice winter read, we’ve got something for you. Our holiday reading list includes classic tales, read-alouds, and even some more recent stories that may become new holiday traditions.
From classics like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Polar Express” to more recent additions such as “The Elf on the Shelf” there are plenty of Christmas stories for kids to enjoy around the holidays. While these stories are listed by age, many of them will be enjoyed by the whole family.
The Sweet Smell of Christmas by Patricia M. Scarry (Worksheet)
Pine trees, gingerbread men, and hot cocoa are all traditional Christmas smells kids can experience as they sniff their way through this scratch & sniff Christmas story.
A Wish to Be a Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe (Worksheet)
For years, the old pine tree has sat in the field, wishing to be a Christmas tree. Seeing him so sad gives the animals an idea to help him get his wish.
Merry Christmas, Mouse! by Laura Numeroff (Worksheet)
Mouse, from If You Give a Mouse a Cookie, decorates his Christmas tree in this simple counting book for young children.
The Elf on the Shelf by Carol V. Aebersold (Worksheet)
The Elf on the Shelf has become a tradition for many families. Even if you’re not a fan of the elf, you can read this fun story with kids.
The Gingerbread Man by the Brothers Grimm (Read-Aloud)
“You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” This classic tale about a popular Christmas cookie is a great read during the holidays. Read it to kids or let them enjoy this read-aloud version on their own.
The Snowman by Raymond Briggs (Worksheet)
A boy builds a snowman who ends up taking him on an adventure in this classic Christmas story.
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg (Worksheet)
“All aboard!” The Polar Express takes young boys and girls to the North Pole. After reading the book, watch the movie version with kids and compare the difference.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss (Worksheet)
It’s hard not to love this Christmas classic from Dr. Seuss about a Grinch whose heart grew two sizes that day.
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore (Read-Aloud)
‘Twas the Night Before Christmas has been retold many times. Listen to the original version of the story, called “A Visit From St. Nicholas,” in this read-aloud version.
The Elves and the Shoemaker by The Brothers Grimm (Read-Aloud)
A poor shoemaker wakes up one morning to find his day’s work has already been done in this classic fairy tale by the Brothers Grimm. The read-aloud version is fun to listen to with kids.
The Gift of the Magi by O. Henry (Worksheet)
“One dollar and eighty-seven cents. That was all.” Those lines begin the classic story about a young couple in love and the sacrifices they make for Christmas.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Chances are you know a few Scrooges of your own. Read about the original Scrooge in this classic Christmas story. You can also find worksheets covering each stave of A Christmas Carol on Help Teaching’s literature page.
Whether you celebrate Hanukkah or simply want to teach children more about these Jewish holidays, these books will introduce kids to the history and principles of The Festival of Lights.
The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming by Lemony Snicket (Worksheet)
Lemony Snicket’s The Latke Who Couldn’t Stop Screaming is a hilarious story about a latke. As kids read the story, they’ll also learn about the importance of Hanukkah.
How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah? by Jane Yolen (Worksheet)
The How Do Dinosaurs Say series is popular with kids and How Do Dinosaurs Say Happy Chanukah is no exception. This simple story teaches kids about some of the traditions of Hanukkah.
Latkes and Applesauce by Fran Manushkin (Worksheet)
A lack of money and food won’t stop a family from having a wonderful Hanukkah in this touching story about the holiday.
The Purse of Gold (Read-Aloud)
This Jewish folktale isn’t necessarily a Hanukkah story, but the moral of the story is a good one to teach kids around the holiday. A beggar finds a purse of gold, but kids have to listen to the read-aloud to discover what happens next.
Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins by Eric Kimmel (Worksheet)
Every year the goblins come out and try to ruin Hanukkah for the village. This year, however, Hershel shows up to send them packing.
Hanukkah Haiku by Harriet Ziefert (Worksheet)
Experience the sights, sounds, and events of Hanukkah through a series of haiku. Once kids have read the haiku in the book, encourage them to write their own to share their experiences and thoughts about Hanukkah.
Hanukkah Mad Libs by Roger Price and Leonard Stern (Worksheet)
A Mad Libs book may not seem like a great choice, but these Mad Libs take Hanukkah events and allow kids to add their own words to create truly hilarious stories. While this book is more about creating than reading it’s a great way to get often disinterested pre-teens and teens involved in the holiday.
There aren’t as many stories written about Kwanzaa as their are for other winter holidays, but we’ve found a few to help kids learn about the holiday. All of the books promote the holiday’s theme of celebrating black heritage and living life in a positive way.
Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa by Donna L. Washington (Worksheet)
Inspired by Brer Rabbit stories, Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa tells the story of a rabbit who wants to make his Kwanzaa better. Throughout the story, he learns some important lessons about the holiday.
Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis (Worksheet)
This story tells the tale of seven brothers who are always fighting. When their father dies, he leaves them with a seemingly impossible task. As they complete the task, the brothers learn the importance of working together.
Seven Days of Kwanzaa by Angela Shelf Medearis
In this informational book, kids will learn about the key principles of Kwanzaa. They’ll also crafts, recipes, and other activities related to the holiday.
In addition to these stories, Help Teaching’s Kwanzaa Reading Passage gives kids a brief overview of the holiday and the seven principles it celebrates and our Lessons page features a read-aloud story to represent each principle of Kwanzaa, including: Anansi Writes a Song (Kuumba), Anansi and His Sons (Umoja), The Collared Crow (Imani), The Feast (Ujamaa), The Great Drum (Ujima), The Three Tests (Kujichagulia), and The Name of the Tree (Nia).
For younger students or whole group activities, you might enjoy Elementary Librarian’s favorite Christmas read-alouds.
We know there are many other great holiday books for kids. What are some of your favorites?