December 2020

Holidays Around the World


Happy Holidays! Like the rest of 2020, this holiday season may be a little different, but it’s still an exciting time to come together with friends and family —whether you can do so in person or over a video call. So while we may all be a little further apart this holiday season, let’s take this time to learn more about different holiday traditions around the world.

Hanukkah (December 10-18)
Hanukkah, also called the Festival of Lights, is primarily celebrated by Jewish people around the world to commemorate an ancient miracle. The miracle of one nights’ worth of oil burning for eight nights is now celebrated with a menorah like eight nights in the winter.

  • Fun Fact! Hanukkah starts on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, typically falling in mid-December.
  • Our favorite way to teach: For the younger grades, ask students to create a menorah out of paper while you explain the holiday. For each day of Hanukkah, add a yellow paper “flame” to the menorah and play a game of dreidel for an activity. In the older grades, ask students to research historic artifacts of the holiday though different museums.

Christmas (December 25)
Christmas is celebrated by Christians worldwide to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. Many countries have their own traditions that have been adapted by other countries; for example, Americans setting up a Christmas tree is a tradition that started in Germany and spread to the United States (check out more on the history of the Christmas trees).

  • Fun Fact! There are over 15 towns in the US named Bethlehem. Bethlehem, PA is nicknamed the “Christmas City” and celebrates its namesake with a Moravian Star nestled in the mountains.
  • Our favorite way to teach: One of our favorite bloggers, Pocketful of Primary, has collected her favorite Christmas teaching activities. In the older grades, ask students to research Christmas traditions around the world and use a graphic organizer to compare their similarities. Lead a discussion with students on how traditions spread worldwide.

Diwali (November 12-16)
Diwali is a Hindu festival that celebrates Lord Rama after his victory of the evil Ravana, and receive blessings from the goddess Lakshmi. It also celebrates Mahariva’s (Indian sage) attainment of nirvana and the Death Anniversary of Swami Dayanand (Hindu religious leader). Diwali is celebrated by making traditional foods, giving and buying gifts, and illuminating the house with lights and decorations.

  • Fun Fact! Diwali is celebrated on the 15th month of Kartika.
  • Our favorite way to teach: In the younger grades, celebrate the decor of Diwali by creating a paper cup garland with students while explaining the celebration. For older students, ask students to research the origins of Diwali and how different cultures celebrate.

Kwanzaa (December 26-January 1)
Kwanzaa is a uniquely North American holiday celebrating African heritage. It celebrates the seven core principles of African-American values through lighting black, red, and green candles lit on a kinara. Kwanzaa is based on ancient African harvest festivals, but celebrations started in the 1960s.

  • Fun Fact! Kwanzaa is not considered a religious holiday, so it is usually celebrated alongside another religious holiday, such as Christmas.
  • Our favorite way to teach: In younger grades, highlight the seven core principles and ask students to name an example of each. In older grades, ask students to research harvest traditions in Africa and examine parallels with Kwanzaa.

Let us know how you incorporate these holidays into your classroom!

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