Santa Claus Around the World

Santa Claus Around the World

by Judie Haynes

Even though your English language learners may not celebrate Christmas, they are fascinated by the many Santa Claus legends. This lesson explores the different gift-giving customs around the world.

"Santa Claus Around the World" is another theme students love in December. I advise teachers, however, to become familiar with the holidays of all of your students. You don't want to exclude children whose holiday traditions do not include Santa.

Lesson topic

Gift-giving Around the World

Proficiency/Grade level

Grades 1-4 beginning through intermediate

Content Concepts and Skills

Learn about how children in various countries give gifts to celebrate their winter holiday traditions; to locate various countries on a map; to draw and tell about various Santa Claus legends.

Vocabulary needed

Eve, presents, gifts, reindeer, sleigh, North Pole, elves, stockings, yule.

Materials or Resources

Instructional Sequence

In many school districts across the United States, teachers do not teach about Christmas. Outside of the schools, however, there are references to Christmas everywhere. Your English language learners (ELLs) need to have a basic understanding of the different winter holidays celebrated in the United States. Most of our students know about Santa Claus even if they come from countries where Christmas is not celebrated. One way to include cultural material in your curriculum is to explore Santa Claus or other gift givers around the world.

1. Encourage your students to discuss their own December holidays and how they give and receive gifts.

2. Research Santa legends using the internet. See and Christmas Around the World.

3. Retell each story in your own words using the pictures from various resources as none of the material is written on the reading level of our ESL students.

4. The following might be included:

  • The Dutch "Sintirklaas" arrives by boat on the evening of December 5th. Children leave a wooden shoe filled with hay and carrots for the donkey which carries St. Nicholas' pack of toys. The good children get gifts.
  • In Italy "La Befana" is a good witch who dresses all in black. Children leave their shoes by the fireplace on the eve of January 6th. Befana comes down the chimney on her broomstick to leave gifts.
  • In Germany families go to church on Christmas Eve. While they are at church the "Christkind" or Christ Child brings presents to their homes.
  • In Spanish-speaking countries such as Spain, Mexico, South America, children wait until January 6th for their presents. The Three Kings or Wise Men bring the gifts. Children put shoes by the front door to get their gifts. There is usually a big procession through the streets with floats for each of the Wise men.
  • In Sweden a gnome called "Juletomten" brings gifts in a sleigh driven by goats.
  • In Switzerland the "Christkindl" or Christ Child brings the gifts. In some towns, Christkindl is an angel who comes down from heaven to give gifts.
  • In England Father Christmas is a stern version of Santa Claus who brings gifts on Christmas Eve.
  • In France "Pere Noel" brings gifts to children on Christmas Eve. Children leave their shoes by the fireplace.
  • In Australia Santa rides waterskis, has a white beard and red bathing suit.
  • 5. Have students make a chart of which includes the name of the country, name of gift-giver, date of holiday, what Santa looks like, and where gifts are left. Download our Gift-giving Around the World.

    6. Students might also compare two or more of the different countries' customs using a Venn Diagram. If students do not know enough English to do this on their own, type six or seven sentences for each student about a gift-giving custom. Print the sentences on colorful paper. Have students glue their sentence in the correct place on a large Venn Diagram. This can be a whole-class project.

    7.Ask students to write about what they would see in a particular country if they visited it in December or January. Have students present information to their ESL group about one Santa Claus tradition. Have them make something to represent the tradition they are talking about.(Lanterns from the Philipines; cards from England, a tree from Germany)

    8.Younger students can complete a craft to celebrate each holiday. Celebrate Christmas in Holland by downloading our wooden shoe and putting it by the window on December 5th.

    Activity Downloads

    Note: To view the classroom activities, you must have Acrobat Reader intalled. Acrobat is a free application available from Adobe Systems.

    PDF fileGift-giving Around the World (2k .PDF)

    PDF fileWooden Shoe (107k .PDF)

    Related Links

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    Harvest Festivals have been held as long as people have been sowing and gathering food. Show your students how people all over the world celebrate the harvesting of a good crop.

    Resource Picks

    The kids' version of the popular search engine and website directory, Yahoo!. Features clubs, games, downloads, news, net events, as well as teacher's and parent's guides. There is a terrific culture section.