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 topicGift-giving Around the World
Proficiency/Grade levelGrades 1-4 beginning through intermediate
Content Concepts and SkillsLearn 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 neededEve, presents, gifts, reindeer, sleigh, North Pole, elves, stockings, yule.
Materials or Resources
- Celebrations! by Anabel and Barnabas Kindersley
- Christmas Around the World by Mary D. Lankford
- December Holiday Customs by Lee Ellen Ehorn and Shirley J. Hewlett
- December Monthly Activities by Mary Ellen Sterling & Susan Schumann Nowlin
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.
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:
- Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated on December 6th in Eastern Europe. Children put a boot by the window on December 5th and it is filled with treats by Saint Nicholas. Naughty children get coal and onions.
- In China, "Dun Che Lao Ren," or Christmas Old Man, brings gifts to children.
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.
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