Holiday Traditions for Elementary School: 3 Lesson Plans That Explore Various Celebrations

Page content

Lesson One: Preparation

Teacher should be prepared to discuss a variety of winter holiday celebrations, such as Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah. Books should be displayed about these celebrations, photos of traditional celebrations (parades, dress, foods, etc.) or actual items should be included in the display.

Time line: One class period (50 minutes).

Lesson One: Procedure

The teacher begins the class with an open discussion of which holidays students celebrate. Students should be encouraged to share specific customs and traditions that their families follow. The teacher should be prepared for the fact that some students may not celebrate anything at this time.These students can discuss other holidays or events that they celebrate with the family.

Read several books related to the different holidays that the students celebrate. Allow students the opportunity to view the display about the various winter holidays.

Have the students create a list of ten winter holiday traditions in which they participate during the winter break. Divide the class into random groups and have them share their lists. Ask the students to ‘adopt’ a few of the traditions that they liked.

Create a list of the most common traditions of the winter holidays (eg: Christmas trees, turkey, sharing, candle lighting, etc.). Discuss how they learned these customs and if they know their origin. Discuss purposes of the holidays: family, religion, giving, spreading good cheer, etc.

How many of the customs relate to values? Be prepared with examples of how customs and traditions relate to values. Discuss and list the values that the students think are most important to practice all year long. How can the students incorporate values into their holiday and into every day life? How are values incorporated into their celebrated holiday from these time honored traditions? Have students take notes about values and customs.

Ask students to go home and discuss their celebrated winter holiday with a family member, preferably a parent, an aunt, uncle or a grandparent. Students should explore how the celebration has changed or stayed the same, grown larger or smaller, etc. Ask students to record the information and bring it to the next class to discuss. Students must add a minimum of 5 new items to their list about holidays.


Read a story about a holiday winter celebration that is relatively uncommon in your school.

Lesson Two: Preparation

Display books and computer-printed handouts of holidays that are celebrated in the winter. Information can be printed out on the various holidays including foods, dance, music, plants, etc.

Timeline: One class period (50 minutes).

Lesson Two: Procedure

Begin class with a discussion of what the students learned from their families about their own winter holiday celebration. In the last lesson, students were assigned the task of interviewing elders in the family about family celebrations and values. List new items that children learned on a chart.

In groups, have students choose a winter holiday that they know little about. Winter solstice, Yalda, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Three King’s Day, New Year’s Day, and Chinese New Year are a few. If there is a great variety of holidays already celebrated within the group, then students should research different holidays, individually or in smaller groups of two or three. Allow students to use books, computers, and library resources–and they can also interview other students–to discover information.

Have students, either in groups or individually, create a typical day in the researched winter holiday. The information about the days that the celebration runs should include dress, music, foods, customs, or any object that is used in the celebration. Ask the groups to meet and share with each other what they have learned.

Have a class discussion to list what the students learned about each holiday celebrated in the winter.


Read a book on another winter holiday, discuss any undiscovered facts, or retell a traditional winter tale. After reading, have the students talk about what they would have as parts of their ‘dream’ winter holiday celebration. Discuss the values are important to them, not only at the holidays but all year long. How can they incorporate these values into their current holiday celebrations? What can they do as a member of their family to add to the celebration and values that are important to their families? Include your own in the discussion.

Lesson Three: Preparation

Teacher should continue to supply books as well as photos or any items that students brought in that describe their holiday celebrations.

Time line: One class period (50 minutes).

Lesson Three: Procedure

Begin class with a review of what students learned about other class members’ unique winter holiday celebrations. Review the list that was created previously.

Now instruct the students that today they will create a ‘dream’ winter holiday celebration. Students should focus on two or three (minimum) values that are most important to them year-round that they have learned about through this holiday lesson. Instruct students to keep some current traditions, re-start any old, forgotten family traditions they discovered in interviews, and add in some new traditions in creating their own holiday celebration. Give examples of customs that support values. For example, family dinner is supportive of the value of sharing a meal with family; caroling supports the value of giving to your neighbors and spreading good cheer; volunteering at a local charity supports the value of giving to those who are less fortunate. Be ready to provide ideas of how customs relate to values.

As the class is working the teacher should circulate to keep students on task and assist with creating customs that support their selected values.

Students should create their special celebration by first creating a rough outline of foods, traditions, music, activities. Next students should create a ‘day in the life’ story to illustrate their special holiday. For students who celebrate holidays that are longer than a day, ask them to give an overview of all of the days.

Ask students to share in their group the created holidays. Have the groups present to the class the created holiday. As a whole class create a winter holiday celebration.


Conclude the lesson by reading a story or retelling a traditional winter holiday tale.


Create an actual celebration of the holiday event that the class created together. Students can bring in items and see what the school can provide, too. Invite family and friends. Remember to keep focus on values and how traditions and celebrations support these values.