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Winter Holidays Around the World


Social Studies  


K, 1  

By – Denise Todd

Kentucky Academic Expectations:

1.2-Students make sense of a variety of materials read.
1.3-Students make sense of the various things they observe.
1.13-Students make sense of ideas and communicate ideas with visual arts.
1.14-Students make sense of ideas and communicate ideas with music.
4.1-Students effectively use interpersonal skills.
4.2-Students use productve team membership skills.
4.5-Students demonstrate an understanding of,appreciation for, and sensitivity to a multi-cultural and worldview.



Students will learn about 5 different countries and the winter holidays they celebrate.

  • Mexico: Students will make pinatas to burst during their reenactment of the traditional Posadas party.
  • Sweden: Students will role-play Santa Lucia Day while wearing self made wreaths with candles.
  • Africa: Students will eat their homemade Kinaras on self-made woven placemats, which they made out of traditional Kwanzaa colors.
  • Israel: Students will make and play a game with their self-made dreydls. Students will make Latkes.
  • America:Students will decorate a Christmas tree, make Christmas cards, and go Christmas caroling.




  • Mexico: Balloons, newspaper, glue, candy
  • Sweden: sweet roll recipe, hot chocolate,and materials to make a wreath with candles
  • Africa: red, green, and black construction paper, bread, cream cheese, carrots and raisins
  • Israel: Dreydl pattern, potatoes and grater to make Latkes.
  • American: Christmas tree, construction paper for cards, Christmas songs for caroling



Discuss how we celebrate Christmas with our families. Discuss the word tradition.



I put on my “magic shoes” that I wear when we want to pretend. I asked the students to get on the magic carpet and hold on because we were going on a trip around the world to see how other people celebrate Winter Holidays.

Our first stop was Mexico:

We read the book “Nine Days to Christmas” by Maria Hall. We learned that in Mexico, they start celebrating nine days before Christmas Day. This commemorates the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and their search for lodging. We discovered one of their most colorful traditions is the Posadas party. It is celebrated every night from December 16th to December 24th. Families seek shelter at their neighbors. They are told there is no room for them because they are already full just like Mary and Joseph. As they turn away, they are told to come in. then they have a party.

  We made piñatas. We used blown up balloons and covered them with strips of newspaper dipped in a flour and water mixture. After our piñatas were dry, we painted them and filled them with candy.

The students acted out the story by going to the other classrooms to ask for lodging. I had asked the other teachers to say they did not have room for us so we moved on to the next room. No one had room for us. The aide waited for us in our room. When we returned to our classroom, we asked the aide if there was room, for us. She welcomed us in and already had things ready for our Posadas party.

During the party, students burst their piñatas. We had a special punch that was made from an old Mexican family recipe.


The next day, we were off to Sweden:

We started on our magic carpet by reading about Christmas in Sweden. We found that in Sweden, they celebrate Santa Lucia Day. Santa Lucia was a little girl that was a Christian. Christianity was against the law in Sweden at this time. When Santa Lucia’s mother became ill, she prayed for her mother. Her mother got better the government found out and had her condemned to death. Santa Lucia Day is celebrated in honor of this little girl’s faith.

Sweden celebrates Santa Lucia Day by having the oldest girl in each family dress in a white robe and wears a wreath of lighted candles and leaves. The girl wakes up her family and serves them sweet rolls and hot chocolate.

We made a wreath with candles and leaves on it. We made sweet rolls and hot chocolate. We wore our wreaths on our heads while serving each other sweet rolls and hot chocolate.


The next morning, we traveled to Africa:

We read “My First Kwanzaa” by Deborah M. Newton Chocolate. We found that African-American families in the United States celebrate Kwanzaa. They celebrate from December 26th until January 1st. for seven days; they celebrate African harvest culture and the joy of being a family.

Family members wear brightly colored clothes in honor of the occasion. They fly a red, green, and black flag. The family works together stringing beads of bright colors. There is a family reunion, and on the last day of Kwanzaa, they share gifts.

They have a kinara, which is a candleholder. It holds seven candles. Each day another candle is lit during the seven-day celebration. The candles represent cherished principles of the Kwanzaa celebration.

We made woven placemats out of the colors on the kinara (green, red, and black). Then we made a kinara using bread, cream cheese, carrots, and raisins. Students enjoyed eating their snack on their placemats.


The next day, we were on our way to Israel:

We were ready to learn about Hanukkah. We learned that Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday. Its roots came from Israel. Some people call Hanukkah “The Festival of Lights”. The title of our book was “Light the Light!” by Margaret Moorman.

We found the holiday is honored for eight days sometime between November and December. Each day for eight days, a candle is lit on a menorah. After lighting the menorah, the Jewish families play games and exchange gifts. Their children enjoy playing with a dreidel. One of their favorite snacks is called Latkes which is what we call potato cakes in America.

Students made a dreidel, which is a four-sided top that players take turns spinning and collecting bean seeds. The player that collects all the seeds is the winner. Students enjoyed making and playing the game. For our snack, we made Latkes.


The next morning, we made our way back to America:

We started our American traditions by decorating our Christmas tree. We then made Christmas cards and practiced songs for caroling. Students sewed their own elf hats that they wore to carol around school. After singing, we presented everyone with one of our homemade Christmas cards. We made gifts for our parents and wrapped them in homemade gift paper. We made gingerbread men cookies and shared gifts with the classroom.




  • Students will name two countries studied and describe how they celebrate Winter Holidays.
  • Students will draw a picture of one country celebrating Winter Holidays.


Alternatives (for students with special needs):

  • Students will be given a partner to assist when needed.

Extensions (for gifted students):

  • Students will practice leadership skills by helping the other students.




Teacher’s Friend Publications,Inc.,Dec.Idea Book-2000
Jewish Holiday Cooking: Hanukkah
Teacher’s Helper Oct/Nov 2000
Teacher’s Helper Dec/Jan 2000-2001
Childcraft V-9 pages 335-339 and 332-334
Educational Insights 1990
The Education Center, Inc. 1990 #304
Teacher Created Marerials,Inc. 1986
Teacher Created Materials, Inc. #259 Thematic Unit,1992
Mexico Connect 1996-2000
Consulado General De Mexico
Macmillian Seasonal Activity Packs
Weekly Reader-Nov-2000
KD Craft


E-Mail Denise Todd 

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