Creating an Inclusive Celebration of Christmas

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day are officially listed on U.S. calendars. With many schools and businesses closed on theses days and with special holiday events scheduled in abundance at this time of year, it’s pretty hard to ignore the importance of Christmas in American culture. Whether you’re in the U.S. or not and whether you observe Christmas as a religious holiday or not, there are some aspects that everyone can enjoy. There are also some approaches to this holiday that all ELLs can comfortably accept and benefit from.

I like to think of holiday ideas for the ESL or EFL classroom as digging into Santa’s sack and pulling out what’s most suitable. Here’s what I’ve found when I reached in deep.

1. A Topic for Discussion: What holiday greeting to Americans use the most? I shared my thoughts on cultural sensitivity in 2017.  View post. It’s important for learners to be familiar with different greetings and have appropriate responses ready. Students can visit GetYarn and do comparative searches for “Merry Christmas” and “Happy holidays” to form a better understanding of the contexts the two different greetings are used in. Larger pieces of a dialog can be used for speaking practice. Invite students to role play favorite scenes.

2. Alternatives to Passively Listening to Holiday Music: I noted in a previous post that many Christmas songs have an interesting history. Learning about that history can create topics for discussion and content for teacher- and student-created quizzes. However, if you really want to ask students to listen to whole songs, you can make it more engaging with the help of LyricsTrianing. Did you know that Mariah Carey’s popular 1994 tune  “All I Want for Christmas Is You” has finally hit the number one spot this year? Have students choose their level and fill in the missing words to this trending song. (Learn more about different uses of LyricsTraining.)

3. Christmas Shopping Lists. ‘Tis the season of giving…and shopping. In pairs or small groups, have students engage in a collaborative task. Given a list of fictitious family members and a budget, they must find appropriate Christmas gifts. They can use a catalog or any online store. The search will prompt suggestions and decision-making. Each group can present their gift choices to the class. Model list:
Budget: $200
Grandpa Joe – Retired. Likes to fish and watch baseball.
Grandma Kathy – Retired. Likes to paint. Interested in history.
Mom – An accountant. Loves birds. Enjoys yoga.
Dad – A dentist. Loves to cook and eat healthy.
Sister (Natalie) – 17 years old. Plays soccer. Hopes to travel to Italy one day.
Best friend (Nicki) – Has a dog and fish. Plays tennis. Fascinated by aliens and UFOs.

4. Variations of Traditions:
 Students can benefit from the overwhelming number of online English teachers. Challenge students to post short questions on social media and collect responses from popular ELTs on YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook. Asking different teachers one or two questions a piece would more likely gain a response than a long list of questions. The goal would be to compare and contrast traditions in different countries (US, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand, and others). Suggested questions:
– Do you put up a tree for Christmas or New Year’s? How do you decorate it?
– Do you wrap presents before you give them on Christmas or another December holiday?
– Do you use another name for Santa Claus?
– Do you give Santa Claus anything to eat or drink?
– Do you decorate your home for Christmas or another holiday in December?
– What’s the number one song you associate with Christmas?
If you assign this research task, give students the chance to coordinate who is contacting whom. Note that some online teachers are more responsive than others. In class, let students collect and analyze the findings.

Got other ideas? Feel free to share.

Featured photo by annca. Retrieved from

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