If you know me, you know I LOVE world cultures and majored in cultural anthropology in college so it’s only natural that we had to do a Christmas Around the World theme! Join us as we hop from country to country exploring the various Christmas traditions people have for this very special holiday! Note: I know there are several winter holidays during the months of November and December, but I chose to stick to just Christmas this time around since that’s the one we celebrate as a family. I wanted my littles to connect to the familiarity of our favorite holiday while also exploring the different ways other people may celebrate it! The country each activity is from is noted at the beginning of the instructions below- we colored a world map to keep track of each country we “visited” this week.
Your home country- Who’s your Santa graphic organizer: This is a great way to start the week because it focuses in on what your child knows best- their culture- before branching out and connecting to other cultures. I printed the graphic organizer from Teachers Pay Teachers and asked my littles the questions then wrote down their answers. I had him complete the drawing and coloring parts on his own.
Mexico- poinsettia retelling graphic organizer: Draw a retelling graphic organizer in the shape of a poinsettia. Then read “The Legend of the Poinsettia” to your little and have them retell events from the story in order. As they retell, write the events on the petals of the flower.
Christmas in another country graphic organizer: We read this “Christmas Around the World” book, then I had my little choose a country to focus on. I asked him the questions on the graphic organizer, then wrote his answers for him- he did the drawing parts.
Christmas compare and contrast: I had my little choose one other country we read about to compare our Christmas traditions to. Then I wrote his answers on a Venn Diagram I got from Teachers Pay Teachers.
Several countries- the names of Santa sound it out activity: I printed a list of the different names Santa is called in countries around the world, then we found and colored each country on a map and used letter sounds to read each name.
Writing theme: Each day I had my little tell me a Christmas tradition from another country we had learned about. Then he illustrated it and wrote a sentence to go with it. By the end of our 4 days of school, he had a full story!
Christmas Around the World book list:
France- Advent wreath candle counting: In France they decorate their tables with evergreen wreaths festooned with candles known as “Advent Wreaths”. For this activity, I printed out a wreath, tucked it in a page protector, then cut out some white rectangles to use as candles (I drew 1/2 circles and lines on the top to make them look more “candle-y” LoL). Then I used a dry erase marker to write numbers in the center of the wreath which I had my littles identify and count candles to match.
Netherlands- Hay counting activity: In the Netherlands they traditionally would place hay or carrots in their wooden shoes to feed Sinterklaas’s horse, then Sinterklaas would replace the food with toys if the children were good! The children still leave their shoes by the door and put hay or carrots in them, but for the most part they don’t wear wooden shoes anymore. I had my littles color a traditional wooden clog picture, then count strips of “hay” (ie. yellow paper) before gluing them in the shoes.
Portugal- Pai Natal (Santa) shape activity: Santa or some version of him is fairly common throughout the European world, so we made the Portuguese version of him- Pai Natal- from shapes. I just cut out the shapes and gave my littles oral instructions on how to put him together.
Germany- Christmas tree ornament counting: The tradition of cutting and decorating Christmas trees came from the lush forests of Germany. For this activity, I took down 20 non-breakable ornaments and had my littles practice counting them. You can also have older kiddos add two groups of ornaments and write the coordinating number sentence.
Italy- Chocolate orange biscotti recipe with fractions: I love baking things for math! LoL Not only do you get a yummy treat out of it, but your littles get practice with fractions as they choose measuring cups and spoons for you. I reviewed the fractions for each cup first, then asked my 5 year old to find the correct ones according to the recipe. We used this Biscotti recipe from What Megan’s Making (but I substituted wheat flour and half the sugar for 1/4 cup of Stevia since sugar breaks me out! LoL) Fun fact: biscotti are a traditional Christmas cookie baked in Italy!
–Social Studies: Each day we read a book from a different country regarding their Christmas traditions and added what we learned to a T chart.
Japan- Tree of Cranes
Sweden- Lucia Morning
Italy- The Legend of Old Befana
Caribbean- An Island Christmas
Australia- Christmas Wombat
United Kingdom- Christmas crackers craft: Christmas crackers are a fun tradition from the UK- they’re little tubes that open with a POP and contain candy, paper crowns or small toys inside. We made ours by filling toilet paper tubes with candy and then wrapping them with wrapping paper. We tied the ends off with ribbon!
China- Paper chain craft: In China they typically decorate their trees with paper lanterns and chains, so we made paper chains by snipping then stapling strips of paper. Then my littles used them to decorate their trees!
Sweden- Starboy hat craft: Starboys accompany the girl portraying St. Lucia (who wears a wreath with candles on her head) and help her serve St. Lucia’s Day breakfast to their family members on December 13th. Although this doesn’t occur on Christmas day, it’s part of the Christmas tradition in Sweden. Starboys wear white hats with stars on them representing the star the wise men used to find Jesus. We made our Starboy hats by taping a white piece of cardstock in a cone shape. Then I drew stars on some yellow paper and my 5 year old cut them out (I cut out my 3 year old’s for him because his scissor skills aren’t there yet regarding complicated shapes). They glued the stars to their hats and we had two little Starboys! If you have a girl and would like to make St. Lucia wreaths instead, check out this craft from Kiddley on Pinterest.
Germany- Decorate gingerbread houses: The tradition of decorating gingerbread houses came from Germany, so after discussing this, I helped my littles put together and decorate a gingerbread house. We do this almost every year in our house too and it’s always so much fun (and they come out so cute!)
Brazil- nativity scene color and cut activity: I printed this cut and color nativity scene and told my littles that in Brazil, Christmas is celebrated surrounding the birth of Christ. Then I had them color, cut out and glue the nativity characters to the stable scene.
Poland- Straw making craft: In Poland they decorate their houses with straw to represent the straw in the manger of baby Jesus. My littles made “straw” by snipping tan paper into thin strips, then they used it to decorate their rooms.
-Letter of the week: Mm, each day we do a different activity focused on our letter- introduction/have your little practice it on the chalkboard (or white board), think of words that start with the letter and make a list, workbook letter writing practice, workbook word writing practice.
-Word of the week: an, each day we do a different activity focused on our word- introduction/sound the word out/have your little practice writing it on the chalkboard or whiteboard, word family list- think of other words that rhyme with your word of the week, use the word in a sentence (have your little come up with the sentence and write it for them) then have your little illustrate the sentence, and workpage practice.
-Bible verse: This month’s Bible verse is “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Isaiah 9:6 I write each word in the verse on a post-it, stick them to the wall then have my little point to each word and read it each day all month.
-Character trait of the month: generosity…this word is reviewed and posted at the start of the month then each time one of my littles freely demonstrates generosity I use the word to specifically praise what they’re doing and encourage the trait in them. (ie. “You shared your cookie without being asked! That was so generous of you!”)
- the book “Legend of the Poinsettia”
- biscotti ingredients
- 20+ Christmas tree ornaments
- 4+ books on Christmas traditions from other countries (see social studies tab for the ones we used)
- gingerbread house kit
- toilet paper tube
- wrapping paper
- small toys or candy