Comparing Christmas Around the World

Christmas-inspired lesson and project ideas that help students sharpen critical thinking skills.

By Dawn Dodson

driftwood Christmas tree

‘Tis the season! Students and teachers alike are celebrating the season and taking every opportunity to add a festive touch everywhere possible. In the classroom, this can take shape in many ways. From holiday-themed books and novels, to research and art projects centered on the holidays. There are plenty of ideas and resources available to inspire holiday-themed lessons, projects, and activities. But as a teacher, you may be thinking, "What about the everyday, curriculum-based objectives which need to be completed by year-end?" How do we interject some holiday spirit into our everyday lessons that allow learners to cultivate critical thinking skills as well as further literacy development? How can we foster an appreciation for holiday traditions celebrated in other parts of the world? The subsequent ideas are lessons that support continued quality, curriculum-based learning , while adding a bit of sparkle to the season. Please note that these are brief outlines of lessons that you can create keeping in mind your specific class needs, curriculum, and objectives. 

Compare and Contrast Christmas in Other Cultures

According to Bloom’s Taxonomy, comparing and contrasting falls under higher-order thinking skills. No doubt students should be exposed to thought-provoking activities and assignments that require them to compare and contrast. Adding holiday themes to the lessons can supply learners with both complex thinking skill practice and a topic that is of particular interest at this time of year. That said, the following is a list of activity and project ideas that incorporate both elements:

  • Christmas Culture Comparison: Cultures around the world celebrate Christmas with traditions and customs that are uniquely their own. This research project is a collection of information on the Christmas celebrations of two different countries. In an essay, young researchers compare and contrast the Christmas traditions. This can also be completed in a digital presentation format to present to classmates.
  • Popular Culture Christmas Story Comparison: Kids love the opportunity to share their favorite holiday stories. Using this as a catalyst, incorporate an activity that requires readers to compare and contrast their favorite Christmas story with a story from another culture. You can create the lesson so it includes both research and a comparison essay covering the two pieces of literature.
  • Holiday Foods Comparison: Every family has their favorite holiday dishes. Assign a creative project by having your students compare their family’s holiday recipes with that of another culture. From the appetizer to dessert, the history of many holiday recipes provides yet another look at how the world celebrates. First, learners could complete a graphic organizer (e.g., Venn diagram, t-chart) to compare and contrast the various recipes. They can then use this information to construct a multicultural recipe book. You could even have a group of students or a parent helper collect all of the recipes in one place in order to make a holiday recipe book. 

Seasonally Focused Informational Text Comparison Activities

Even if the hectic schedule of the school year won’t allow time for a Christmas-themed project, using seasonal stories as a focus for literacy lessons is a great compromise. Engaging those analytical skills with a brief historical lesson is not a problem if you use these ideas. 

  • History of St. Nicholas and St. Patrick: Begin by reading articles, books, or researching the history of St. Nicholas and St. Patrick. In small groups, learners formulate a fact tree about each of the articles/books, making sure to highlight the central ideas and providing evidence for each fact. Groups then compare each tree and evaluate the accuracy of the identified central idea and supporting evidence.
  • History of Christmas Cards: There are several resources available online that provide background on Victorian Christmas, including the history of the very first Christmas card. After reading an informational article and viewing pictures detailing the origin of Christmas cards, readers compare Christmas cards from various eras. Add a spark of creativity by allowing time for kids to create versions of Christmas cards from various eras. If you don't have class time available for this project, offer extra credit to those who do the project at home. 
  • Life and Times of Charles Dickens: A classic figure of Christmas, researching the life of Charles Dickens and the society in which he lived is both seasonally festive and a beneficial way to practice research collection skills. Learners will easily be able to analyze and draw conclusions and comparisons regarding Victorian England and present-day society. Comparing the two time periods through graphic organizers or through a literature response is a simple way to provide guidance for a deeper understanding of the text.

More Christmas-Themed Lessons:

World Celebrations-Focus on Christmas around the World

Pupils conduct online research to collect data on Christmas traditions in other cultures. Online research is teacher-directed, and findings are presented in a PowerPoint.

Christmas in Other Countries

A Christmas comparison lesson that requires researchers to learn about Christmas celebrations in other countries around the world will engage your class. Their findings are compared to classmates’ findings about Christmas celebrations, which they have recorded on a Venn diagram.

Around the World with Santa Claus

Young scholars work within groups to learn about Christmas in different parts of the world. Learning is demonstrated through a student-created puppet show depicting the culture studied.

Language Arts Guide

Dawn Dodson