Because I recently posted about my experiences with Christmas in Japan, I thought I would go ahead and write this post about Christmas activities you can do with your students. Depending on what you choose to do and when, it may take a nice chunk of advanced planning, so instead of waiting to post on the holiday like I did for my Easter post, I’m posting this waaaay ahead of time.
When I taught about Christmas in Japan, most of the people had heard of it but knew little about it. The adults had some idea, but the kids didn’t know much. (That said, I was surprised when one or two of the kids knew the religious meaning behind Christmas.)
In my presentations, I talked about the history of the holiday a little bit, then I flooded them with images of what my Christmases back in the United States were like. I showed them images of trees, presents, and decorations. They saw what little snow my town gets, and they saw the holiday displays at the convention center in my town.
Christmas Stories, Videos, Music, & Dancing
Though I didn’t read any Christmas stories to my students, I did teach some of them Christmas songs, and with one class of elementary school students, we learned a simple dance to “Jingle Bells” and performed it for the older elementary school kids. I had my father film our house that year, and I showed pieces of that long video to my students. In future, I might find skits or animated stories about Christmas for my students to listen to and watch.
Printed Activities & Crafts
Word searches crosswords filled with Christmas vocabulary is hard to go wrong with. For younger kids, you can also print out coloring pages. Having older students write wishlists or letters to Santa would also be a fun idea.
Christmas cards are a good paper craft for students to work on. They can practice “Merry Christmas” and “Happy New Year”, among other phrases, and they can get creative with their drawings. I even had some students create pop-out cards featuring Santa, a reindeer, and a Christmas tree.
Other crafts involve paper snowflakes, wreaths, snowman cut-outs, and anything else festive that you can think of. There are ample options for Christmas.
Gingerbread houses take a lot of advanced planning and preparation, but they’re astoundingly fun when everything is said and done. My friend and I asked our co-teachers to save some of the milk cartons from the school lunches. We made sure they were thoroughly washed before using them. I made icing at home, and we bought cookies and candies for them to decorate with. We created one as a display and brought it to all our classes (even to ones we didn’t get to do the activity in). If you want to try your hand at a proper gingerbread house kid, be my guest. I’m terrible at putting those together, though, so I didn’t bother.
Along similar lines, if you have the space and the supplies, you could show them how to bake Christmas cookies or other holiday desserts. Or you could make them yourself and bring them for the students and faculty, if you have prior permission to do so.
Another option—-and this would work best for adults—-is to have a small potluck. Or you can make a few typical Christmas foods (ex: mashed potatoes, a small ham, sugar cookies, etc.) and bring them for a Christmas party. I brought mashed potatoes for a Thanksgiving party once because my Japanese students didn’t quite understand what mashed potatoes were. Macaroni and cheese was another food item they didn’t really know about, at least in my town.
You could come up with a number of Christmas games, and a simple Google search will pull up plenty for you to root through. You could do a Christmas version of “Hot Potato” or have a Christmas version of a cakewalk, where students can win a cookie or piece of candy (with prior permission; and make sure all students end up with a treat). You could simply play musical chairs but with Christmas music or play “Pin the Nose on the Reindeer”. Another option is to have pieces of Santa’s face cut out, laminated, and with magnets attached to the back. After drawing a circle on the board, blindfold students and have them try to place the hat, eyes, nose, mouth, and beard on Santa.
I used this in my small adult night classes. Each student brought a gift, and we practiced part of a Christmas song. Then we held our gifts and stood in a circle. As we sang, we passed the gifts along. When we stopped singing or the song ended, we got to keep the gift that was in our hands. I asked that they choose something simple, like a box of candy or even just a homemade Christmas card. Some of the adults liked sewing, so I got homemade gifts once. Stress that anything is fine and that they should choose something inexpensive.