Holidays around the world are plentiful, especially in the month of December. The Interfaith Calendar lists 14 religious holidays celebrated in December alone. This is a great month to provide opportunities to your students to learn about cultures, traditions and holidays around the world.
How Do I Teach Holidays Around the World?
For years many classrooms focused on Christmas in the US, and only mentioned other holidays as a footnote. It’s super easy to change this, and you should! In my classroom, we learn about many holidays in many ways. We don’t focus on a single holiday in particular. This blog post gives in-depth details to how I teach Holidays Around the World.
Books for Holidays Around the World
I’ve placed my favorite books for teaching holidays around the world into categories by holiday, so if you’re seeking resources for a particular one you can find them more easily. So without further ado, here are the 15 most amazing books for teaching holidays around the world!
- Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Hanukkah with Light, Latkes and Dreidels by National Geographic Kids. This book’s colorful photographs and kid-friendly facts and information make this a staple in my classroom for both read alouds and in the student library.
- Hanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel. This adorable fiction story shows how Bubba Brayna, who doesn’t see or hear well, mistakes a bear for her rabbi and invited him in for Hanukkah celebrations. When the rabbi shows up later and all the latkes are gone, they figure out what actually happened.
- Happy Hanukkah Dot Markers Activity Book: This is a fun way to incorporate Hanukkah symbols, traditions and items into a fun station or Fun Friday activity.
- Holidays Around the World: Celebrate Kwanzaa by National Geographic Kids. Another NGK book with great photographs and easy language for students, it’s a wonderful resource for reading aloud and letting students explore independently.
- Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis. This story uses the Nguzo Saba, or Seven Principles of Kwanzaa in this tale of African brothers whose father passes away, leaving an unusual will: the brothers must use seven spools of thread to make gold before sundown, or they will be turned out as beggars.
- My First Kwanzaa by Karen Katz. This book has beautiful illustrations and kid-friendly language and definitions throughout. My students love using this book as art inspiration in the art station because of its colorful illustrations.
This is my favorite category of books because they help to focus on the themes behind the holidays like light, kindness, and warmth. It’s so eye-opening for students to explore the depths of celebrations behind the holidays themselves! Here are my favorites for this category:
- Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World by Heather Conrad. This book is perfect for holidays around the world because it explores so many of them! It focuses on the theme of light, which is a perfect inquiry line.
- Celebrations Around the World: The Fabulous Celebrations You Won’t Want to Miss by Katy Halford. The amazingly colorful multicultural illustrations in this book add so much to the tales! This book takes students on adventures around the world to celebrate many holidays.
- A Ticket Around the World by Natalia Diaz. This book doesn’t focus solely on winter holidays, but I felt compelled to include it! This book is about a boy who travels around the world and visits other children and shares in their celebrations. It’s so fun for my kiddos to read about other kids celebrating. It really ramps up their engagement!
- What Do You Celebrate? Holidays and Festivals Around the World by Whitney Stewart. This book is not just about winter holidays, but I had to include it because it’s a book I use all year long. There are many countries and various celebrations that happen throughout the year. This is a great way to keep the conversation going even when December is over!
Christmas Around the World
These books feature the different ways that Christmas is celebrated throughout the world. Not everyone leaves cookies out for Santa, or even has a Santa! My kiddos love seeing the different iterations of “Santa” every year.
- A World of Cookies for Santa by M.E. Furman. This adorable book details what children leave out for “Santa” in other countries around the world, such as sweet potato cookies or even ginger tea.
- Joy to the World! Christmas Around the World by Kate Depalma. This book details Christmas in 13 different countries. Beautiful illustrations with multicultural characters.
- Christmas is Coming: Traditions from Around the World by Monika Utnik-Strugala. This book answers a lot of the questions elementary kids tend to have. Why do we decorate trees? Who invented the first glass ornament? This books is packed with legends and stories from around the world. It’s a great way to explore why holidays are celebrated the way that they are.
I hope you enjoy exploring the world this month as much as I do! It’s so enlightening for kids to see that the whole world does not do things the same way. Some kiddos really have no concept that there are traditions outside of their own!
So to finish up, I wanted to share some of my other resources that I use each year. I created this Digital Holidays Around the World activity pack last year during distance learning. However, I still plan to use it this year for whole group instruction to share some fun facts and images. I also wrote this blog post detailing exactly how I do Holidays Around the World in the month of December.