Holidays: Inspiration for Teaching about Cultures and Diversity

By Monika Salita
@monikasalita or About Monika

les 3 graces, the xmas tree, and l'opera :)No matter which cultural background you come from, each one is brimming with holidays throughout the year that can serve as great teaching tools with which to teach about a culture, its history and diversity.

Major holiday celebrations on the docket in December for many people around the world include Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and the arrival of the new year. With these winter holidays alone, one can teach about an important Jewish holiday tradition, Christmas traditions from around the world, and heritage celebrations, with the people and objects involved in many stories serving  as vocabulary sources.

It is important to consider the background of your students, to make sure that no one is uncomfortable with these lessons, as the goal is to learn about and discuss different cultures and traditions and not religions, which could make some students feel defensive.

Ice skating rink in MontpellierThe idea of a “white Christmas” can be a fun concept to explore for students living in warm climates of the southern hemisphere. Also, comparing Christmas cultures from around the world can be a great way for students to broaden their cultural horizons, especially if they have not yet spent long amounts of time studying other cultures.

For younger students, many of the hyperlinked lessons provide fun, interactive learning activities, while the older students may enjoy a discussion more.  One idea includes breaking the classroom into groups, assigning each group a holiday tradition from a specific culture, having the small group creatively describe the cultural tradition, and then having the rest of the class guess the culture or tradition in question. As an end result, this activity can highlight cultural differences from around the world, yet it should also show many cultures’ similarities, not in how things are celebrated but rather why they are celebrated.

As the year progresses, the United States for example has many other holidays, which can not only teach about U.S. traditions but also a holiday’s roots in history, (such as Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and Independence Day) or linkage to another culture (such as Thanksgiving or St. Patrick’s Day). Again, various holidays from the teacher’s native culture compared against holidays of the
students’ native culture can be exciting ways to teach another culture’s history and diversity.

Here is wishing everyone many happy holidays ahead!


I adored teaching English in beautiful Montpellier, France during the 2008-09 academic year. I am an avid learner and have finished two professional certificates in public relations and social media technologies.