Learn about Christmas around the world for kids while playing board games, creating paper dolls, and colouring pages!
Holidays are a great opportunity to have fun and create special memories, which also makes them an excellent learning opportunity. After all, we all learn better when we enjoy ourselves and when our learning seems pertinent to the moment.
That’s why, every year as November changes into December, my kids and I have a few weeks of Christmas learning. It includes baking, crafting, writing letters, and other similar activities, but we have one more favourite topic to explore. It is Christmas around the world for kids!
Did you know that in Iceland, children get presents from a mischievous gang of thirteen trolls known as the Yule Lads? That’s a gift a day for thirteen days! But children only get the present if they are good, so that sets some expectations.
In Catalonia, a region of Spain, things get even more interesting, as the presents are delivered by Tió de Nadal, a log of wood who supposedly poops them out after being beaten with a stick.
We also talk about other winter holidays celebrated in connection with Christmas or instead of Christmas. For example, in Western Europe, Saint Nicholas comes and brings presents at the beginning of December. Saint Nicholas is among the predecessors of Santa Claus, so it is always interesting to mention him when we discuss Christmas traditions around the world.
Even more fascinating are his companions in different countries. My favourite one is Krampus, a half-goat and half-demon known for punishing misbehaving children. Surprisingly, this questionable fame earned him parades in many Alpine towns. I don’t think I’d want to be a kid believing in such a monster, but my kids get a lot of giggles out of his over-the-top scariness.
In other words, Christmas around the world is a thrilling subject to explore! There are all these unique creatures of various mythological origins, there is a selection of fascinating traditions, and there is, of course, the overarching topic of diversity and multiculturalism.
Exploring how familiar rituals are conducted worldwide is one of my favourite ways of studying geography with kids. Winter holidays, including Christmas, give many interesting questions for discussion, such as “Who brings presents in this area?” or “Which day do people consider the focus of festivities?” While studying Christmas around the world for kids, I hope that we all learn something even more critical than those facts – something like open-mindedness and tolerance.
Christmas Around the World for Kids Lesson Plan
Every year, I made a new activity on the subject, and eventually, they have come together into a whole unit study – Christmas Around the World for Kids.
While it has Christmas in its title, it really is about a variety of winter celebrations that revolve around a particular character – or a set of characters – who bring the festive spirit along with a bag of presents for children.
Using the Christmas Around the World for Kids lesson plan, you could learn about:
- Saint Nicholas, who is considered one of the direct predecessors of Santa Claus, and his various helpers: Krampus (Austria, Belgium, Germany, and other Alpine regions), Knecht Ruprecht (Germany), and Sooty Piet (Belgium and Netherlands)
- Slavic gift-bringers, who usually come on New Year and bring their extended families along, but behave like Santa Claus in many other ways: Grandfather Frost and his granddaughter Snow Maiden (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus), Uvlin Uvgun and his grandchildren Snow Girl and New Year Boy (Mongolia), Tovlis Papa (Georgia)
- Biblical characters, whose origin story came from Christianity, but who might now have a story of their own, such as the Three Kings (Spain, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, and others), Befana the witch (Italy), Christkind (Austria, Germany, Switzerland, and others), and Saint Lucia (Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Italy, and others)
- Other mythological characters, who are largely associated with regional mythology (those are my personal favourites – they’re the quirkiest ones!), such as the gnome Julenisse/Jultomten (Scandinavian countries), the 13 trolls known as Yule Tide Lads (Iceland), the fairy Tante Arie (a mountainous region in France), the mysterious Olentzero (the Basque country in France/Spain), and, of course, the pooping log Tió de Nadal (Catalonia and Aragon in Spain).
Inside the Christmas Around the World for Kids bundle, you will find an information sheet about each character, as well as a colouring page and a paper doll. A couple of card games which are both fun and educational come as a festive conclusion, and the Christmas Around the World for Kids lesson plan outlines a progression for how to use the materials in the most sensible order.
And that’s the Christmas Around the World for Kids bundle, which combines all the Christmas activities and makes a good unit study. But if you want to just do one or two activities, you will find all of the individual projects and – more! – below.
Christmas Around the World Activities
Our family’s favourite activity is the Christmas Guess Who game. It introduces players to twenty winter gift-bringers from around the world. It is a game of deduction, similar to the traditional Guess Who Game, but instead of appearances, players focus on their attributes – what countries they visit, what mode of transportation they use, whether they leave a present or not, and so on. Christmas Guess Who is easy to set up and a ton of fun to play. If there were just one activity I needed to choose to introduce Christmas around the world for kids, I’d go with this game.
On the topic of choosing only one activity, my second choice would be the Christmas trivia game. While the Christmas Guess Who was made for two players (with special rules for bigger groups), the Christmas Trivia game can be played in a family, a big group or a classroom. It’s quite flexible!
Christmas Trivia may not sound thrilling, but my children love these trivia games! They are particular favourites with my 6-year-old daughter. There are two types of questions (easier multiple-choice or true-or-false questions and more difficult open-ended questions), so it is possible to play with various levels of knowledge. My children cheer when they get things right and learn something new when they don’t.
The focus of this particular trivia game is on Christmas around the world for kids, as well as the history of Christmas. By the way, the game works great as stocking stuffers or little presents!
If you want a quick and free activity, I made conversation starters based on the topic of Christmas around the world for kids. Each conversation starter card includes interesting facts about the winter holidays and a related personal question!
As an educator, you can start your day by asking your students a question or two. If you are a parent or a grandparent, you can discuss these questions at meal times or on car rides. Besides promoting learning, these cards can inspire some fascinating discussions.
If your children are fond of learning through crafts, Christmas paper dolls will be just the thing. There are twenty paper dolls portraying winter holiday characters from around the world: from Santa Claus to Saint Nicholas, from Snow Maiden to Befana.
In addition to the costume, each doll comes with an information card that tells the story of its character in a nutshell.
Do you like art but want something quicker and easier to put together than paper dolls? We’ve got a set of posters and colouring pages that illustrate Christmas around the world for kids.
You can get a free poster and colouring page featuring thirteen prominent characters.
Individual posters and colouring pages of the 20 Christmas characters are available as well. The posters tell the story of each character, and the colouring pages have comprehension questions to answer.
For more creative writing, try the free pack of Christmas-themed writing prompts. While it focuses on general questions, there are a couple of pages introducing the topic of Christmas around the world. For instance, one of the prompts explains how to do a Venn diagram comparing Santa Claus and Grandfather Frost and suggests that students compare two other characters.
Learn More About Christmas Around the World for Kids
All of the crafts and activities above can be used by themselves. Many of them have all the informational material necessary, and the complete Christmas Around the World pack includes a comprehensive lesson plan that outlines how to sequence all the activities.
If you prefer books, The Atlas of Christmas: The Merriest, Tastiest, Quirkiest Holiday Traditions from Around the World would make one useful addition to your library! As stated in its name, it features stories of quirky traditions from all over the world. It is very informative and suitable for family reading, but it doesn’t have a whole lot of pictures.
Christmas Is Coming: Traditions from Around the World is another great resource on the topic, while slightly shorter than my previous recommendation, it is written with children in mind and features more pictures.
More Christmas Crafts
Build a paper Christmas village for your mantle with our printable templates! If you look carefully, there is Julenisse peaking from one of the houses.
Are you as fond of Krampus as we are? The kids and I made these felt Krampus ornaments a few years ago, and the post includes our patterns.
Make stained glass Christmas suncatchers with kids! All you need is black glue (elmer’s glue+black acrylic paint) and sharpies.
Thanks for reading!