So maybe your lessons are a little less academic this time of year, and that works. Instead of being tempted to hit “pause” on the education button, let Christmas become your education.

You can investigate all kinds of interesting, seasonal topics that your children will no doubt remember for years to come. Christians celebrate Christmas in a variety of ways in the U.S. alone. Your school can look at how different parts of our country celebrate (snowy regions vs. warmer regions, for example). But why not go bigger and look at Christmas around the world!

The Christmas holidays can be an opportune time to draw in a multitude of topics and interests and even create your own unit study. I started brainstorming and came up with all sorts of topics to search, and while I can tell you what I found, it would be more fun to point you in the direction and see what you and your kiddos find when you get curious and search out your library or online for these subjects related to Christmas:

  • Foods/feasts (cookies!)
  • Celebrations/parades
  • Arts/crafts (ornaments)
  • Geography, what countries celebrate Christmas? Those who don’t, do they have other celebrations in December?
  • Decorations (indoor/outdoor), trees or no trees? lights or no lights?
  • Songs/music/caroling (learn a song in another language)
  • Nativities around the globe
  • Church services & how they vary (inside/outside)
  • Greed/gratitude around the world
  • Economics – spending increases this time of year & the effects later on, or even look at the homeless, or very poor countries & what they do at Christmas
  • Other religions’ celebrations
  • Gift giving differences (amount spent, types of gifts, only for children, no gifts)
  • What do U.S. soldiers do at Christmas time around the world? What would that be like?
  • What can you do for them?
  • Traditions (and their origins)
  • Secular celebrations (and their origins)
  • Symbols of Christmas (origins)
  • How climate affects the way people celebrate
  • How other languages wish each other “Merry Christmas” & “God Bless”
  • Traditional Christmas clothing
  • Christmas during war time around the world (historically)
  • Look for funny or unusual Christmas traditions around the globe
  • Different versions of St. Nicolas/Father Christmas/Santa Claus

That should get you started! Once you have done your research, then what? Get busy, of course! Try making some of the foods; compare your own family traditions to other cultures; make crafts to give as gifts and write a little note about where it came from; come up with a new family tradition inspired by what you found in your search!

You can also start with your own family. What countries/cultures are in your background? What are the origins of your own family’s traditions? Another approach: choose 10 (or so) countries that you have studied this past year and go through them alphabetically. Come up with a scavenger hunt using cultural clues from Christmases around the world. Make a passport to go with it! You might even be inspired to do a service project this time of year. Be sure to include America in your projects!

You can make some sort of binder or portfolio of all the material you found. Create a lapbook or even a scrapbook to pull out and add to each December, or just as a keepsake. This could become a wonderful unit study for your family – and maybe your new family tradition!