'Santa Claus' photo (c) 2012, Sam Howzit - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/



Check out my New York Times post: Ideas for English Language Learners | Celebrate the Holidays

ELLs learn about tamales, holiday food traditions and Three Kings Day at my latest holiday-related New York Times Learning Network post. It includes a student interactive and teaching ideas.

Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa are all coming-up, and I thought it would be timely to create a “The Best…” list focusing on those holidays.

The Best Christmas Videos For English Language Learners – Help Me Find More

The Best Resources For Helping Beginner ELLs Learn About Christmas

Few, if any, of this links are really tailored towards “higher-order” or “critical” thinking.  They all pretty much provide “just the facts” about the holidays.  As usual, I couldn’t really find good online resources that help broaden the topic to look at issues like over-consumption or commercialism in an accessible way.   It’s certainly feasible to do so, though, in classroom lessons building off the information learned from the sites on this list.  For example, I’ve had students define what the word “gift” means, and then reflect on what have been the most meaningful gifts that they have given or received.  Students then conclude (truthfully, I hope) that they can’t use the cost of objects to measure their value. I think it’s also worth reading this article called Christmas Curriculum: Unintended Consequences.

Here are my picks for The Best Places To Learn About Christmas, Hanukkah, & Kwanzaa (not in order of preference):


ESL Civics For ESL Students has an accessible Christmas Lesson with nice images and simple text.

The New York Times has a slideshow on how Christmas is celebrated around the world.

The Beacon Learning Center has a nice story about a Christmas Bear.

Here’s a news story from CBBC Newsround about childhood obesity and Christmas. It has audio support for the text.

MES Games has an online Christmas vocabulary learning activity and game.

What’s Christmas without music? The British Council has a Christmas Song.

With the Carol-Maker you can compose a never-heard-before mashup of strange grunts with classic Christmas songs, and email it to a friend (or enemy).

Students can send a this Gingerbread Cookie Card.

Another is the Merry Message from Better Homes and Gardens. Have Santa Claus deliver an audio message either by recording your own voice or by using the text-to-speech feature. Students can then post the link to their message on a blog or website.

Make a snowflake, describe it, and post the link on a student/teacher blog or website.

Scholastic has some nice online Christmas resources.

I’m adding three holiday lessons from ESL Holiday Lessons to this list.  They include both online and hand-out materials and activities.

Renee Maufroid, an English teacher in France, develops a lot of excellent ESL/EFL online activities. His latest is a nice game on The Twelve Days of Christmas.

Here are two listening activities related to Christmas from ELLO.

Here are some more Christmas slideshows from The New York Times:

Ready For Christmas: Preparations Around the World

To Each, A Personal Holiday

A Christmas Superstore

Santa Makes The Rounds

And here are slideshows and sources of general information about the Christmas Tree tradition:

A History of Christmas Trees that is accessible to Intermediate English Language Learners.

A slideshow from The New York Times about the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller Center

Another slideshow on various trees and Christmas Tree farms

Materials about the famous 1914 Christmas Day Truce during World War I seemed to be worth adding to this list.  Here are some:

Social Studies For Kids has a very accessible and short description of the truce.

There are some excellent “music videos” on YouTube showing images with the soundtrack from two good songs about the Truce. Since so many districts block YouTube, you can download them into your laptop and use a converter so it’s viewable at school.

One video features the song “Bellau Wood” and is sung by Garth Brooks. Here are the lyrics. The language is fairly accessible to English Language Learners.

This video has good images and uses a different song called “Christmas In The Trenches.” It’s sung by John McCutcheon, and you can find the lyrics here. The language is a little difficult and “old-fashioned” since it’s taken from a letter written by a soldier who participated in the Truce.

Changing The Present is an effort to encourage giving of charitable gifts over the holidays.

That in itself doesn’t make it stand-out in any major way — there are quite a few other groups with websites that do the same thing.  Changing the Present stands out, however, by two slickly-produced spoofs on typical television commercials that push consumption this time of year. These accessible videos can be excellent points to initiate discussion on the meaning of the holidays with students.

Santa Claus Boy Escape is the latest addition to this list.  It’s an online video game useful for English language-learning, as I’ve described in my article Pointing & Clicking For ESL: Using Video Games To Promote English Language Development.

The creator of the game describes it like this:

“This game is specially developed for Christmas celebration. During the beautiful season,a santa boy is trapped in a stranger’s house. No one is there to help him out. The only way to escape from the house is by using different objects and clues.”

I know it sounds strange, but if your school’s content filter will let it through, it’s a useful and fun game.

Here’s the Walkthrough.

A similar game is called Christmas Gift Escape. Here’s the Walkthrough.

Gatuno in Christmas offers the challenge of helping Gatuno find a gift for a child. Here’s the walkthrough.

The Christmas Fix is another online video game. Here’s the Walkthrough.

A San Francisco Chronicle slideshow about a Holiday Lights Parade…on water.

The Sydney Morning Herald has a slideshow called Lighting-Up For Christmas. It has great images of how people are decorating the outside of their homes during the holiday season.

A Christmas Story slideshow comes from the Las Vegas Sun.

Christmas Around The World is a slideshow from The New York Times.

January 6th  is Three Kings Day.  This holiday is celebrated in many Latino households — often more enthusiastically than Christmas Day.

Here are some resources on Three Kings Day, also known as also known as the Epiphany and El Dia de los Reyes (some of the articles aren’t particularly accessible to English Language Learners, but can be modified by teachers):

Here’s an article in about how retail stores “cash-in” on the tradition.USA

Here are some photos of a Three Kings Celebration in Spain.

The New York TImes has a slideshow of a Three Kings Day parade In Harlem.

The End Of The Christmas Season is a slideshow from The Boston Globe.

Renee Maufroid has created several new Christmas exercises for ELL’s.

Gift of Christmas Escape is an online video game. Here’s the walkthrough.

Interesting Things For ESL Students has a special Things For December page filled with Christmas exercises.

Here are three new resources for English Language Learners from The British Council:

Santa’s Little Helper is a short story.

The Busy Elf is a song.

“Insane Amounts Of Christmas Lights” is a slideshow from TIME Magazine.

8 Spectacular Christmas Light Shows on YouTube
is a fun video collection.

Here are two infographics:

Christmas By The Numbers

Christmas Around The World
is a slideshow from The New York Times.

Christmas 2009 is a series of pictures from The Big Picture.

Here are some Christmas vocabulary exercises from Learning Chocolate.

Beginning to look a lot like Christmas is a series of photos from The Boston Globe’s Big Picture.

Teaching the Holiday Season are lesson plans from The New York Times Learning Network.

Christmas Activities for Young English Learners is a collection from the British Council (thanks to CASLS for the tip).

ESOL Courses has created a massive Christmas resource list

Christmas Celebrations Around The World

You Better Watch Out, You Better Not Cry is an NPR slideshow.

Holidays By The Numbers is an interesting infographic.

Christmas in the Middle East is a slideshow from The Guardian.

Holiday Windows is a video from The New York Times.

Holiday Misgivings is another intriguing infographic.

Christmas At The Zoo

Escape from Santa’s Room is a fun online video game that can be used as a language-learning activity (you can read how I use these kinds of games in this article). Here is its Walkthrough.

Christmas Across the Globe comes from The Big Picture.

Christmas approaches is a photo gallery from The Boston Globe.

Christmas – Links to Free Online ESL Worksheets, Lessons and More is from ESOL Courses.

Ho Ho Hmm. Gun Club Offers Photos With Santa is from NPR.

The 5 Best Toys of All Time is a must-read article from Wired by Jonathan Liu. “Stick” is ranked as number one. I’d also suggest you read his follow-up piece, Get a Kid the 6th Best Toy of All Time. (thanks to Ed Yong for the tip)

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas is a photo gallery from The Atlantic.

Infographic: The Visual History of Christmas Trees (I’m also adding this one to The Best Sites To Learn About Trees).

Christmas trees around the world – in pictures is a slideshow from The Guardian.

Worst Christmas gift ideas – in pictures is from The Guardian.

Horror For The Holidays: Meet The Anti-Santa is from NPR.

Christmas Around The World is a slideshow from ABC in Australia (thanks to Ira Socol for the tip).

Photos: Santa Claus, the Holly, Jolly Stuntman is from TIME.

A look at the legend behind Santa Claus is a slideshow from The L.A. Times.

Santa Timeline: Before he was cheery and chubby is also from The Times.

Best Christmas Movies is from The Huffington Post and includes video clips.

‘What’s Christmas without chopsticks?’ How other faiths celebrate December 25th is a CNN slideshow.

In pictures: Christmas in the Orthodox world is from The BBC.


Apples 4 The Teacher has a simple explanation of the holiday.

Scholastic has some nice online Hanukkah resources.

Here’s another simple explanation of the Hanukkah holiday.

BBC Schools has a good site about Hanukkah, but it’s probably only accessible to advanced English Language Learners.

EL Civics has a Hanukkah Lesson for English Language Learners.

Believe it or not, here’s a Math Game for Hanukkah.

A Menorah Lighting slideshow comes from the Las Vegas Sun.

What is the deal with Hanukkah, anyway? is an infographic that describes the holiday fairly well.

ESL Holiday Lessons has a nice one on Hanukkah.

Hanukkah celebrations around the world – in pictures is from The Guardian.


Hanukkah Lights 2018 is from NPR.


From Umoja to Imani, Kwanzaa has ‘won the hearts and minds of African people around the world’ is from USA Today.

EL Civics for ESL Students has a nice lesson on Kwanzaa.

The History Channel also has resources on Kwanzaa.

Scholastic also has online Kwanzaa resources.

I’m adding a site called American Folklore to this list.  It has many great short stories that would be accessible to English Language Learners, including one section on Holiday Stories and Winter Tales.

Kwanzaa celebrations across the country is a Washington Post slideshow.

Christmas Around the World

From Visually.

Christmas Dinner Across The World

From Visually.

A History of Christmas Trees

From Visually.

The Top 50 Christmas Toys of the Past 100 Years

From Visually.

Advent Calendar For English Students and Kids
is from ESOL Courses.


Kwanzaa - All You Need To Know

From Visually.

Creepy crawly holidays: Nine bugs a-leaping
is a unique interactive infographic from The Washington Post. This is how it is introduced:

The most wonderful time of the year has a dark underbelly: germs, bugs and general ickiness that can travel more quickly than Santa’s sleigh. We’re not trying to give you the willies, just suggesting a few easy ways to prevent problems and make your holidays even happier.

Zoo animals receive Christmas gifts is a slideshow from CBS News.

Stunning Christmas lights is another CBS slideshow.

The British Council has a nice collection of Christmas activities.

Christmas food around the world


Holiday Foods to Avoid (And What To Eat Instead) is a slideshow from TIME.

Christmas Around The World is a well-done classroom project.

Christmas Around The World is a photo gallery from The Atlantic.

The Life Of Christmas Trees, Before The Merriment is a slideshow from NPR.

Here’s another video game: Christmas Eve Escape Game, and here’s its walkthrough.




by Pixaal Eva Buyuksimkesyan has published the 36th ELT Blog Carnival (formerly known as the ESL/EFL/ELL Blog Carnival) and it’s a great one on holiday lessons.


Google’s Santa Tracker has a interactive world map highlighting holiday traditions around the world (thanks to Google Maps Mania for the tip).

Here are two interesting word maps (also found via Google Maps Mania): one showing the word people use for Santa Claus, and the other the word used to describe Christmas.

Here are many good ideas for ELL Christmas lessons from the British Council.

Here are many Christmas-themed interactives from ESOL Courses.

Christmas/Winter Holidays Around the World unit is from Share My Lesson.

Christmas becoming less religious in U.S. is a lesson for ELLs from Breaking News English.

Here are 12 Christmas Infographics.

It’s A Message lets you send a personal holiday message, along with images of snow falling on the address of your choices.

Here’s the EFL Classroom 2.0 Christmas page.

‘How to celebrate Christmas with Technology: 7 ideas& a lesson plan.’ is by Christina Martidou.

An expat Washington Christmas: Antelope and ptarmigan can be tough to find is from The Washington Post.

I wouldn’t say this video is in the “Christmas spirit,” but it would certainly be engaging to ELLs (thanks to Michelle Henry for the tip):



TIME has published an interactive showing the most popular Christmas songs.


Why Tamaladas mean so much to Mexicans

From The Associated Press:

A South Pole Santa known as ‘Pancho Claus’ has become a fixture in Texas cities, bringing a Feliz Navidad to low-income families and at-risk kids. In Houston, it’s Richard Reyes who dons the red suit and fedora to spread holiday cheer.

He wears a sombrero, comes from the South Pole and swaps reindeer for a Harley Davidson and donkeys. That’s right, Pancho Claus is coming to town is from The Mail Online.

Christians Celebrate Across the Globe is a TIME slideshow.

New John Lewis Christmas Ad Is A Good Video For ELLs

Here’s a lesson on the Merry Christmas Mr. Bean video. It’s from EFL Smart.

Ads of the Week: Christmas Ad Special

Christmas dinners from around the world



Celebrating Christmas and the Holidays, Then and Now is from Pew Research.

Santa, Santa, high in the sky is a song from The British Council.

Classroom resources for Christmas is from Oxford University Press.

Here’s an interactive Advent Calender explaining different Christmas symbols.

Two Christmas Activities is from The British Council.

Hanukkah History: Those Chocolate Coins Were Once Real Tips
is from NPR.

The 12 Days Of Quirky Christmas Foods Around The Globe is from NPR.

America’s Christmas Gift Lists, as Seen by Google is from The New York Times.

Teaching English has lots of great holiday lesson ideas for English Language Learners.

Pandora’s Top Christmas Songs: From Mariah Carey to Eartha Kitt is from The New York Times.

Santa Traditions Around the World is from Scientific American.

The 15 artworks that define Christmas – in pictures is from The Guardian.

Christmas from around the world – in pictures
is from The Guardian.

Smithsonian has a collection of holiday music from around the world.

The History of Christmas Decorations

From Visually.

All About the Holidays: Three Videos Exploring Winter Holidays is from PBS

Michelle Henry shared this bizarre video ad for a German supermarket chain. Its weirdness alone will get students engaged to describe verbally and in writing what happens in the commercial:

Santas Around the World is a great interactive from Esri. Thanks to Google Maps Mania for the tip.

50 Holiday Related Activities For The ELT Classroom is from David Deubelbeiss.

Krampus: The Dark Companion of Saint Nick is a photo gallery from The Atlantic.

Krampus: the demonic Santa Claus you haven’t heard about is from Vox.

Hanukkah Holiday Foods Tell A Story About Early Latinos is from NBC News.

7 surprising things everyone should know about Hanukkah is from Vox.

The narration in this video is too fast for most English Language Learners, but would certainly be accessible to language proficient students.

ELT-Cation offers some excellent lesson ideas for English Language Learners.

How to teach … the last Christmas lessons of term is from The Guardian.

Mog’s Christmas Calamity is a lesson from Film-English.

The humor exhibited in this Darth Santa spoof would be a big hit for teenage boys who are English Language Learners, and I suspect others would enjoy it, too (note that there are a few seconds showing him drinking). Students can watch it and describe verbally and writing what they saw.

Beyond Panettone: 5 Global Christmas Breads To Nibble On is from NPR.

All The Ways Christmas Tries To Kill You is from Five Thirty Eight.

Nativity Cat is from The Atlantic.

What American Muslims Do On Christmas: New Traditions Emerge is from NPR.

Twinkling Lights Spread Holiday Cheer Around the World is a photo gallery from NBC News.

My Mexican-American Christmas: Posadas, Piñatas and Pastorelas is also from NBC News.

Christmas in America: Over the Top, Close to the Heart is an unusual photo gallery from The New York Times.

A Christmas Economy Thrives All Year in the Mountains of Mexico is also from The NY Times.

How Kentucky Fried Chicken became Japan’s favorite Christmas tradition is from Vox.

NASA can see your Christmas lights from space is also from Vox.

Unusual Christmas Traditions From Around The World

Christmas Traditions from Around the World

The Many Faces Of Santa is from The Week.

Martin Luther King’s Last Christmas Sermon

AP EXPLAINS: What is Boxing Day and how did it get its name?

Boxing Day, explained is from Vox.

On Three Kings Day, New Yorkers Celebrate with Beloved Parade is from NBC News.

Becoming Santa is a photo gallery from The Boston Globe.

Discovering the magic of Three Kings Day, from Puerto Rico to the US is from Quartz.

Simple & Fun Lesson For ELLs Of All Ages: Writing & Recording A Letter To Santa Claus

Christmas Gift-Bringers of Europe

Here’s a little something for you – a holiday season activity is a lesson from ELT Stories.

Chat with a SantaBot

TED-Ed has released a new lesson and video on “Why do we kiss under mistletoe?”

Of course, I’d also brace myself for adolescent reaction to anything related to kissing.

Let it Glow! Christmas Lights Shine Across the World is from NBC News.

Parrandas, Posadas, ‘Burning the Devil’: Fun Latino Holiday Traditions is from NBC News.

Seeing Santa in Black and White is from The New York Times.

After dismal year, many Muslims look to Christmas for joy is from McClatchy News.

Santa rides a camel? How the rest of world celebrates the holidays is from The Washington Post.

Christmas: What do I need to know? is an interactive from The BBC.

Christmas around the world is a CNN photo gallery.

Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is a photo gallery from The Atlantic.

Essay: This Christmas, We’ll Leave Santa Mochi and Dumplings is from NBC News.

Christmas meals around the world is from The Week.

A New Christmas Tradition: Take a Walk? is from The NY Times.

Kwanzaa Was Started 50 Years Ago. Here’s Why is from TIME.

The Surprising Story of Christmas in the United States is from TIME.

20 of the Most Joyful Christmas Photos of All Time is from TIME.

A Christmas lesson plan is for ELL students and is from All at C.

This Is What Christmas Dinner Looks Like In 19 Different Countries is from BuzzFeed.

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas is a photo collection from The Atlantic.

Colors of the season is a similar set of photos from The Boston Globe.

Pictures of Christmas Past is from The Atlantic.

20 Traditional Gift-Giving Superstitions is from Mental Floss (thanks Michelle Henry!)

I’m Dreaming Of A (Black And Brown And Native And) White Christmas is from NPR.


Happy Holidays: Seasonal Suggestions for What to Read, Watch, Write About, Create and Debate is from The New York Times Learning Network.

This is what Christmas dinner looks like in 20 countries around the world is from The Telegraph.

Live from the North Pole: what’s new at Santa’s Village is from Google.

What Christmas traditions look like around the world is from The Washington Post.

Here’s a little something for you – a holiday season activity is from ELT Stories.

A Latin American Christmas Tradition Takes On New Meaning Along The Border is from NPR.

Photos of Krampus is from The Atlantic.

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas is a photo collection from the Atlantic.

From Japan to Russia to the U.S., a look at Santas around the world is from The Washington Post.

I’d certainly be interested in hearing other suggestions, so please feel free to leave them in the comments section.

If you found this post useful, you might want to look at previous “The Best…” lists and also consider subscribing to this blog for free.