ESL Library is now Ellii!

Unsupported Browser

Ellii may not function properly in Internet Explorer. We recommend using Google Chrome or Firefox instead.

Unsupported Browser

Ellii may not function properly in older browsers. We recommend updating yours to the latest version for the best experience.

Inclusive Festivities: How to Value Every Learner's Holidays

December 5, 2022

In many countries, December is a month of festivities. There’s Christmas, Chanukah, New Year's, and Kwanzaa to be celebrated, and undoubtedly some I’ve missed.

I teach multicultural classes in the largest college in Scotland. My learners get two weeks off for their winter break, which is traditionally based around Christmas and New Year's. Their spring holidays are also scheduled around Easter.

However, many of my learners do not celebrate these events, so it’s important to make the holidays as inclusive as possible. Here are a few different ways I like to promote inclusivity in the classroom during the festive season.

Use holiday-inclusive language

Using the terms "winter" and "spring" is one way to help everyone feel ownership towards the holidays. Ask your students which winter holidays or spring holidays they like to celebrate at home. 

Introduce students to different holidays and celebrations

Most of my learners are new(ish) to Scotland and are curious about the celebrations. They often ask for themed lessons when it comes to Christmas, Valentine’s, Easter, and Halloween. Introducing and exploring one festival can be a great way to start discussions on special events that are important to them.

For example, in this Christmas lesson, you could ask learners to consider what vocabulary or items they associate with their own celebrations.

You could refer to other Ellii Holidays & Events lessons or flashcards when you do this. They have a comprehensive bank for almost every holiday imaginable—Holi, Nauruz, Diwali, Bastille Day, Waitangi, Cinco de Mayo, Lunar New Year, etc.

Here’s some vocabulary practice from the Ramadan lesson:

Encourage students to share how they celebrate different events

As with any "cultural" lessons, I always add the caveat that everyone celebrates in their own personal way.

For example, at Christmas, the menu doesn’t always include turkey, nor does every household decorate a tree. I do neither of those things, though I do visit my family and give small gifts.

I love asking my learners to discuss how they celebrate different events in their own unique ways. This gives them an opportunity to consider individual differences. It also provides an opportunity for them to share their own holidays with the rest of the class.

Of course, some of my learners have lived in Scotland for so long that they have adopted some of the traditions.

I know many people of different religions who receive gifts from Santa, find the biggest tree possible, and couldn’t possibly celebrate December 25 without a turkey. This all makes for delightfully rich class discussions.

Ideas for teaching about holiday inclusivity year round 

You don't need to wait for December to start sharing holidays and celebrations in class. Creating an atmosphere of cross-cultural curiosity allows students to learn about the world whenever it naturally comes up in discussions. 

Here are a few ideas to help you support learners to share their own celebrations, no matter the time of year:

  • Ask them to bring in an item that's important for one of their holidays. Give them time to talk about it and encourage the other learners to ask questions.
  • Host a food event! Ask learners to bring food they eat on special days. Facilitate discussion.
  • Create a class calendar of events. Ask students to add their special days.
  • Watch a film, video, or documentary about their special events. Facilitate discussions. 

Related resources 

Share your thoughts

How do you make teaching about holidays and special events inclusive? Share your comments below! We’d love to hear from you.


Not an Ellii member?

Get unlimited access to 1,000+ lessons and 3,000+ flashcards.

Sign Up

Comments (3)

Edge E.(Teacher)

Thank you for your thoughtful ideas. On one of my attempts to be inclusive, I had a startling result. I used some of the Ramadan materials as well as my own worksheets and readings with my predominantly Muslim class. They had little interest in the lessons! I quickly realized that while I was using a high interest topic to try to teach more English, the students had neither desire nor need to discuss their celebrations in English. I work with entry level literacy students. I definitely learned something from the experience.

Reply to Comment

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks for sharing your experience with this! I too would have been startled by that result. I found that my students loved talking about their countries' holidays, but my classes were always mixed. Maybe the students liked sharing their traditions with each other because they were so varied, unlike what would happen in a class that was mostly from the same country, religion, etc. It's definitely food for thought!

Leave a Comment

Log In to Comment Reply

Comment Reply as a Guest
  • **bold**_italics_> quote

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    Thinking of joining Ellii?

    Complete this form to create an account and stay up to date on all the happenings here at Ellii.