Critical thinking, Differentiation, Lesson ideas, Listening, Personal and Social Identity, Teaching ideas

6 Authentic cultural activities for exploring Christmas traditions in second language classes

The week before Christmas holidays is usually a busy one in schools, and often a time when students’ attention may wander. There are many Christmas-themed worksheets and quick activities available, but this year my collaboration partner and I have put together a series of stations for our students to explore some cultural aspects of the holiday, as well as some similarities and differences between celebrations in their community and those in France. Using cultural exploration in these activities is a way to incorporate an aspect of the their studies that students should be aware of, but is often not included in textbooks or programs.

These are authentic resources, and are not adapted for a textbook or program. Students who haven’t used authentic resources before may need some guidance, but I have tried to indicate level of difficulty where appropriate. My students often tell me that being able to read or understand authentic resources gives them a sense of pride in their work, and lets them know they are working toward skills they can use in real life situations.

I have added italics to show core language competencies in the first column, and italics to highlight skills tied to BC’s redesigned curriculum in the third column. Although all of these examples are in French, I have included descriptions in English so that these are easily adaptable to other languages. The skills column is meant to be a list of suggestions that can be adapted as activities in a stations format or a whole class activity.



Curricular Skills Used

Students listen to/view information about French Christmas traditions.

  • Les Traditions de Noël françaises is a podcast featuring an authentic speaker describing the sights, sounds and traditions of the season. A longer recording at four and a half minutes, this a good description of Christmas traditions. It is probably best suited for more advanced students, and/or adapted by pausing the recording, asking guiding questions, or creating comprehension questions.
  •  1jour1actu – «Est-ce que tout le monde fête Noël ? » A short animated video (less than 2 minutes) from a news site geared for kids and teens that explains Christmas traditions and their origins in a variety of cultures and countries.
  • « Comment va-t-on fêter Noël à Disneyland Paris ? »  A promotional video with English subtitles, describing the attractions and celebrations visitors can expect at Disneyland Paris this Christmas.
Students can…

  • listen for key words to support understanding
  • identify traditions mentioned
  • summarize the information they hear.
  • express their preferences and opinions regarding the traditions they learn about.
  • compare the cultural traditions they hear about to their own cultural traditions.

Students read information about traditional and modern dishes served at Christmas dinner, and take a closer look at a recipe of their choice.

Students can…

  • express their preferences regarding the recipes and menus included.
  • choose a dish with similarities to something they eat at their family celebrations, and explore similarities and differences.

Students view a Christmas-themed commercial.

  • My favourite commercial (so far) is this one. It’s actually a German commercial translated into French, promoting German supermarket chain Edeka. There is little dialogue (spoken in German, subtitled in French) and it uses strong visual storytelling to convey a message that is very reflective of French cultural traditions in advertising.
  • is an online library of French advertising, and grew out of a French TV show of the same name.
  • This article (in English) provides good information around French culture as reflected in advertising, and similarities and differences between French and American advertising.
Students can…

  • make observations and ask and answer questions regarding the content of the commercial.
  • retell the story shown in the commercial, using a range of tenses.
  • compare cultural similarities and differences in advertising.

Students explore information on Christmas celebrations and events in and around Paris.

Students can follow a variety of links from to find information on activities and events for people of all ages, with a variety of interests, all taking place in and around Paris this Christmas. Content includes text, images, and videos. Students can…

  • compare activities in Paris with activities in their community.
  • express their preferences and opinions on the activities they read about, giving reasons to explain their thinking.

Students explore information on school holidays in France.

This website gives the details on the school calendar and holidays for school-age kids in various regions in France. Students can…

  • compare the dates of school holidays in France with those in their own community.
  • compare the names of the holidays in France to those in their community, and explore the significance or origin of the holidays.
  • think about why there may be a countdown clock on the French website, and discuss possible explanations for this.

Students listen to and view a karaoke style video of a traditional French Christmas carol.

This video is an easy to follow version of « Il est né, le divin enfant », with lyrics for students who like to sing along. Graphics also develop an image throughout the song which helps to explain the meaning of the lyrics. Students can…

  • compare this song to a traditional song in their own culture and explore similarities and differences.
  • explain the central message and identify the theme of the song.
  • compare this song to a more modern Christmas song, and discuss similarities and differences among generations.


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