Looking to bring the holiday spirit to your elementary classroom? Jump into these festive winter texts about the holidays traditions from around the world.
Winter is a season of plenty of holidays around the world, making it a great time to read stories about tradition, family, and celebrations. The CommonLit library is home to plenty of winter holiday stories to engage your students. Our digital literacy program comes with tools that will help students build reading comprehension and reach benchmark ELA standards.
“The Hanukkah Candle” by Samantha Beal (3rd grade)
Set during World War II, this story follows a young girl, Atara, and her mother as they celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah. As chaos from the war unfolds around her, Atara tries to keep the menorah lit.
Develop deeper reading comprehension skills and prepare students for upcoming reading assessments by assigning Assessment Question 1, “What is a theme of the story?” Thematic analysis is a key skill for young readers, and will help students create stronger text-to-self connections.
“The Lights of Saint Lucia” by Sara Matson (3rd grade)
Saint Lucia Day is a festival of light celebrated on December 13, most commonly in Sweden. In this sweet story, sisters Eva and Britta must make the difficult choice between attending a friend’s birthday party or celebrating the holiday with their family.
This is a great story about honoring family traditions. Start a class discussion about the topic by asking Discussion Question 1, “In the story, Eva and Britta usually take part in the Saint Lucia Day traditions together. Why is spending time with family on holidays important? Describe a holiday that is special to you and your family and how you celebrate together.”
“The Sun Stands Still” by Josephine Cameron (4th grade)
This story focuses on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, which falls on December 21st. The winter solstice is Izzie’s favorite day of the year. It has always been a special day that she spends with her grandfather, who recently passed away. In this story, Izzie learns how to honor her grandfather by celebrating the holiday.
Pair this story with the text, “All Saints’ Day at Night” by Linda Rae Apolzon from the Paired Texts tab. Ask students to discuss the way the main characters in “All Saints’ Day at Night” and “The Sun Stands Still” both take part in a special tradition as a way to remember a loved one who passed away. How does a special tradition in both stories help to keep the memory of their grandfathers alive?
“It’s Time to Celebrate Hanukkah” by Carol Gordon Ekster (4th grade)
In this delightful poem, the speaker shares about ways to celebrate Hanukkah. This is a great text to teach students literary devices like onomatopoeia and repetition, as well as how authors use the five senses to create imagery.
Engage students in discussion about the holidays they celebrate with Discussion Question 3, “Why is it valuable to learn about holiday traditions that you may not celebrate? What is a holiday or tradition that you celebrate that you would like people to learn more about?”
“A Fishy Christmas” by Charlotte Blessing (4th grade)
This short story follows a young boy named Walter and his family as they prepare for Christmas. His family recently moved to Zanzibar, where Christmas is not usually celebrated. When the father of Walter’s friend is late to return from his fishing expedition, Walter and his family spring into action to find him in time for the holiday celebration.
Engage students in the theme of experiencing life in a new country and culture by pairing this text with “Sweetened Condensed Milk” from the Paired Texts tab. How does Ishmael in “Sweetened Condensed Milk” adjust to life on the island of Trinidad? What does Walter from “A Fishy Christmas” find challenging about living in Zanzibar? What do both characters miss about their lives in the United States, and how are they able to overcome these feelings of being homesick?
CommonLit also offers a Target Lesson for this text: “Identifying Theme and Summarizing With ‘A Fishy Christmas’.” Target Lessons are highly-engaging skills-driven lessons that focus on a key grade-level aligned skill. In this lesson, students will work on identifying the theme of a text and summarizing a story while reading “A Fishy Christmas.”
“Giving Thanks for Hanukkah” by Debra Hess (5th grade)
In this informational text about Hanukkah, Hess discusses why the holiday falls on a different date every year. Hess describes how the Jewish calendar works, and what the holiday means regardless of the day it falls on.
To continue learning about Hanukkah, show the video “What is Hanukkah?” from the Related Media tab. Ask students, “How does the text’s description of what Hanukkah celebrates compare to the video’s description? What are common ways to celebrate Hanukkah described in the video?”
“All of Spain Celebrates Three Kings’ Day” by Natacha Sanz-Caballero (5th grade)
Three Kings’ Day, also known as Epiphany Day, is a Christian holiday celebrated on January 6th. The holiday celebrates a biblical story, in which Baby Jesus is born and visited by kings. This text describes the traditions and festivities that accompany the holiday’s celebration in Spain.
As students learn about holidays celebrated by different people and cultures, promote critical thinking about the role that holidays play in our communities by asking Discussion Question 2, “How does Three Kings' Day bring people together? Describe a holiday that you celebrate that brings your family or community together.”
“Wishing for Christmas” by Kristi Harris (5th grade)
During the Great Depression, Shirley’s family is struggling to make ends meet. Shirley is hopeful that despite their troubles, her family will still be able to celebrate Christmas with presents and a tree.
After reading, engage students in a class discussion about the true meaning of holidays – are they important because of gifts or because of the people you spend them with? Ask students Discussion Question 1, “Do you agree with Shirley that you have to have a Christmas tree and presents in order to celebrate Christmas? Why or why not?”
“Gingerbread Houses” by Marybeth Tew (5th grade)
In this informational text, Tew discusses how people have created imaginative structures with gingerbread over the years. The text highlights how gingerbread was brought from the Middle East or Asia to Europe. Tew also discusses the towns in Norway and America that have gingerbread-building traditions.
This is a perfect lesson to help students practice identifying main ideas of a text. As students read, they can take notes on the main ideas. Then, ask them to answer Assessment Question 5: “How do paragraphs 6-7 connect to the main idea of the text?” If your students struggle with identifying main ideas, assign them a Target Lesson to practice this skill.
Looking for more poems and short stories about winter? Check out our CommonLit library to find more great texts about the season, or check out our Winter Wonderland Webinar for reading lesson ideas and tips!
If you’re interested in learning all about CommonLit’s free online reading program, join one of our upcoming informational webinars!