Winter Holidays & Traditions in Spanish Class

teaching winter holidays in spanish class lesson ideas

Teaching Winter Holidays

The months of December and January can be awkward schedule-wise due to holidays, final exams, etc., but they are the perfect time to incorporate some exciting cultural lessons in your classes! There are a variety of winter holidays you can address in Spanish class to target the various Spanish-speaking cultures around the world. The following are a few ideas!

1. La Navidad

Because many Spanish-speaking countries have a significant Catholic / Christian population, Christmas is celebrated widely in these areas. You can teach your students about some popular Christmas traditions such as special church services, nativity scene displays, traditional Christmas food and drink, popular Christmas carols and more!

2. Las Posadas

A common Christmas-related celebration in Mexico is Las Posadas, which takes place over nine evenings from Dec 16-24. The idea is to commemorate Mary and Joseph’s journey looking for a place to stay (hence, posadas) before Jesus’s birth. Each evening, groups of individuals process from home to home singing songs until arriving at a certain house in which they are welcomed with prayer, song, food, drink and piñatas.

3. El Año Nuevo

There are a variety of New Year’s traditions that can be fun to teach students! In Spain, Madrid’s Puerta del Sol fills up with people celebrating the new year and participating in the consumption of 12 grapes to mark each chime of the clock at midnight. I’ve had students reenact this with 12 mini marshmallows and it’s a hit! Colombians can be found celebrating by running around the block with an empty suitcase to represent a new year of travel and good, new experiences. Other countries may celebrate by throwing a bucket of water out the window or viewing fireworks!

4. El Día de los Reyes Magos

Many Spanish-speaking countries, again due to the strong religious population, celebrate el Día de Reyes on January 6th in honor of the visit the Three Wise Men made to baby Jesus. You might consider teaching students about the traditions surrounding food, gift-giving, leaving out shoes and sharing the Rosca de Reyes.  

5. Día/Noche de las Velitas

Colombia celebrates this candle-lighting tradition on December 7th! Candles are lit all over the country in honor of the Virgin Mary to mark the start of the holiday season! This is also in connection to the Immaculate Conception, celebrated in many communities around the world on Dec 8.

6. And More!

While many of the aforementioned holidays are Christian-based due to the prominent Catholic and Christian populations in these countries, other winter holidays your students may be familiar with, or celebrate themselves, such as Hanukkah, Chinese New Year & Diwali are also acknowledged in many Spanish-speaking countries! They may not be as widespread as the other winter holidays, but there is value in presenting some of these holidays and traditions to build connections within your classroom community as well.

Culturally-Rich Activity Ideas for Students

Looking to engage your students in the variety of cultural traditions surrounding these winter holidays? Here are some activity ideas:

  • share an article & discuss or follow-up with comprehension questions
  • teach on a tradition and have students compare to their own culture/community
  • have students engage in the “12 uvas” tradition with a cup of 12 mini marshmallows
  • share a video on one of the traditions and have students note 3 Ps of culture (products, practices, perspectives)
  • have students research or read about a tradition and share in small groups (jigsaw style)
  • share in infographic related to one of the holidays and have students determine what they can comprehend based on cognates and visual cues
  • have more advanced students create a convincing commercial, radio bit or song to promote one of the holidays

Ready-to-use Lessons

Don’t have the time but want your students to learn more about winter holidays through culturally-rich lessons? Check out the winter holidays webquests (beginner & intermediate levels) and the 5-day AP mini unit on winter holidays! These resources are ready to print and use in your next class. Enjoy diving in to all these fun winter holidays with your students!

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