Socio-historical Foundations of Modern Holiday Celebrations: A Lesson Plan

Hanukkah: History & Traditions

Dr. David Childs, Ph.D.
Northern Kentucky University

With the holiday season upon us, we thought it would be fitting to post another article on the topic of various holiday traditions. Religious pluralism is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society. People are free to practice their religion (Or not) according to their own convictions and not be concerned about repercussions or punishment from the government and or be intimidated by mob rule. Although Christmas is a religious holiday in its origins, it has also come to evolve into many secular traditions. Education World, an online resource for teachers, administrators and school staff, has created a lesson plan for teachers that allow students to explore this very topic, examining the diversity of beliefs and cultural influences that has made Christmas what it is today. Check out this lesson plan entitled Lesson Plan Booster: Surprising Origins of Modern-Day Christmas Traditions. It also allows teachers and students to get a deeper understanding of the historical and cultural background that makes Christmas what it is today. A fun and very informative article for students and the general public, it explores the historical origins of Christmas trees, it examines the significance of the date December 25, Santa Claus and even discusses the historical origins of Rudolph the Red-Nose Reindeer.

Along the lines of religious pluralism and the holiday season, Educator World has also created a lesson plan that teachers can use to teach about the Jewish holiday Hanukkah. The article is entitled Lesson: Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights. The lesson includes ways to teach about the holiday across the curriculum. Here are other articles that shed more light on the holiday tradition of Hanukkah.

Other Resources
Hanukkah in the Classroom: Celebrate the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah with these lesson plans, articles, and teaching ideas

Teaching About the Holidays in Public Schools

Sharing Hanukkah at School

Hanukkah – Teacher Resources

Who Should Teach About Hanukkah and What Should They Be Teaching?


  1. As someone who is aspiring to be a teacher, it’s helpful to have articles like these. Growing up, there was not and diversity when it came to the holidays. Christmas was the main focus and once in a blue moon would Hanukkah be mentioned. It is important to include everyone around the holidays and not just the majority.

  2. Thank you for sharing these online resources for teachers and other professionals in the education field to use to explore this topic on the origins of Christmas and how it has changed over the years. I think this is a great lesson to get the students thinking about how certain holidays and traditions originated as well as why they might be different nowadays. In society today, children do not seem to question why things are the way they are anymore. I hope to spark my students’ interest with a lesson like this one or even the Hanukah one. I hope that my students will learn to be inquisitive and question why things are the way they are. I would like to have a historian day each week where my students can choose a topic out of ones that I provide to learn more about the topic’s origin.

  3. Firstly, this article is very beneficial as a future educator because of the enlightenment it brings on how to approach holidays and cultural diversity within the classroom. I think a lot of times we as a society fall into the mode of not fully expressing our traditions in fear of cultural insensitivity to others. I feel this is especially so in schools today. It doesn’t have to be this way, we can still express holidays, cultural celebrations, and traditions. But, the key and what is most important, is to do so in an inclusive and respectful way.

    For example if you want to talk about Christmas, make sure to point out that not everyone may celebrate this holiday. As a teacher, talk/celebrate other holidays like Hanukkah, Ramadan, and Kwanzaa too. Also, make sure to discuss that not everyone celebrates holidays at all and that is okay too. I don’t think that we need to hide our culture, but we do need to be more inclusive to all cultures and accepting of what is different than our personal customs. I really believe we as a society, and educators especially, can work on not forcing our beliefs onto others by adopting acceptability for all, while also still being respectfully proud the things that make us who we are. It is all simply up to balancing better and having mutual considerations for everyone else.

    Lastly, to tie in what I was talking about above, I think this lesson is a great example of my point. It is inclusive and approached in a way that is tolerate to all. It could also always be modified for even more inclusiveness if need be as well. I like how this lesson teaches about holidays without being bias or forcing any ideologies on anyone.

  4. Over winter break, my Facebook was flooded with pictures of kids celebrating “Christmas” parties at school. I was a substitute teacher on the day before winter break for an elementary school and watched as the “class Christmas party” took place and assisted room moms as needed. All that to say, it got me thinking about the cultural appropriateness of having a Christmas party in the classroom where Christmas may or may not be celebrated in everyone’s homes. Further than that, it got me thinking what I might do differently. The title of this article stuck out to me because of these thoughts I had been having regarding the appropriateness of Christmas celebrations and importance of teaching children about more than just Christmas being filled with gifts and fun and clarifying that Christmas is not the only holiday. This article uses the word “pluralism” as far as the freedoms we have in America to celebrate religious holidays in whatever way. It is important that students are made aware of and taught about not only the socio-historical foundations of various holiday celebrations but also that there is the spoken about pluralism within how you choose to celebrate Christmas. The article and lesson ideas touch on Hanukkah which I believe is a great starting point for launching a unit on the history and cultural applications of various holidays. Students should feel comfortable to be culturally expressive in their classrooms and all students should be equipped with a larger world view and I think teaching on holiday and religious traditions is a good place to start across all grade levels. This article was a great way to get the thinking process started on not only the importance of these things but also how to effectively and appropriately carry them out.

  5. I found this article to be very informative about how teachers can approach the idea of teaching about holidays in the classroom. Everyone has their own traditions for the holidays and I personally think it is a great idea to incorporate those into the class. I have many family members and friends who are not from the United States, so they have many different traditions that are really fun to explore.I will be keeping these resources to use in my own classroom!

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