Do you celebrate Holidays Around the World in your classroom? In my first few years of teaching, I didn’t realize how valuable this unit was. Over time, as I built relationships with students + learned more about their families and backgrounds, I realized all of the traditions were celebrated in homes that we should be sharing in our classroom! So many of these traditions were a huge part of each kiddo. While I may not have a student who celebrates each of these different holidays or Christmas traditions each year, it is so important to expose our students to different cultures and create global citizens. And how fun to be able to use these wonderful mentor texts to do so?! Here are my 13 favorite Holidays Around the World books that perfectly pair with any unit! If you stick around until the end, there is a freebie for you there!! You can click on the title of any book and it will take you to that book (affiliate link). Also, I have a reading comprehension unit that uses all of these books if you are looking for one that you can grab here!
Christmas in the United States
These two boys pair so perfectly together. The Carpenter’s Tree is the absolutely beautiful story of a young boy and his family during The Great Depression. He and his father head to the city to sell Christmas trees to hopefully make money to help their family survive the winter. While there, they make new friends with the Rockefeller tree workers. Acts of kindness are exchanged and the same workers show up at their house on Christmas Day to help rebuild their family home. The story comes full circle when the young boy plants a pinecone from the original trees, which one day becomes the new Rockefeller Tree. You can’t read this book without joy in your heart! And what better text to pair it with than Everybody’s Tree. The simple story of a tree in a large city that everyone gets to enjoy. Students can make inferences + connections between the two. And I love using them both for summarizing skills!
Christmas in Latin America
These two books pair perfectly together to learn about Christmas traditions in Latin America. I love starting with a geography lesson for students to understand what is Latin America! Then, we read ‘Twas Nochebuena which follows a family as they prepare to host a night filled with Latino traditions. They make tasty tamales and hang colorful adornos (decorations) on the walls. Together they sing festive canciones (songs) while sipping champurrado (hot chocolate). I love the dual language text in this traditional story. Next, we read Too Many Tamales The story of a young girl who loses a very treasured item while making a huge batch of tamales with her family. Then, the desperate and funny attempt by Maria and her cousins to eat their way out of trouble and the way it ends up bringing their family together in the end. I love using this book to teach causes + effects in a text, and make comparisons between the two.
Kwanzaa in Africa and Around the World
In an African village live seven brothers who make family life miserable with their constant fighting. When their father dies, he lives them the seemingly impossible task of making thread into gold together by sundown. The seven brothers learn to work together through the seven principles of Kwanzaa in this celebration of a joyful holiday. This book is the perfect mentor text for teaching theme + supporting details.
Christmas in Germany
My students always enjoy reading legends, and I love tying them into our standards for types of texts. They light up with joy learning about the origin of tinsel, a Christmas decoration. When a midnight visitor lets spiders into an old lady’s home, they unknowingly spin her the very gift she has longed for—a gift that has inspired the draping of tinsel on Christmas trees ever since. I use this book to teach students to identify + understand the elements of legends.
Christmas in England
History + holiday traditions? I’m in! While planning a Christmas Day party in 1800 at Windsor Castle for over 100 children, Queen Charlotte realized a single bough isn’t enough. So she brought in the whole tree instead, making it the first known Christmas Tree in England. It is the perfect mentor text for understanding historical text and pulling out the important details for comprehension.
Christmas in Sweden
A fun, Scandinavian Christmas tale with a traditional Swedish character of the farm gnome, Tomten shows that with a little Christmas magic and Swedish traditions, people can change their grumpy ways! I use this book as a mentor text for point of view, and making inferences based on character perspective.
Hanukkah in Israel and Around the World
The family of potato pancakes light the menorah and gobble the gelt, then they are ready for Grandpa Latke to tell everyone the Hanukkah story. And tell it he does! Complete with mighty Mega Bees who use a giant dreidel to fight against the evil alien potatoes from Planet Chhh. Of course this hilariously told version isn’t what really happened, and the family dog has to set the record straight. An engaging way to learn about Hanukkah traditions! I use this as a mentor text for visualizing + sequencing.
Ramadan in the Middle East and Around the World
I have many favorite picture books about Ramadan (you can find them all here) but this one is perfect for our HATW unit. Lailah is in a new school in a new country, thousands of miles from her old home, Abu Dhabi. When Ramadan begins, she is excited she is finally old enough to participate in the fasting, but scared her classmates and teachers won’t understand. The librarian helps her and she eventually proudly shares her traditions with her classmates. I love using this book to work on pulling out important details and factual information from a text.
Diwali in India and Around the World
Similar in plot line to Lailah’s Lunchbox, I love reading Binny’s Diwali! It is finally Binny’s turn to share about her favorite holiday, the Festival of Lights. After struggling to find the words through her nerves, Binny proudly tells her classmates about the fireworks that light the sky, the delicious foods, and diyas (clay lamps) and all the traditions of this holiday. I love using this book for teaching visual thinking strategies as Binny so beautifully paints a picture with her words.
Christmas in Japan
As a young boy is recovering from a cold, his mom begins folding hundreds of origami cranes. Curious what they are for, his mom tells him the story of a holiday from her home where they would decorate the a tree. I love this story that combines traditions from different cultures, and celebrates the diversity! I use this book as a mentor text for teaching making inferences using our schema!
Looking for a way to incorporate all of these books into your lesson plans each Holiday Season? I have created a unit that aligns each of these mentor texts to the skills I recommended! Check out my products below! Let me do the heavy lifting for you during one of the busiest times of the year with these Holiday activities that your students will L.O.V.E!
This unit has original nonfiction articles about holidays around the world, and activities to flex those informational text reading skills!
OR I highly recommend grabbing the bundle of both! Your admin will be blown away at the rigor in your lessons the weeks leading up to break as you pair fiction + nonfiction in this Holidays Around the World Unit! And your students will be enjoying every moment!