Through this selection of short stories for grades 3-5, students will learn about holidays around the world.
Students come from a variety of backgrounds that have different holiday traditions. With this list of stories for elementary school, students will be able to learn about worldwide holidays, share their own customs, and see representations of their beliefs. Promote diversity in your classroom with these eight short stories from CommonLit’s free digital library.
“The Lights of Saint Lucia” by Sara Matson (3rd Grade)
In this short story, two sisters, Britta and Eva, learn the importance of upholding family traditions during Saint Lucia Day, a Swedish festival of light on December 13. They strengthen their bond while cooking, singing a special song to their parents, and wearing candlelit headdresses.
After reading, consider using Discussion Question 1, “Why is spending time with family on holidays important?” Students can share their own traditions with their loved ones with the class, and in turn, learn about their classmates’ cultural practices as well.
“Lilu’s Bright Diwali” by Anita Nahta Amin (3rd Grade)
In this story, a young girl named Lilu helps her family celebrate Diwali, the Indian New Year and Festival of Lights. Lilu uses art supplies to make lights when her family cannot find an essential item to celebrate - clay oil lamps that guide the Good Luck Goddess into their homes.
Have students explore other aspects of culture in the classroom by pairing this text with “Papadum Pizza” by Carolyn Fay in the Paired Texts tab. After reading, students can engage in a class discussion about how food is important to celebrating Diwali and other holidays.
“The Golden Sequin” by Janice Milusich (3rd Grade)
In this fiction story, a young boy named Asiri prepares for the 10-day festival of Esala Perahera, a Sri-Lankan celebration in honor of the tooth of Buddha. Asiri learns responsibility when he sews golden sequins on a costume for the most important elephant for the holiday’s processions.
Use the Related Media tab to share more background about this festival by watching the “History of the Esala Perahera” video as a class. Then, ask students: “Why is this tradition important in Sri Lankan culture? Why is the festival celebrated each year?”
“Great Splashes” by Joan Bone (4th Grade)
In this short text, a little girl named Fa and her parents celebrate the Thailand New Year with the water festival of Songkran. They happily throw water at people in the neighborhood! This year, Fa is also old enough to lead a special custom to show gratitude to her elders.
Prepare students for grade-level assessments by reviewing Assessment Question 5, “How do people celebrate the Songkran water festival?” Students can share their ideas out loud for a meaningful discussion about the holiday.
“Pasha’s First Yom Kippur” by Carol Coven Grannick (4th Grade)
Carol Coven Grannick tells the story of Pasha and David, two boys who learn the importance of asking for and granting forgiveness. Forgiveness is an essential part of preparing for Yom Kippur, a Jewish holiday when people fast, pray, and reflect on how to be a better person.
Strengthen students’ reading comprehension by using Discussion Question 2, “Why do you think apologizing to others is important? Describe a time that you apologized to someone and how it made you feel” as a starting point to talk about other holidays around the world for kids that teach important values.
“Purple Water” by Milan Sandhu (4th Grade)
In this short narrative, Milan Sandhu shares a personal account of celebrating Holi in India with treats, dancing, and family. In honor of good overcoming evil, love, and the beginning of spring, people throw bright, colorful pigments everywhere - on the streets, on houses, and on each other!
While reading, have students use the annotation tool to mark where the traditions of Holi come from. Then, students can share their observations aloud, which will prepare them for the writing activity in Assessment Question 5, “According to the text, where did the idea of smearing people in different colors during Holi come from?”
“Art of an Egg” by Mariam C. Orme (5th Grade)
In this informational text, Mariam C. Orme outlines the history of decorating Easter eggs called pysanky to welcome spring and celebrate Easter. Carefully hand painted, these delicately designed eggs represent health and prosperity in Ukraine, Romania, Poland, and Belarus.
Incorporate multimedia in your lesson plan by watching “History of the Holidays: Easter” in the Related Media tab with your students. Then, have a class discussion and answer: “How do the reasons for painting Easter eggs provided in the video compare to the text? How has the celebration of Easter evolved over time?”
“All of Spain Celebrates Three Kings’ Day” by Natacha Sanz-Caballero (5th Grade)
In this informational text, Natacha Sanz-Caballero describes Spain’s energy-filled parades and family dinners for Three Kings’ Day on January 6. This holiday, also known as Epiphany Day, commemorates the biblical story of the Magi’s successful journey to greet baby Jesus.
Have students reflect on the text with Discussion Question 1, “The text explores a holiday celebrated in Spain. Why do you think it’s important to learn about holidays celebrated in other parts of the world?”
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