Elementary Heartwarming Lessons About Holidays and Traditions from Around the World

Teacher and student talk during class.

These texts for grades 3–5 teach students about a variety of celebrations around the world.

We know that children love finding reasons to celebrate, whether it’s for a birthday, a big win in a soccer match, or a beloved family tradition. Reading about global holidays and traditions in the classroom is a meaningful way to make learning festive and fun!

Here is a great set of texts for grades 3–5 from CommonLit about holidays. This selection includes short stories and informational texts to get your students thinking about special traditions around the world.

The White Nights of Ramadan” by Maha Addasi (4th Grade)

In this short story, a Muslim family celebrates the festival of Girgian during the month of Ramadan. Noor and her brothers are excited to make their special candy, decorate the treat bags, and dress in their traditional clothes. Over the course of the celebration, Noor learns that the true meaning of Ramadan is about spending time with family and sharing with those less fortunate.

This text is full of interesting facts about how families celebrate Ramadan. To build background knowledge before reading or extend students’ thinking after reading, watch the video “Kids Explain Ramadan” under the Related Media tab. After reading and watching, students could share what the kids in the story and the video enjoy about celebrating Ramadan.

The Related Media tab for the CommonLit lesson "The White Nights of Ramadan."
Related Media videos help build background knowledge and extend students’ learning.

The Hanukkah Candle” by Samantha Beal (3rd Grade)

In this short story, a young girl, Atara, and her mother are celebrating the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah during World War II. It is the first year Atara has been given the responsibility of lighting the menorah, but the holiday is bittersweet, as her father is away fighting the Nazis for England. When Atara loses the special shamash candle, her neighbor Sara shares a candle from her Christmas tree and Atara learns that hard times can be easier with help from friends.

After reading, have students make text-to-self connections. Ask Discussion Question 1, “In the story, Atara and her mother are celebrating Hanukkah by lighting the candles of the menorah, giving gifts, and saying blessings. Do you have a favorite holiday? What is it? How do you celebrate?” Encourage students to share important details about their special traditions.

Art on an Egg” by Mariam C. Orme (5th Grade)

In this informational text, the author discusses a family’s tradition of painting eggs in Ukraine. Viktor and his family hand-decorate Easter eggs, called pysanky, to bring good luck. They paint different designs and symbols with special meanings, then give the eggs away to family and friends or place them around the house. Today, people of Ukrainian descent around the world decorate traditional eggs to add to their Easter baskets.

Consider turning on CommonLit’s Guided Reading Mode for your students when they read this text. Students may be familiar with decorating eggs at Easter time, but they will learn lots of new facts about egg decorating in Ukraine. Answering the Guiding Questions as they read will help students monitor their comprehension to make sure they understand the key details in the text.

The Student Assignment Preview of the CommonLit lesson "Art on an Egg" with Guided Reading Mode enabled so part of the text is blurred.
Guided Reading Mode helps students monitor their comprehension.

Giving Thanks for Hanukkah” by Debra Hess (5th Grade)

In this informational text, the author explains why Hanukkah celebrations seem to fall on different days each year. The Jewish calendar is based on a lunar year, which means that it does not align exactly with the 365-day solar calendar students use in school. Even though the timing of Hanukkah changes each year, the holiday is always an opportunity to celebrate the miracles that helped keep the Jewish people alive.

After reading the text, extend students’ learning by watching the video “What is Hanukkah?” under the Related Media tab. Students can build on their understanding of when people celebrate Hanukkah by learning more about the traditions behind the holiday. After reading and watching, students could discuss why the holiday is important to the Jewish people.

Pasha’s First Yom Kippur” by Carol Coven Grannick (4th Grade)

In this short story, Pasha prepares to celebrate his first Yom Kippur. His grandfather, Dedushka, explains that before the holiday begins, Pasha must apologize to those he has wronged and forgive those who apologize to him. By the end of the story, Pasha learns the value of forgiveness and feels truly ready to celebrate Yom Kippur.

As students read, have them follow the annotation task, which asks them to take notes on Pasha’s relationship with his grandpa. The conversations Pasha and Dedushka have reveal the true meaning of Yom Kippur. Students could then use their notes to discuss why it is important for people to ask forgiveness from others before they begin celebrating the holiday.

All of Spain Celebrates Three Kings’ Day” by Natacha Sanz-Caballero (5th Grade)

In this informational text, the author discusses the traditions of Three Kings’ Day in Spain, where people commemorate the biblical story of the Magi’s visit to Baby Jesus. Cities and towns across the country celebrate with a parade and fancy dinners. Children even get to write letters to the Three Kings to ask for special gifts!

This text provides a great opportunity to get students talking about global cultures and traditions. Use the first Discussion Question, “Why do you think it’s important to learn about holidays celebrated in other parts of the world?” to have students share their opinions and make connections between the holidays they’ve learned about.

The CommonLit lesson "All of Spain Celebrates Three Kings' Day."
Discussion Questions are a great way to help students make connections.

Thematic Unit: Holidays

Are you interested in learning more about holidays with your students? Check out our supplemental unit, “Holidays.”

In this thematic mini unit, students will read five texts about various holidays, including All Saints’ Day, Holi, and St. Lucia’s Day. Students will answer the essential question, “How do the holidays we celebrate reveal what is important to us?” in an evidence-based writing activity using details from multiple texts. This supplemental unit is a great opportunity for students to engage in an extended study about holiday traditions and make cross-textual connections in writing and through discussion. It is designed for 1–2 weeks of instruction and includes a graphic organizer to help students answer the essential question.

The CommonLit supplemental unit "Holidays."
In our “Holidays” mini unit, students read about celebrations and traditions from around the world.

Next Steps

Looking for more elementary texts or text sets on CommonLit? Browse the CommonLit Library!

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