If you teach EFL south of the Equator or near it, you are probably trying to explain Christmas trees, wreaths, and Frosty in places where there is no pine or snow!
To understand English words that are culturally derived and make them stick in students’ heads, it is a good learning tool to share the culture with them. EFL instructors often try to replicate Christmas for their students, but how do we do so when we cannot get pine for our wreaths and have no snow for Frosty? Try these 10 ideas for making your Christmas a little bit more “green” while maintaining the cultural spirit of a whiter climate!
Use These Christmas Activities for Warm Regions
Santa in Shorts
Even if you can get your hands on a Santa suit or are motivated enough to try to make one, putting it on in the heat is a terrible idea. If we break down the cultural message of Santa, he is just a magical omnipotent man that lives in a cold, icy, sequestered place and manufactures gifts for children. Keep the gifts, the all-knowing mystique, and the come from another place far, far away mythology, and you will get the message across!
Skip the ice. Amend the Santa suit to red shorts and t-shirt with a hat if you can find one or make one easy enough. If you are not a sewer, to make a hat just take a red cloth, roll it into a cone and staple it. Turn it the unstapled side out and put a cotton ball on the end! Get someone the kids in your class do not know (mysterious man) that has a sack of gifts that you know they want (omnipotent), like candy or small toys.
Pine does not grow naturally in tropical climates. In some, pine has been introduced because of its quick growth, but generally they are gigantic from the heat and not whatever the Nordic legends had in mind. They are impossible to cut and preserve in the heat, not to mention entirely too big for classroom use. Use a palm tree, or any tree that is small and can be kept indoors or outside in the classroom space and maintained easily enough. If you do not have Christmas lights, use candles like traditional myth. You can have the kids make ornaments from paper color-in cut outs or recycled materials integrating other Christmas vocabulary, like bells, Noel, doves, elves, mangers, etc. Most places have popcorn or something similar to make garlands.
Poinsettias love hot weather, and, as long as you have a water supply, you can grow them in nearly any climate. They are a Christmas staple in the United States from Mexican influence and it is an interesting inter-cultural message to share with students while also bringing traditional Christmas colors alive in the classroom!
You can make a wreath out of any greenery that does not go bad immediately. Most tropical climates have some sort of evergreen. Twist a wire into a circle, or better yet find a Styrofoam circle, and attach your segments with floral wire if you have it or pliable wire from the local hardware shop. In place of pinecones, use seedpods! Many trees have brown seedpods, which is all a pinecone is. Ask students to bring them to class with plant clippings and you can make wreaths together! You can add bells, stars or other creative Christmassy things you can find in your area to accessorize.
Eggnog Milk Shake
Eggnog is both delicious and uniquely Christmas! But who feels like drinking a heavy cream drink with eggs when the temperature is hovering around 95 degrees most days? Lighten it up by using milk, ice cream, and nutmeg to make a milkshake instead! If you have no nutmeg, you can substitute cardamom or cinnamon.
Christmas Cards and Cookies
Mistletoe is easy enough to demonstrate if you can find a red berry bearing plant in your area. Nearly all places with plants have trees or shrubs with some sort of red berry! If you live in an arid climate and do not have many plant options, invent a fake plant with paper, cardboard, or whatever else you have on hand. You do not need to be an artist, just leaves and red dots! Hang a paper drawing on the wall and tell students if they are under it with another they have to kiss them (on the cheek).
Snow Cone Frostys
If you have no snow, make it! Shave ice or use a snow cone machine if you have that available to you. Bring it to class and have your students make mini snow men and place them in plastic bowls or cups. Have cold sugar syrup to pour on and eat after they have made their men.
Warm stockings are a strange concept to people that never really feel cold. They have socks though. Ask them to bring in a long sock for which they misplaced its pair and decorate them with markers or fabric paints. Have them put their names somewhere on the sock as well, and pin them to the wall. The next class, or the final class before Christmas, fill them with candies or fruit and let them take their “socking” home!
Rein-horse or Rein-dog
When Santa comes, when you have your Christmas party, or on the last day of class before the holidays, make a headband of reindeer antlers with bells and bows and bring a horse or a dog to class with you for a rein-dog or rein-horse! If you can get Fido to wear a red nose as well, even better. Call him Rudolph for the day.
With a bit of creativity, you can make Christmas and its strange cultural-heritage words in the English language come alive and stick in your students’ minds, while having fun!
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