What Is Christmas?


With our What Is Christmas lesson plan, students learn about the history of the holiday and how it is celebrated all around the world today! They will learn that there are both religious and nonreligious, or secular, celebrations of Christmas. Some common symbols and traditions are also included.

This lesson includes some additional “Options for Lesson,” found on the Classroom Procedure page. One of the optional additions or adjustments is to have a Christian priest or minister speak to your class about the meaning of Christmas and how it is celebrated.

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What our What Is Christmas lesson plan includes

Lesson Objectives and Overview: What Is Christmas teaches students all about this fun and important holiday. Students will learn about its origins and how people all over the world celebrate it today. It also discussed some common symbols and traditions, both religious ones and secular ones. This lesson is for students in 3rd grade, 4th grade, 5th grade, and 6th grade.

Classroom Procedure

Every lesson plan provides you with a classroom procedure page that outlines a step-by-step guide to follow. You do not have to follow the guide exactly. The guide helps you organize the lesson and details when to hand out worksheets. It also lists information in the orange box that you might find useful. You will find the lesson objectives, state standards, and number of class sessions the lesson should take to complete in this area. In addition, it describes the supplies you will need as well as what and how you need to prepare beforehand. The only supplies you need for this lesson are the handouts. To prepare for this lesson ahead of time, you can copy the handouts and put students into their groups for the activity.

Options for Lesson

Included with this lesson is an “Options for Lesson” section that lists a number of suggestions for activities to add to the lesson or substitutions for the ones already in the lesson. One of the optional additions for this lesson is to play the opening notes of various Christmas carols and letting students guess their titles. You can also plan a Christmas party if your school allows it. You can find additional options on the “Classroom Procedure” page of the lesson.

Teacher Notes

The teacher notes page includes a paragraph with additional guidelines and things to think about as you begin to plan your lesson. It notes that while many students in your class likely celebrate Christmas in one form or another, many students will not know about its origins. This page also includes lines that you can use to add your own notes as you’re preparing for this lesson.


History of Christmas

This lesson plan includes four content pages for students to learn from! The first section of this lesson delves into the history of Christmas. Students will learn, if they don’t know already, that Christmas is a day that celebrates the birth of Jesus. People also sometimes call him Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Savior, or the Son of God. Christmas was originally just a religious holy day, but, since the early 20th century, has become a nonreligious holiday as well. Both Christians and non-Christians all over the world celebrate it by exchanging gifts.

Students will learn that Christmas literally translates to “mass on Christ’s day.” They may be familiar with the Nativity scene, which people often display around Christmas and shows Jesus as a baby in his cradle, with his mother and other guests.

Next, the lesson discussed the holiday season in more depth. Some people reserve their Christmas celebrations just for December 25th. For Christians in North America, they may celebrate the Advent season, which begins at the beginning of December, on the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day. Students will learn that December 25th probably wasn’t the actual date of Jesus’ birth. There are various explanations for why people originally chose this date. People in the Roman Empire celebrated a holiday on this date. It’ could also be based on the spring equinox. We’re not sure which story is right! In fact, for many years, people celebrated Jesus’ birth on January 6th, because they baptized Jesus on January 6th.

Traditions and Symbols of Christmas

Next, students will learn about various traditions and symbols associated with Christmas. There are both religious and nonreligious, or secular, Christmas traditions and symbols. Some even fall into both category!

Students will learn that the origin of Santa Claus is St. Nicholas, who, in some European countries and even in America, delivers candy and other gifts inside shoes placed outside the door of children’s homes. This happens on December 6th, also known as Feast Day. Students will also learn about another tradition, Midnight Mass, a Christian church service held on Christmas Eve. It includes a procession, candles, and more, and marks the beginning of Christmas.

Students will almost certainly be familiar with Santa Claus! He’s one of the most recognizable symbols of Christmas, and delivers gifts for Christmas. Another fun fact for students is that someone originally introduced Rudolph and the other reindeer in a 1939 poem — as an advertisement!

This lesson also discusses other symbols and traditions, like the manger and Christmas trees. The lesson also notes that there are many other symbols and traditions celebrated all over the world! People everywhere celebrate Christmas, both in a religious and a secular way, with family and friends.

Key Terms

Here is a list of the vocabulary words students will learn in this lesson plan:

  • Christmas: one of the most celebrated religious holidays in the world; takes place on December 25th each year
  • Nativity: the birth of Jesus Christ
  • Magi: the Three Wise Men who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the birth of Jesus; often found in nativity scenes
  • Advent: a period of preparation for the birth of Christ, usually marked by an Advent wreath with four candles; begins approximately on December 1st, or the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day
  • Epiphany: the day of Jesus’ baptism, January 6th; people held the celebration of Jesus’ birth on this day for many years
  • Manger: the “crib” that they laid Jesus in following his birth
  • Midnight Mass: Christian church service held on Christmas Eve


The What Is Christmas lesson plan includes three worksheets: an activity worksheet, a practice worksheet, and a homework assignment. You can refer to the guide on the classroom procedure page to determine when to hand out each worksheet.


The first activity asks students to discuss a series of questions about Christmas with their group.  They write their own answer on the worksheet. Once the groups are finished discussing amongst themselves, they participate in a class discussion about their answers. They are asked about if and how their family celebrates Christmas, whether they think Christmas has become too commercialized, what gift they would give to everyone in the world if they were Santa Claus, and more.


For the second activity worksheet, students identify and write down what gifts they’d like to receive from Santa Claus instead of the gifts described in the song The Twelve Days of Christmas. They then discuss their answers with their group.

Students may work alone or in pairs for these activities if you would not like them to work in larger groups of three or four.


The practice worksheet has students answer fill-in-the-blanks questions using a number bank and match Christmas terms with their meanings. Some of these terms include St. Nicholas, reindeer, and Nativity. Finally, they have to identify the language of origin for words which are related to the word Nativity, including Navidad, Noel, and Natale.


Students will answer questions about the origins and history of Christmas for the homework assignment. They will then draw a picture that they could us to celebrate Christmas.

Worksheet Answer Keys

This lesson plan includes answer keys for the practice worksheet and the homework assignment. It does not include an answer key for the activity worksheets because students’ answers will vary for both. If you choose to administer the lesson pages to your students via PDF, you will need to save a new file that omits these pages. Otherwise, you can simply print out the applicable pages and keep these as reference for yourself when grading assignments.

Additional information


Social Studies, Video


3rd Grade, 4th Grade, 5th Grade, 6th Grade

State Educational Standards


Lessons are aligned to meet the education objectives and goals of most states. For more information on your state objectives, contact your local Board of Education or Department of Education in your state.

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Christina R.

Good Christmas choice

This Christmas product was a great time saving for the end of the school term. The students loved the being able to discuss how they celebrate Chritmas and then being able to put their own spin on the 12 days of Christimas :)

Bruce D.


my class had a great time with the lesson.