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Intermediate Level
Christmas ESL Lesson Plan
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Christmas
Christmas, which is celebrated on December 25, is one of the biggest celebrations of the year in many countries
around the world. It is both a religious and a secular holiday. In most countries where Christmas is celebrated, it
is a legal or statutory holiday. Most workers receive at least one or two days off work, and children often have a
two-week vacation at this time. Christmas is a very important day for members of the Christian religion because
it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. At church services everywhere, Christians retell the story of the birth
of Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem.
Although Christmas is celebrated on the 25
th
of December, the Christmas season actually lasts for almost a
month. In many countries, from mid-November on, it is impossible to forget that Christmas is coming. Streets,
homes and shops are flled with colorful Christmas lights and decorations. Shopping centers are full of people
doing their Christmas shopping. In fact, the weeks preceding Christmas are the busiest shopping weeks of
the year. In most western countries, many retailers make up 70% of their annual sales in the month before
Christmas.
Many of the present day customs that we associate with Christmas actually originated in pagan festivals long
ago. Thousands of years ago, celebrations were often held around the time of the winter solstice. People were
often afraid when the sun disappeared during the long, cold nights of winter. When the days fnally began to
grow longer, they celebrated the return of the sun by making great bonfres, serving large festive meals, and
exchanging gifts. After the birth of Christ, many of these traditions of the old pagan festivals were combined
with the celebration of Christmas.
Probably the most recognizable, non-religious symbol of Christmas is that of Santa Claus. Pictures can be seen
everywhere of the jolly, old man with the long white beard, big stomach, and red suit. Children in Canada and
the United States believe that Santa Claus lives in the North Pole where he makes toys with his helpful, little
elves. On Christmas Eve, December 24, he travels through the sky on a sled pulled by reindeer. He lands on
the roof of peoples homes, enters through the chimney, and leaves wonderful gifts for all the good little boys
and girls. In some countries, December 6 is celebrated in a similar way as Saint Nicolas Day. In the weeks
before Christmas, Santa Claus often appears in many stores and shopping centers throughout the cities. Excited
children wait in long lines to sit on Santas lap, have their pictures taken with him, and tell him what presents
they are hoping to receive at Christmas.
Besides being a religious celebration and a wonderful, exciting time for children, Christmas is also an important
time for family gatherings. People travel long distances to spend time with their family at this time of the year.
Singing Christmas carols, decorating the family Christmas tree, hanging stockings by the fre, and exchanging
cards and gifts are all part of the holiday season. Of course, food is also a very important part of the Christmas
celebration. Stuffed turkey with mashed potatoes still remains the most traditional meal served at Christmas
dinners, but other wonderful Christmas dishes, holiday baking and special festive treats fll the homes of all who
celebrate this season.
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Comprehension
Practice asking and answering the following questions with your partner. Then write the answers in the
spaces provided.
1. Do most people in North America work on December 25? Why or why not?
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2. What is the signifcance of Christmas for members of the Christian religion?
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3. Why is Christmas such an important time for North American retailers?
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4. Where did many of the modern day customs of Christmas originate?
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5. Why were many pagan festivals held during the time of the winter solstice?
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6. Describe Santa Claus.
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7. Where does Santa Claus live? Who does he live with?
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8. When is Saint Nicolas Day celebrated in many countries?
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9. What is the traditional meal served at Christmas dinners?
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10. List six activities mentioned in the article that are associated with the Christmas
season.
_______________________ _________________________ _________________________
_______________________ _________________________ _________________________
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Vocabulary Exercise
A. Match the words on the left with the correct meaning on the right.
_____ 1. secular A. trade
_____ 2. statutory B. come before
_____ 3. commemorate C. vehicle for the snow
_____ 4. gathering D. alike, the same
_____ 5. decorated E. legal, according to the law
_____ 6. precede F. large outdoor fre
_____ 7. originate G. hair on the face
_____ 8. disappear H. show up, come
_____ 9. bonfre I. ingredients and instructions for cooking
_____ 10. exchange J. not religious
_____ 11. beard K. meeting, coming together
_____ 12. sled L. go out of sight, cant be seen
_____ 13. similar M. honor the memory, remember
_____ 14. appear N. made to look more beautiful
_____ 15. recipe O. come from
B. Choose the correct word from the list above to complete the following sentences.
(You may have to change the verb tense.)
1. November 11 is a day to ____________________________ all the people who died in both World Wars.
2. January ___________________________ February on the calendar.
3. She __________________________ the Christmas cake with red and green candies.
4. Many children in elementary schools __________________ cards on Valentines Day.
5. The twin sisters look so _______________________ . I dont know who is who.
6. Your chocolate cake is delicious! Can you please give me the ___________________.
7. We have a big family ____________________________ every Thanksgiving.
8. Santa Claus travels through the sky on a ____________________ pulled by reindeer.
9. When we went camping last summer, we sat around the ___________________ every
evening and roasted hot dogs and marshmallows.
10. Thanksgiving is a _____________________ holiday in Canada and United States.
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Vocabulary #2
C. Underline the word(s) with the closest meaning to the word in italics.
1. carol - a. box b. tree c. song d. gift
2. gift - a. custom b. show c. cake d. present
3. jolly - a. happy b. fat c. big d. kind
4. retailer - a. receiver b. seller c. do again d. someone who sews

5. stuffed - a. always b. fat c. full d. turkey
6. custom - a. tradition b. gift c. feast d. meal
7. manger - a. boss b. box c. sleep d. dress
8. annual - a. always b. daily c. apple d. yearly
9. merry - a. girl b. happy c. a lot d. funny
10. pagan - a. new b. paper c. festival d. non-religious
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D. Odd One Out Underline the one that does not belong.
1. fear be afraid believe be scared

2. chimney basement roof smoke
3. solstice December 21 June 21 October 31

4. Santa Claus reindeer South Pole elves
5. lap leg arm seat
6. recognizable easy to notice easy to know believable
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Name of favorite
holiday
Time of year
Statutory holiday
Religious or secu-
lar holiday
Symbols, tradi-
tions, customs of
the holiday
Traditional cloth-
ing
Special food
Decorations
Gifts
Cards
Classmate #1 Classmate # 2 Classmate #4
(me) name: name:
Why is this your favorite holiday? ___________________________________________________________
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Holiday Time Group Work
Complete the chart below by asking your partners questions about their favorite holiday.
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Pair Work Reading and Sharing Information Student A
Symbols of Christmas
Directions: You and your partner each have some information about symbols of Christmas. Read your
information and then share it with your partner.
At Christmas time, many people like to decorate their doors with Christmas wreaths. A wreath is a bunch
of fowers or leaves that have been twisted together to make a circle. The Christmas wreath is a symbol of
everlasting life because the shape is an unbroken circle, and the branches come from an evergreen tree, which
remains green all winter.
Mistletoe is an evergreen plant with small white berries. It has been used as a decoration for thousands of
years. In ancient times, people believed that the plant had special magical powers and they often used it in their
special ceremonies. In Scandinavia, the mistletoe was associated with their goddess of love and peace, Frigga.
This connection between the mistletoe and love probably explains our custom of kissing whenever we meet
someone under the mistletoe. In the early years of Christianity, the church did not allow people to use mistletoe
because of its pagan origins. Instead, the church priests suggested the use of holly as a decoration. Holly is
also an evergreen plant. It has sharp, shiny, pointed leaves and red berries. The pointed leaves represent the
thorns in Christs crown and the red berries represent his drops of blood. Because of this, red and green have
become the traditional colors of Christmas. Holly is used as a common decoration throughout the Christmas
season and remains an important symbol of Christmas today.

The poinsettia is a tropical plant with large red leaves. In 1828, Dr. Joel Poinsett, the frst United States
ambassador to Mexico, saw the beautiful Mexican plant and decided to bring it from Mexico to his own country.
Since then, the poinsettia has become a traditional Christmas plant that can be found in homes, offces and
shops throughout North America during the Christmas season.
Practice asking and answering the following questions with your partner.
1. Why is the Christmas wreath a symbol of everlasting life?
2. What are the traditional colors of Christmas?
3. Where did the custom of kissing under the mistletoe come from?
4. Why did ancient people often use mistletoe in their special celebrations?
5. Why is holly used as a Christmas decoration?
6. Why did people long ago believe that evergreen trees were magical?
7. Where did the custom of decorating Christmas trees originate?
8. How did the custom of decorating a tree spread to England?
9. What does the shape of a candy cane represent?
10.When were candy canes frst made?
11. When and where did the custom of sending Christmas cards originate?
12. List six common symbols of Christmas.
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Pair Work Reading and Sharing Information Student B
Symbols of Christmas
Directions: You and your partner each have some information about symbols of Christmas. Read your
information and then share it with your partner.
Thousands of years ago people believed that evergreen trees were magical because they stayed strong and
green during the winter when other trees became brown and bare. The evergreen tree became a symbol of life
and hope and joy. The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree originated in Germany around the 16
th
century.
It became common for German people to decorate fr trees with candles, fruit or colored paper. This custom
spread to England in the 19
th
century when Queen Victoria married a German prince named Albert. Albert put
up a Christmas tree in the royal palace to remind him of his homeland. Later the tradition spread from England
to North America. Nowadays, Christmas trees are decorated with fancy ornaments, colored lights, shiny paper,
candy canes, stars and angels.
Candy sticks have been around for hundreds of years, but it wasnt until the late 1800s that they were decorated
with red stripes and bent into the shapes of canes. A candy maker in United States wanted to make a candy
that would represent Christmas. Candy canes represent the staffs or sticks used by the shepherds who traveled
to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus. If you turn a candy cane upside down, it looks like the letter J. This shape
symbolizes the frst letter of Jesus name. The red in a candy cane represents the blood of Christ.
The custom of sending Christmas cards to family and friends originated in England. The frst Christmas card
was made by Sir Henry Cole in 1843. At about this same time, the public mail delivery system frst started. The
original Christmas cards were handmade and very expensive. As printing methods and mail delivery improved,
Christmas cards became more and more popular. Nowadays millions of Christmas cards are sent all over the
world each year.
Practice asking and answering the following questions with your partner.
1. Why is the Christmas wreath a symbol of everlasting life?
2. What are the traditional colors of Christmas?
3. Where did the custom of kissing under the mistletoe come from?
4. Why did ancient people often use mistletoe in their special celebrations?
5. Why is holly used as a Christmas decoration?
6. Why did people long ago believe that evergreen trees were magical?
7. Where did the custom of decorating Christmas trees originate?
8. How did the custom of decorating a tree spread to England?
9. What does the shape of a candy cane represent?
10.When were candy canes frst made?
11. When and where did the custom of sending Christmas cards originate?
12. List six common symbols of Christmas.
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Review Symbols of Christmas
wreath mistletoe holly poinsettia Christmas tree candy cane Christmas card
Directions: Read your partners reading on the symbols of Christmas. Then write the correct symbol that
is associated with each of the following:
1. Sir Henry Cole _________________________
2. Goddess of Love, Frigga _________________________
3. Prince Albert _________________________
4. 1843 _________________________
5. Mexico _________________________
6. kiss under it _________________________
7. place it on your door _________________________
8. shepherds staff _________________________
9. Germany _________________________
10. red and green _________________________
Santa Claus
Fill in the blanks with the correct word from the list below to complete the story of Santa Claus
jolly - appearance - century - kind - climbed - dry - red - spread -
tradition - chimney - generosity - stocking - sled
The ________________ of Santa Claus or Father Christmas began with a real person named Saint Nicolas. He
was born in Turkey in the 4
th
______________________. Saint Nicolas was a very __________________ and
generous man. He liked to help poor people by giving them money, but he didnt want them to know about his
_____________. According to one story, Saint Nicolas once ________________ up on the roof of a house and
dropped a bag of money down the ___________________. The money landed in a _________________which
a young girl had placed by the fre to ___________________. The legend of Saint Nicolas ________________
to many countries. For many years after Saint Nicolas death, children in Holland left out their wooden shoes in
the hopes that Saint Nicolas would fll them with treats. The Dutch called Saint Nicolas, Sinterklaas. In English,
the name became Santa Claus. Over the years, the _________________ of Santa Claus changed too. In early
pictures, he often appeared tall and thin, dressed in a brown or green suit. In 1822, a man named Clement Moore
wrote a famous poem called The Night Before Christmas. In this poem, Moore described Santa as a _______
_______ fat man in a ______________ suit riding in a _________________ pulled by reindeer. Gradually, this
image of Santa became very popular. Nowadays, children hang stockings by the fre on Christmas Eve and wait
for Santa to come and fll them with treats and toys.
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Vocabulary, Idioms and Expressions
1.to be in the red losing money, showing a fnancial loss
2. to be caught red-handed to be caught while doing something bad
3. red tape diffcult government forms and procedures
4. lay (roll) out the red carpet give a special welcome and special treatment to a special person
5. to give (get) the green light to give (get) the okay or approval to do something
6. to be green with envy to be very jealous of someone, to want what he/she has
7. have a green thumb to be good at gardening
8. to feel or be stuffed to feel very full from eating a lot
9. to go (or quit something) cold turkey to quit a habit all at once, not gradually
10. to talk turkey to discuss a deal very seriously
Choose one of the words or expressions above to complete the following sentences.

1. My neighbor bought a beautiful new car. My car is almost twenty years old. I am
______________________________________.
2. When the Queen comes to our city, we will ______________________________________ for her.
3. I cant eat another thing! I feel ______________________________________________.
4. Marys fowers are always beautiful. She must have a ____________________________________.
5. The robber was ___________________________________________________ with his hand full of money.
6. Last night she threw her full package of cigarettes in the garbage. She decided to
__________________________________.
7. I think that business will have to close soon. It has been ____________________________ for several years.
8. You shouldnt start the project until the boss gives you __________________________________________.
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Find Someone Who..
Walk around the class and ask your classmates questions. Find someone.
1.who has a Christmas tree. __________________________
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2. who has sent Christmas cards this year. __________________________
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3. who has felt green with envy. ___________________________
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4. who has a green thumb. ___________________________
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5. who goes to church on Christmas eve or Christmas day. ______________________
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6. who is planning to have a turkey for Christmas dinner. ______________________
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7. who quit smoking cold turkey. _____________________
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8. who has a lot of Christmas shopping to do. _____________________
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9. whose favorite holiday is Christmas. ______________________
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10. who has decorated his/her house with Christmas lights. _______________________
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TEACHERS NOTES / ANSWER KEY
These activities are designed for intermediate level adult ESL learners, but they may also be suitable for junior and senior
high school ESL students.
Suggested Flashcards to Accompany the Unit
Baby Jesus in the manger, Christmas tree, Santa Claus, reindeer, elves, holly, mistletoe, poinsettia, candy cane, angels,
shepherds, Christmas ornaments, etc.
Activity One Reading and Comprehension Questions
Begin by introducing any difficult vocabulary you feel the students may encounter. You may choose to have the students
read the passage silently, or have the students take turns reading aloud in order to monitor pronunciation. After reading the
passage, break the students into pairs and have them practice asking and answering the comprehension questions. At the
end of the oral practice, have the students write the answers. Review again orally with the whole class.
1. Most people do not work on this day as it is a statutory holiday.
2. This day commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ.
3. The weeks preceding Christmas are the busiest shopping weeks of the year.
4. Many of the customs originated in pagan festivals long ago.
5. The solstice marked the end of the long, dark nights of winter and many people celebrated the return of the sun by
having bonfires, eating festive meals and exchanging gifts.
6. Santa Claus is a jolly old man with a long white beard, a big stomach and a red suit.
7. Santa Claus lives in the north Pole, with many elves and reindeer.
8. December 6th.
9. Stuffed turkey with mashed potatoes remains the traditional meal.
10. exchanging gifts, singing carols, getting together with friends and family, hanging stockings by the fire, decorating a
Christmas tree, eating a festive meal
Activity Two Vocabulary (two sheets)
A. Matching
1. j 2. e 3. m 4. k 5. n 6. b 7. o 8. l 9. f 10. a 11. g 12. c 13. d 14. h 15. i
B. Choose the correct word
1. commemorate 2. precedes 3. decorated 4. exchange 5. alike 6. recipe 7. gathering
8. sled 9. bonfire 10. statutory
C. Underline the word
1. c 2. d 3. a 4. b 5. c 6. a 7. b 8. d 9. b 10. d
D. Odd one out
1. believe 2. smoke 3. October 31st 4. South Pole 5. seat 6. believable
Follow-up by having the students give their own sentences with the new words.
Activity Three Holiday time Group Work
Break the class into groups of three. Before the students begin to interview each other, ask them to write the questions
they will be asking. Review as a whole class. This will ensure that they are asking the questions correctly. (ex. What is
your favorite holiday? When is it? Is it a religious holiday? What traditions and customs are associated with this holiday?
etc.)
Holidays - Christmas (Intermediate-level)
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Activity Four Pair Work/Information Sharing The Symbols of Christmas
Break the class into pairs. Each student has a different reading about the symbols of Christmas. Have the students read
their articles silently and then share the information with their partner by completing the comprehension questions
together. Review together with the whole class. After the students complete their oral work, have them exchange readings
and then complete the exercises on the second page of Symbols of Christmas together. (The first exercise is a
comprehension exercise. The second is a fill-in-the blanks story about Santa Claus. Have a few students retell the story of
Santa.)
1. The Christmas wreath is a symbol of everlasting life because the shape is an unbroken circle, and the branches come
from an evergreen tree, which remains green all winter.
2. Red and green are the traditional colours of Christmas.
3. It came from Scandinavia where mistletoe was associated with their goddess of love and peace, Frigga.
4. They believed it had special powers.
5. Holly is used as a Christmas decoration because of its religious significance; its pointed leaves represent the thorns in
Christs crown and the red berries represent his drops of blood.
6. Thousands of years ago people believed that evergreen trees were magical because they stayed strong and green during
the winter when other trees became brown and bare.
7. The tradition of decorating a Christmas tree originated in Germany around the 16th century.
8. This custom spread to England in the 19th century when Queen Victoria married a German prince named Albert who
put up a Christmas tree in the royal palace to remind him of his homeland.
9. The shape represents the staffs or sticks used by the shepherds who traveled to Bethlehem to see the baby Jesus.
10. Candy canes were first made in the late 1800s.
11. The custom of sending Christmas cards originated in England in 1843.
12. wreath, mistletoe, holly, candy canes, cards, Christmas tree
Review - Symbols of Christmas
1. Christmas card 2. mistletoe 3. Christmas tree 4. Christmas card 5. poinsettia 6. mistletoe
7. wreath 8. candy cane 9. Christmas tree 10. holly
Fill in the blanks
tradition: century; kind; generosity; climbed; chimney; stocking; dry; spread; appearance; jolly; red; sled
Activity Five Vocabulary, Idioms and Expressions
The idioms given include words related to Christmas - (ex. idioms using the colors red and green, the word turkey etc).
Explain the meanings, use them in context, have the students complete the sentences, and then write their own sentences
using the idioms.
1. green with envy 2. lay out the red carpet 3. stuffed 4. green thumb 5. caught red-handed
6. quit cold turkey 7. in the red 8. the green light
Activity Six - Group Interaction / Practice Making Questions Find Someone Who..
First have the students write the questions they will be asking their classmates. Then have the students circulate around the
class asking the questions on the sheet. When the student finds a classmate who can answer the question, he/she will then
write the students name on the line and follow-up with one more question of his/her own. Ex. Do you have a Christmas
tree? If the student answers yes, the second question might be: Is it real? or Where did you get it?, etc. Try to
encourage the students to engage in real conversation during this activity. Follow up by sharing the information with the
whole class.
Holidays - Christmas (Intermediate-level)