Adult Ed
Holidays and Observances: Looking at Diversity and Culture


Introductory Activity: What We Already Know
Activity 1: Writing About a Favorite Holiday
Activity 2: Research on Holidays
Culminating Activity Making a Display about Holidays and Culture

Introductory Activity: What We Already Know

Step 1 What is a holiday?
  • break the class into small groups or pairs
  • have them answer the following questions
    What is a holiday?
    Why do we have holidays?
    What are different kinds of holidays?
    What kind of things do people do to celebrate or acknowledge holidays?
  • Have each group report back to the class
  • Write a group composition or paragraph about holidays in general

Step 1 Different Holidays
  • Brainstorm a group list of different holidays on the blackboard
  • Write a list of adjectives on another part of the blackboard: happy, serious, religious, simple, important, political, traditional, historical, merry, fun, minor, ritualistic. Ask students if they can think of any other words that could describe a holiday.
  • Match the holidays and the adjectives. You can ask students to write it all down themselves, do it as a group, or make handouts with the holidays and the adjectives already printed on them.

Activity 1: Writing About a Favorite Holiday

Step 1 Give students some index cards. Ask each student to write down their three favorite holidays on each of three cards. (Refer to the list the group made for the Introductory Activities)

Step 2Ask students to write a sentence or two about each holiday.

Step 3Ask students to pick the one holiday they want to write about.

Step 4 Ask students to close their eyes and remember a happy time they celebrated that holiday. Help them remember by guiding them to think about when this was, who was there, where they were, what they did, what they ate, what they heard, etc.

Step 5 Have students draw a picture or make a collage of that good memory. Tell them it doesn’t matter if they aren’t “artists.” This activity is just to get their thoughts moving. (Materials such as markers, crayons, construction paper, old magazines, and ribbon can make this more fun.)

Step 6 Break students into pairs and have them explain their artwork.

Step 7 Have students write the story of the time in the picture.

Step 8 Share the writing in groups.

Step 9 Ask for volunteers to read their stories to the whole class.

Activity 2: Research on Holidays

Step 1Have students review a big list of holidays. It can be the list you made in the "Introductory activities or this one:
  • Ask each student to divide the group’s list into two lists: the holidays they know about and the ones they either never heard of or don’t know much about.
  • Ask each student to draw a circle around the three holidays they would like to know more about.
  • Ask the class to share which holidays they know about and which ones are unknown.

Step 2Have students do some research on the holidays they don’t know about. Students can work in groups, pairs or independently. (You probably need to offer a little guidance here. If someone picks Ramadan to research, they will have plenty of information to review. If someone picks Sweetest Day, you might want to steer the student towards another choice where their will be more to explore.)
Here are some questions for students to answer:
  • When is this holiday?
  • Is this holiday on the same day every year?
  • Where is this holiday celebrated?
  • Who celebrates this holiday?
  • For how long has this holiday been celebrated?
  • What is the meaning of this holiday?
  • What customs go with this holiday?
  • Is there special food, decorations, or clothing associated with this holiday?

Step 3Have students write a report based on their research.

Step 4 Ask students to read their reports to each other in small groups. Have students respond by saying what they just learned about the holiday and asking questions. Each student should leave the group with at least two new questions to answer.

Step 5Have students do more research to answer the questions.

Step 6Have students revise their reports to incorporate new information.

Step 7 Have students read their reports again in the same small groups.

Culminating Activity: Making a Display about Holidays and Culture.
(Everyone should have two pieces of writing one from each of the activities above. Students will use both of them in this activity. )

Step 1 Make a list of all the holidays that students wrote about on the blackboard.

Step 2 Have students raise their hands and count how many people wrote about each holiday

Step 3 Break up students into groups based on which holidays they wrote about. If there are holidays that only one person wrote about, put all of those into a group called “Other Holidays.”

Step 4 Ask each group create a display for each holiday and/or for the “Other Holidays.” Ask students to organize what they have already written, and write captions and summaries.

Step 5 Put the displays up on the walls or on tables.

Step 6 Put a blank sheet of paper next to each display so students can write comments.

Step 7 Have students circulate, reviewing the displays and writing comments.

Note: The nature of your display will depend on your students. If everyone celebrates and knows about the same holidays, your display will be more uniform. If everyone knows about and wrote about different holidays, you will have a different kind of display.


There are pretty many fun activities about holidays on Web sites. Have students do a search for holidays they haven’t written about or take this online holidays quiz: feature=holidays&page=html/holidays.htm&direct=yes

Community Connections

(OPTIONAL -- Include real-world actions students can take to follow through on lesson concepts. These include activities such as interviews, community based art projects, performances, portfolios and letter or email writing to relevant government, academic or business personnel. For additional insight into community-based projects, go to the "Making Family and Community Connections" @ )