Celebrating Holidays While Teaching Abroad

Holidays can be a difficult time to be away from home while teaching abroad.  But, just as holidays are a special time of year that bring family and friends together, it’s a great opportunity to share your culture with your students and create lasting bonds in your classroom. The following report about celebrating holidays while teaching abroad is from BGL‘s Teacher Jackie and Teacher Becky.


Xin nian kuai le!  Happy Chinese New Year!  While teaching in Taiwan, it has been an amazing experience to share American holiday traditions with our students, and to learn more about their culture through celebrations. Teacher Jackie, normally a Distance Learning teacher for IDEEL, was fortunate enough to be on campus to celebrate Halloween with her students.

Across campus, the holiday was more spirited than expected, from learning about spider webs to participating in a trick-or-treat parade.

ImageSome of the older students were able to make connections with a similar Taiwanese holiday, Tomb Sweeping Day, which celebrates familial ancestors.  Though students do not normally celebrate Halloween outside of school, their parents gladly dress them in costumes for school – or even to go shopping or out to eat! Generally, the costumes are not scary but rather as cute as possible.  Most girls dress up as princesses, and the most popular costume for boys seemed to be superheroes.


Soon after, Thanksgiving comes to town. Teacher Becky had a wonderful time teaching students about turkeys, and other Thanksgiving food. To her surprise, even after much discussion, pictures and videos, many students had no idea what a turkey was, mistaking it for a big chicken. A true cultural exchange was born when the ensuing discussion about traditional American foods evolved into one about traditional Taiwanese foods. Students also made some great paper turkeys and shared what they are thankful for in their lives.  Both the students and the teachers had fun sharing in the Thanksgiving holiday traditions.


And of course, the season of holiday celebrations would not be complete without Christmas.  Teacher Becky found that many students celebrated Christmas at home with their families, so it was easy to get them into the holiday spirit. Decorating each room with a Christmas tree, Teacher Becky made sure that all of her students had a visit from Santa.  Sharing her own family’s tradition, she also had each of her students make an ornament for the class tree.


Though the magic of Christmas captivated the students, they were even more intrigued by snow, which most of them have never experienced or even seen before.  The students really enjoyed learning about snow and making their own snowmen, with the help of Santa Claus, of course.


Back in Los Angeles with her Distance Learning teacher hat on again, Teacher Jackie challenged her 8th grade students to create “twister carols” by rewriting lyrics to a famous Christmas carol.  Meanwhile,

Image5th graders went on a 4G field trip to The Grove, a famous shopping mall in Los Angeles that decks their halls to the max for Christmas. Here they got to see first hand some of the most prominent American Christmas traditions, compliments of Teacher Seth’s interviews with local shoppers.  They also examined the winter wonderland that much of America was experiencing by writing descriptive poems about various images of snow.  The results were impressive despite the lack of personal experience with snow.

With the upcoming Chinese New Year celebration, 7th grade Distance Learning students made connections to the recent New Year celebration in America by writing resolutions.  Below is an example of the fine work that was produced by 701 student, Dylan.


Meanwhile, in Taiwan, Teacher Becky celebrated the New Year with her Kindergarten classes after discussing the similarities and differences between the American and Taiwanese New Year traditions.  Teacher Becky found that in both Taiwan and America, eating certain foods is believed to bring wealth and good fortune – in Taiwan, it’s fish, while in the American South, it’s collard greens and black-eyed peas.  Both cultures also share a tradition of money for the New Year, with Taiwanese exchanging red envelopes with gifts of money. The students really enjoyed sharing their traditional dragons with Teacher Becky to welcome in the New Year.

Celebrating American holidays with students in foreign countries is such a special and rewarding experience.  To see students embrace American traditions with enthusiasm and wonder, while also sharing their own rich holiday traditions, is an opportunity unique to teaching and traveling abroad.  In what ways do you celebrate holidays with your students?

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