Christmas History Lessons

Videos in the lessons running up to the Christmas break irritate me. I know we are all tired but it’s plain lazy. I am not going to show Elf, the Snowman or Santa Claus the Movie. This does not make me the Grinch. In fact I love a bit of Christmas. But I also love a bit of history.

So this week I have planned lessons with a festive twist. Last year I blogged for Hodder and planned a Victorian Christmas lesson. If you’d like to see the lesson plan it’s here. This term though I am not teaching the Victorians, I am teaching 17th century England and WW2, so I’ve planned two lessons on the Yuletide in those eras. Below are the lesson plans and links to the PowerPoints. Enjoy!

Lesson 1: A Puritanical Christmas
(PowerPoint: Puritan Christmas)

Starter: What were 16th and 17th century xmas traditions?
On the PPT are some images to get them to guess. There are geese, mince pies, and Christmas puddings. Emphasise that these were often very different from today’s traditions though, e.g. mince pies had actual mince in them.


1. What do these traditions have in common?
Establish that this is all about gluttony and food! Show a short clip from the SuperSizers go Elizabethan (linked from the slide). The clip shows the full extent of Tudor greed.

2. Where does this fit into the history of xmas?
Using the timeline on the PPT place these traditions in the wider context of the history of xmas e.g. this is way before trees, cards, crackers etc.

3. Teacher introduction
Introduce enquiry – What was a Puritan Christmas like?

4. Who were the Puritans?
A quick recap of the Puritans. On the PPT are a list of statements. Students need to sort into Puritan dos and don’ts. Then ask the students what a Puritan would think about a traditional Tudor Christmas

5. Teacher introduction – Why did Cromwell ban Christmas?
Use the last activity to explain why Cromwell banned Christmas.

6. What words would a Puritan use to describe Christmas festivities?
Get the students to make a word bank on the board. This can be used in the next activity.

7. Poster
Now get the students to make a poster that advertises the banning of Christmas that could be put up in a 17th century town. (NOTE: I nicked this idea off an old forum! Ta!)

Plenary – Discussion
What was the impact of these ideas?

Lesson 2: A WW2 Christmas
(PowerPoint: WW2 Christmas)

Starter: Why is Christmas difficult during war? How do people cope?
Show video of US marines doing a silly Christmas parade in Afghanistan and emphasise that people make the most out of bad situations during war and especially during Christmas.


1. Teacher Introduction
Introduce the enquiry – What was Christmas like during WW2? – Ask the students how the question could be broken down and hopefully get them to think about Home Front and soldiers.

2. Why would Christmas during WW2 have been particularly difficult?
Get them to list a few reasons why WW2 was difficult thinking back to previous lessons, e.g. rationing, Blitz etc.

3. Christmas on the Home Front
Get the students to make notes from the following activities:
a.) Gerald’s story – get one or two to read this out and discuss (story linked from PPT)
b.) BBC videos – there are five neat little videos that show lots of different aspects of life during WW2
c.) War bond posters – could do an inference activity or just discuss the specific features of each 
d.) Make do and mend – bring in a load of old newspapers and cardboard and give the students 10 minutes to make a Christmas decoration. Need to follow this with a reflection activity.

4. Christmas on the Front
Give the students the slide of images. Get them to label all the features and look for similarities and differences

Plenary – Discussion
Could you cope with a WW2 style Christmas?


I hope these are useful and have a proper Merry (historical) Christmas!




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