Music is a big part of holiday traditions and I love how each culture has unique songs that connect to the season. There’s nothing wrong with Jingle Bells, but I like to expose students to music that is really original to the target culture (not just a translation).  What songs should our students recognize or be able to sing if they were immersed in the target culture? What do the lyrics tell us about the culture? It’s the idea of cultural competence, and we can help our students see a bigger picture of how others celebrate… starting with the music!

“I can” Statements

Let’s start with a few related daily “I can” statements that could be used with a target culture song.

  • I can identify popular holiday songs from (target) culture.
  • I can tell the history of a popular holiday song.
  • I can explain how a song represents the culture.


Morgen, Kinder, wird’s was geben (recommended by Thomas Sauer)


There’s a line toward the end that shows us an interesting cultural perspective. It translates roughly to…

Concerning the gifts let us not look at each other with envy, but think concerning the things:

“How can we preserve them nicely, so that their cuteness will make us happy for a long time after?


Mi Burrito Sabanero (Recommended by Joanny Billings)

Dominican Republic/Spanish-speaking countries 

Love the tropical feel to this version with the drums, güiro, and other instruments!

What kid wouldn’t want to learn “tuquituquituqui” in class?

The group singing here, Los Papis RA7, is Mexican.

Petit Papa Noël (Recommended by Laure Kruger)

Little Father Christmas
When you come down from the sky
With toys by the thousands
Don’t forget my little shoe
I’m curious… Are shoes a popular gift in Francophone countries? Did the tradition come from this song, or was this song inspired by tradition?

Follow-up Activities

  • Read about how these songs came to be. Wikipedia has it’s flaws, but it is great for learning a bit of a background in the TL and usually has some interesting facts! Rossi sold more than 700 million records! Wow!

  • Find a Karaoke version of the song to practice!
  • Ask native speakers about the song + test them to see if they can sing “the next line” of the song.



  • Create/find a modern version of the song and share your inspiration.

Here’s popular Jazz singer Zaz with her version of the song.


There you have it! Hope this (or Kara’s ideas on treats or characters) gives someone out there a lesson idea for tomorrow. Feel free to share with a colleague – it’s one of the few times of year all language teachers can plan together! Who knows… maybe one of your students will even have a cultural “ah-ha” moment like this guy!