In my country, the New Year is traditionally considered the main holiday of the year.

In my country, the New Year is traditionally considered the main holiday of the year. It is an occasion for the families to get together and have a huge dinner. The staples are fowl, salads including what is known as the Russian potato salad in the world, while in Russia it is called the French Salad Olivier. Naturally there are lots of desserts and fruit, the main one being tangerines. Sparkling wine, cranberry juice and tea are a must. Christmas was not exactly forbidden, rather it was not widely celebrated for almost a century. The Russian Orthodox Christmas is observed on January 7. In recent years, all the old customs have come to the fore, and what we have now is a good mixture of various rituals.
In the classroom, at the end of the term, EL teachers do something special together with their pupils. In primary school we start with the explanations: young children do not know that in many countries, Christmas is celebrated on December 25. Being inquisitive by nature, they always wish to know why, so it may be a nice little lesson on Christianity. In mid-school they already know the special meaning of the season, and they are very enthusiastic about it. This is something done at their lessons of English only, which makes the whole thing all the more special. We make decorations, draw pictures and write down various good wishes in fancy colourful scripts. Every class may choose a different country to represent. Children make costumes, compose little plays or choose a literary story to enact. In the last days of the term, each class presents their performance in front of the school, teachers and parents.
Teenagers enjoy all kinds of competitions. A very effective way of making language work interesting is a Translation Contest. Students choose any piece of literature on the topic of Christmas, and translate it from English into their mother tongue. They present their work in any way they like, be it a small sketch, a presentation, or a simple reading aloud of the original work and their rendering. The class or classes vote for the best translation, and the winner gets a prize.
The end of December festival is a good occasion to let the students’ imagination work, and to activate their English speaking skills. At the annual school party, we may watch whole classes dressed up in the national costumes of many countries, the UK, Russia, China... It is a great opportunity to teach the pupils a lot of positive new facts about the whole world. With the use of ICT, we can demonstrate how different the customs and traditions are, and yet how much any nation enjoys a holiday. In Siberia, this is the coldest time of the year. At -30C, people stay inside practically all the time. When we connected with our partners from Uruguay for example, they told us it was +30C there, and they stayed on the beach all night! It was a huge educational moment for all of us.
Amazingly, if it is not too cold, “only” -15C, lots of young people celebrate the holidays outside. They decorate a real live fir tree with tinsel and dance around it singing traditional Christmas songs, and then they share their experience in the classroom.
Last but not least, there is always a tea party in the classroom. Everybody brings in something, we sit together around the table drinking tea and eating pastries. The conversation flows easily, in English. Children and adults alike enjoy this kind of the last EL lesson of the year immensely. When it is -30C and a huge blizzard outside, nothing beats a good cup of hot tea, a pile of fresh crumpets, and a nice holiday cheerful talk, in English, about this wonderful season.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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