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Christmas Tree Lighting Holiday Activities: Use Holiday Lighting Ceremony for Social Studies Lesson Plan

Published by Argentina Senner

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Whether it is the National Christmas tree lighting, the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, or a local lighting ceremony, teachers can use these holiday events as the basis for a social studies lesson plan or geography lesson that combines lots of learning with the holiday spirit.

Tree lightings are held in most towns throughout the country, and many states hold their own ceremonies, usually in the state capital. Older students may even want to branch out and learn about Christmas tree lighting events in other countries around the world.

Research a Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

The best known tree lighting ceremonies are the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington DC and the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree in New York City, but those are far from the only ones. Have students research local or state ceremonies using newspapers, magazines or online travel guides.

Most holiday lighting ceremonies are held outdoors and include outdoor lights, lighting lights on trees, caroling, speeches and hot chocolate. Organizations also hold indoor ceremonies and often a festival of trees can be found.

To broaden the scope of the social studies lesson plan, form cooperative learning groups and have each group choose a tree lighting ceremony to research and present to the class.


Map Reading Skills

Lessons on locations of holiday lighting ceremonies naturally lend themselves to the teaching of map reading skills. Before beginning, collect various state maps, cities maps or maps of local areas, enough for each group to be able to locate the holiday lighting event locally, on a state map and nationally.

If students aren’t proficient at map reading, teach a short geography lesson to review map reading skills such as using a map grid to locate cities, scale of miles and different features of various types of maps.

Students may also be interested in researching the location where their famous tree originated and noting that on a map as well.

Create a Free Travel Guide

After students have researched Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, have each group create a travel guide of the city or town where the event takes place. Use free travel guides from local Chambers of Commerce and tourist maps to guide students in their creations. Have them include details of the tree lighting event as the centerpiece of their brochures, but also encourage them to include other details of related holiday events in the area.

Other details such as numbers of lights, tree dimensions, decorations and other local lore can be included as well.

Fun Famous Christmas Tree Facts

Here are some fun Christmas Tree facts to share with the class to help get students started:

  • The official White House Tree for 2017 is a Douglas-fir from Shepherdstown, W.V
  • The first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center was displayed in 1931. The tallest Rockefeller Center tree was a 100 foot tall Norway Spruce that came from Killingworth, Connecticut.
  • The first National Christmas Tree in Washington DC was lit on December 24, 1923. It was donated by Middlebury College, in then President Calvin Coolidge’s native state of Vermont.

Combine a Christmas tree lighting ceremony with map and research skills to create a geography lesson that will be in keeping with the holiday spirit as well as help students review map reading skills, cooperative group work and research skills.

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