Holidays in the French Class

Holidays are a great opportunity to infuse culture into the classroom, and there are a number of holidays worth exploring in French class.  In this post I will share some of the ways I introduce various holidays to my students.

La fête des rois
La fête des rois, or Three Kings Day, takes place on January 6.  On this day, French families typically eat a special cake called Galette des Rois, or King's Cake.  Inside the galette is a small figurine.  The person who gets the figurine in their slice is the king or queen for the day.  On this day, I usually start out by giving students a little information about the holiday and role play the family scene of passing out the pieces of galette.  I modified this PowerPoint and translated it into French.  Now, with classes of sometimes as many as 31 students, it's not practical to try to divide a galette among so many students.  My colleague came up with the idea of using cupcakes as stand-ins.  We ask two students per class to prepare cupcakes for half the class (this way, if one student forgets, you can cut the remaining cupcakes in half), and stick an M&M or a Skittle in one of them.  The students who get the candy in their cupcake are the king or queen.  Now, as you can see in the photo, we have been using Burger King crowns for the past few years.  It's true that Burger King isn't terribly culturally authentic, but we teachers have tight budgets, and my colleague got the crowns for free simply by asking for them!  Burger King was happy for the free advertising.  You could also make crowns or by simple crowns online.

Mardi Gras/Carnaval
I spend a fair amount of time on Mardi Gras and Carnaval.  I teach students about the customs, history, where it's celebrated, then students make masks in class and we culminate with a celebration featuring student-made dishes such as King's Cake and beignets.  I talk more in detail about how I celebrate Mardi Gras and Carnaval in this post.

Poisson d'avril
Poisson d'avril is the French tradition of April Fools Day, where children stick paper fish on each other's backs.  On this holiday I share the tradition with students, then I give them each a fish to color.  After they finish coloring, we discuss in French what colors each person's fish is.  Then they begin sticking fish on their friend's backs in class.

National French Week
Ok, so I know this isn't a holiday, but it's a great opportunity to promote the study of French in your school.  I usually do three things for National French Week:  At French Club, students decorate the entranceway to the building with flags of francophone countries, and in class, I have a poster contest for students to share why they are learning French, and I have a celebration where students bring in dishes from all over the francophone world.  I go into more detail about these three things in this post.

La Chandeleur
Chandeleur is the French version of Groundhog Day, except there's no groundhog and crêpes are eaten.  Prior to the holiday, I tell students about the customs, as well as two proverbs:  "À la Chandeleur, le jour croît de deux hears" (On Chandeleur, the day grows by two hours) and "Quand la Chandeleur est claire, l'hiver est par derrière; Chandeleur couverte, quarante jours de perte" (When Chandeleur is bright, winter is behind; if it is overcast, 40 days of loss).  On the day of the holiday, I transform the classroom into a café, and students order crêpes to eat in class.  In the past I invited a local restaurant in or ordered the crêpes wholesale, but this year I made the crêpes at home.  Parent volunteers help heat up, fill and serve the crêpes.

Heavily celebrated in Europe, on December 6, Saint Nicholas or Saint-Nicolas, the patron saint of school children, visits children's homes and leaves goodies in children's shoes.  At the beginning of class, students place a shoe in the hallway.  Then I tell the students about the holiday, and students go out in the hall to find a treat in their shoe.  I also show them this song and this video showing a parade.

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