Online Friendly Discussion Worksheet: The Night Before Christmas

Learn how two New Yorkers helped invent the modern day image of Santa Claus with a cartoon and The Night Before Christmas.

Combine this activity with many more ESL activities about Christmas.

I remember a day before the internet. Not many of them, but certainly a few. I also remember when everyone figured out how to use it and it transformed the notion of knowledge. Every little fact could be checked and the origins of every holiday were unveiled. Now, I’d bet 99% of the people you’ve met know the origins of Christmas: the mixture of Christian and pagan traditions, the role of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, the fact the Jesus was probably born in April, not December, blah blah blah.

That’s why this discussion has nothing to do with that! And, it’s a bit of trivia so niche, that I can guarantee your students have never heard it before. This is the story of how two New Yorkers invented our contemporary and international image and understanding of Santa Claus.

A hot chocolate warm up: Download the PDF of the original “A Visit From St. Nicholas” now known as “The Night Before Christmas.” Read the poem out loud as a class, changing readers after each page. Discuss what your students think of the story. Do they know it? Is there a version in their own language? Does this story evoke strong images of Christmas for them? Etc.

This copy is courtesy of Project Gutenberg! Click here to download >>

A Visit From St. Nicholas


  1. Watch the video below once and ask your students how they feel about Santa Claus.
  2. Look at the vocabulary on the top right of the page. Watch the video again and then put students in pairs to answer the questions on the left of the PDF.
  3. Speaking Activity: Put students in new pairs to read the statements on the right. Partners will use these statements to begin discussions by agreeing or disagreeing with them.
  4. Come back together as a class and have each student share their thoughts on a different phrase.
  5. Group Activity: Put your students in pairs or small groups to complete this task. Students will add or modify at least 5 characteristics of Santa Claus to better fit their own culture(s). If you have a mix of cultures, even better!


The video:


Go further

Learn more about how a Civil War cartoonist helped invent our modern day Santa Claus with an article from the Smithsonian Magazine >>


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Ian Kime

Ian Kime

I have been teaching English abroad since receiving my CELTA certificate in Poland in 2018. I enjoy tracking my individual students’ development but love having lessons with big groups! Now that I teach online, I am accompanied by my sidekicks Olaf, Mała, Pirate and Bandit on a regular basis.

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