Our Own holiday: A Creative Classroom Project

Jamie G. Sturges, Toyo University

Quick guide

  • Key words: Holidays, culture, writing, drawing, collages
  • Learner English level: Intermediate and above
  • Learner maturity: University
  • Preparation time: Varies
  • Activity time: 90 minutes
  • Materials: Handouts (see appendices), whiteboard/blackboard, markers, slips of paper, box/cup/hat for selecting paper from, drawing paper, photos/pictures of food (optional)

Today’s a special day, but what kind? Let students be creative by helping them make their own holiday, celebrate its history, wear its designated colors, display its symbols, and plan its traditional meals. 


Step 1: Arrange the classroom into three separate sections. Distribute students among tables as evenly as possible.

Step 2: Have the group materials ready up front; cut out the cards from Appendix B, but don’t distribute them yet.


Step 1: On the board, list some well-known Japanese holidays (or elicit from students). See Appendix A.

Step 2: Talk about other holidays. Distribute the cards from Appendix B. Have each group match the holiday name, colors, symbols (two for each holiday), and foods. Review together.

Step 3: Announce that today is also a special day, and have students brainstorm one- or two-word phrases that set the new holiday theme. Have students submit their ideas on small slips of paper. Draw a slip at random and write its contents on the board: Today is __________ Day! Let’s celebrate!

Step 4: Assign a job to each of the three different stations where students are sitting, designating them as History, Color/Symbol, or Food. This is where the students will start. Rotate after 10-12 minutes at each station.

The History table collaborates on the legend of the new holiday. They should aim for 4-6 sentences together. Offer a prompt to start: “This holiday began a long time ago when a young man/boy/girl/person was running late for school…”

The Color/Symbol table will decide on the colors (two) and symbols (two) for the holiday, and later explain why they selected the colors and symbols. If they have extra time, they should create a greeting for the holiday.

The Food table will decide on the main course. They will sort through the images of food (if provided) or draw their own, and explain why they selected those foods. Ask follow-up questions, such as: “Do you eat this with your family or friends? What if people have allergies? Where can people buy this food? Do you have to make it yourself, or can you buy it?”

Step 5: Rotate the groups. The jobs at each table change slightly.

The History table continues the story where it was left off in any way they wish.

The Color/Symbol table now has representatives from a Japanese department store. They must create a store display for the holiday using the colors and symbols chosen. Together or individually, draw display banners or products for the holiday.

The Food table will decide on snacks for the holiday and explain why they selected the foods they did. Ask the questions from Step 4.

Step 6: Rotate the groups one final time. The jobs at each table change slightly.

The History table finishes the story.

The Color/Symbol table follows the same procedure as in Step 5, this time representing a different department store.

The Food table decides on desserts for the holiday and explains why they selected the foods they did. Ask the questions from Step 4.

Step 7: Groups return to the tables they began at. Give groups about 5 minutes to assess all the additions; then everyone can present their sections.

Step 8: If possible, display everything on the classroom wall so students can see everything together. Finally, just enjoy your holiday!


This is a break from the normal classroom routine and encourages student originality, creativity, as well as group collaboration (and compromise). The teacher is free to modify or substitute any of the warm-up holidays. By working together and discussing some of the fun parts of holidays, students can create a special experience together and learn about the culture of holidays at the same time. 


The appendices are available below.