A familiar holiday song proclaims, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.” But suppose the lyric were changed to “sound a lot like Christmas”? What would that mean to you? What sounds do you associate with the holiday season? Is it the pitter-patter of little feet, a hearty rendition of “ho-ho-ho,” the soothing chime of church bells, the blare of Christmas music on a radio, or the crackle of a roaring fireplace?  Gather your group for some holiday nostalgia, featuring the sounds of the season. Choose some of the activities suggested below.

  • HOLIDAY ACTIVITIES: Ask participants to name the sounds associated with the following holiday activities: Trekking through the snowy woods to find the perfect Christmas tree, baking sugar cookies in Grandmother’s kitchen, shopping for last-minute gifts, visiting with Santa at a local department store, attending a brass instrumental Christmas concert, caroling in the neighborhood on a very cold night (add other activities as they come to mind).
  • BELLS: Provide small bells for participants. Sing “Jingle Bells” together, directing the group to ring their bells every time they sing the chorus. Ask: What kind of places do you hear bells? What time of year?
  • ANGELS: Display pictures of angels, angel pins, and objects with angels on them. Sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” “It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” “Angels, from the Realms of Glory,” and “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful” (verse 3). Ask: Do you believe in angels? Does everyone have a guardian angel? Have you ever acted as an angel to someone who needed help? Read the Christmas story (Luke 2:1-20), and talk about the angels in the Nativity story. Serve angel-shaped cookies.
  • HOLIDAY SONGS: Listen to holiday music associated with a particular singer (examples: Bing Crosby/“White Christmas,” Andy Williams/“It’s The Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” Burl Ives/“A Holly, Jolly Christmas”). Or, play several different recordings of a holiday song and tell which one you prefer.
  • BIRDS: Play a CD of winter bird sounds. Talk about other outdoor sounds you might hear during the holiday/winter season (examples: Salvation Army bell ringers, sleigh bells, wind howling, snow plows/trucks).
  • SLEIGH RIDE: Listen to Christmas orchestra music and identify instruments used in the songs. (Example:  Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops play “Sleigh Ride,” composed by Leroy Anderson.)
  • HOME SOUNDS: Listen to Perry Como’s rendition of “(There’s No Place Like) Home for the Holidays.” Ask: What did Christmas sound like in your home? In your neighborhood? In your community? Serve gingerbread cookies and hot cider.
  • SILENCE: Display landscape photos of freshly fallen snow. Sing “Silent Night, Holy Night,” and talk about the gift of silence during the holidays.
  • MUSIC BOXES: Listen to holiday melodies on various musical keepsakes such as a music box, snow globe, musical figurine or carousel, or chimes/bells. Ask if anyone in the group had a favorite musical keepsake.
  • MOVIE: Watch a favorite movie version of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. Or, ask for volunteers to read from the original 1843 version of the tale in which Ebenezer Scrooge learns the meaning of Christmas.
  • HALLELUJAH: Talk about the meaning of the word ‘Hallelujah.’ Listen to the “Hallelujah Chorus” from the oratorio Messiah by German composer George Frideric Handel. Learn about the history of the piece and its scriptural references.
  • CAROLS: Arrange for a performance from one or more of the following:  small church choir, bell ringers, choral group, brass instrument band, or harpist. Hold a holiday sing-along using piano sheet music.
  • TOYS: Listen to the song “Toyland” and the instrumental “March of the Toys.” Invite children dressed in Mother Goose costumes for a toyland parade, featuring vintage toys such as dolls, teddy bears, trains, toy soldiers, and wooden blocks.
  • THE 1940s: Share some sounds from a 1940s Christmas, using old-time radio shows and recordings of Christmas songs released during the decade (examples: “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” “White Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”).  Or, show a classic Christmas movie filmed during the ’40s such as Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life. Ask: How did you celebrate Christmas in the 1940s? How has the holiday changed over the years? Serve cookies using a 1940s recipe (ex: oatmeal molasses).
  • SOUND STORY: Pick a well-known Christmas poem, like “Twas the Night Before Christmas,” and ask your group to come up with some sound effects that would enhance the reading of the poem. Assign a different person or small group to make each sound as the poem is being read aloud. (Provide props to help make the sounds when needed.) A “conductor” can point to the person(s) when it’s time to make their sound.
  • CHANUKAH: Tell the story of Chanukah and add sound effects to that story. Ask: What are the sounds of Chanukah? Serve potato pancakes.
  • NEW YEAR’S EVE: Pass out noise-makers. Put a big clock in a prominent place and reset it so it will count down to the new year. When it’s “midnight,” all yell ‘Happy New Year,’ wave your noise-makers, and sing “Auld Lang Syne.” Serve party food and play big band music from the 1940s.


  1. Which character in the Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol says, “Bah! Humbug”? Ebenezer Scrooge
  2. In “The Christmas Song,” what type of carols is ‘being sung by a choir’? Yuletide
  3. Name some sounds of bells. Chime, ting-a-ling, gong, ring, ding-dong, clang (other answers are possible)
  4. In the song “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” on which day were calling birds given? Day four
  5. How do you say “Merry Christmas” in Spanish? Feliz Navidad
  6. Which organization enlists volunteers to ring bells for its annual Red Kettle campaign? Salvation Army
  7. Finish the title of the Christmas carol “Angels We Have Heard….” On High
  8. Who sings “Frosty the Snowman” in the old children’s TV special? Jimmy Durante
  9. What were Tiny Tim’s last words in A Christmas Carol? “God Bless Us, Every One.”
  10. What sound does Santa Claus make when he laughs? Ho-Ho-Ho


“Peace on earth will come to stay/When we live Christmas every day.” ~ Helen Steiner Rice

“Sounds of the Season” written by Sue Hansen. Copyright 2014 ElderSong Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.

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