Holidays in the classroom are a blast for students, who are anxiously awaiting Santa Claus’ arrival. While many Christmas tales describe his flight around the world in one night, most fail to address the problem of the reindeer, who are forced to carry the weight of Santa’s sleigh and all the “toys and goodies” stuffed in his classic big red bag. Some holiday songs, such as “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” even portray reindeer as happy workers whose value is determined by their ability to guide the sleigh. Stories about Santa have served as poor models for teaching children how to treat animals with compassion—until now.
Santa’s First Vegan Christmas is a heartwarming book about a clever reindeer, Dana, who joins Santa to help spread holiday cheer around the world and shows him how important it is to respect all beings. Complete this engaging literacy activity to foster compassion and empathy for animals this holiday season.
Read the book aloud to students. Then, ask the following comprehension questions:
- Why does the author call the reindeer’s tundra a “serene paradise”? (No humans could be found there.)
- Why does Dana toss the harness away? (She wants to show him a better way to get his job done.)
- How does Santa feel after Dana tells him that making reindeer pull his sleigh “just isn’t nice”? (He feels sad and decides that he wants to make everything right.)
- What happens to the cows, pigs, and chickens that Santa saves in the story? (They’re moved to sanctuaries.)
- Why do you think that Santa wanted to save all the animals at the end of the story? (He learned to see his actions from the animals’ point of view, and he wanted to make things right so that all animals could live freely.)
Allow students to discuss their answers with the whole group. Talk about the different types of animals in the story and how they are unique and special beings who want to live their lives as they choose. Then, give each student a PETA Kids holiday wish ornament to complete.
After all students have completed their ornaments, allow them to share their compassionate wishes. Display these on your classroom door or in the hallway as a kind reminder to the entire school that animals, like us, have wishes.