The holiday season is now in full gear with shopping, parties, and family gatherings. With all of this going on, some of us find ourselves on cruise control until our holiday break. During this time, it’s hard to remember that there are also multiple holidays going on as well. Instead of racing towards that last day of school before your holiday break, celebrate all the holidays along the way. By recognizing other cultural traditions of holidays, children can develop an understanding of other people, customs, and ideas.
To teach about holidays around the world, educate yourself! Find out the major aspects of the holiday such as why it is celebrated, when did it begin, and what are the economic/social/religious/commercial aspects of it. This will help you understand it, as well as teach about it. The NAEYC suggests to find out from families and from other staff what holidays they celebrate and the traditions they have. If you find out that the holiday traditions and beliefs are pretty diverse, ask if staff members or families may be interested in sharing a part of their particular tradition with your group. This can give your students first-hand knowledge about this holiday, how it is celebrated, and traditions that are part of it. Also having a point person can guide you to make decisions about other projects that could be tied into the holiday. Reading books in the classroom about all of the holidays can teach children about different customs that other regions might have. Children will be able to compare the similarities and differences of that particular holiday tradition to their own. The NAEYC also suggests being sensitive to children who celebrate differently than the majority of the students and to discuss the holidays as other major events rather than a simple variance.
If you find out that the holiday traditions are homogeneous among staff and families of your center, you could take a different approach. You could teach about that holiday and discover how it is different in other practicing countries. For example, Christmas is celebrated in America with an evergreen tree, lots of baking, and hanging up outside lights. But, this may not be the case in Germany, Italy, France, and Mexico. Looking into the Christmas celebrations of these countries can still give the students an understanding of traditions different than their own.
All in all, the holidays show similarities between us all. No matter what holiday we celebrate, our celebrations have like characteristics of being with family or people you love, and respecting traditions of honoring the past. Holidays are a great time to teach children about different cultures and customs, but don’t let that stop you from incorporating them all year long!