Happy Holidays: The Value of Teaching Your Kids About Different Holidays.
By Chelsea McLeod
Christmas is just around the corner! For many of us, this is true. Christmas is coming up, so we are in holiday preparation mode, shopping, decorating and planning. However, that is not the reality for many other families worldwide. Many people are preparing for another holiday or tradition we don’t observe. The increasing popularity of the saying “Happy Holidays” often reminds us that many cultural and religious holidays are celebrated around us, so let’s discuss the value of teaching your kids about different holidays.
Growing up, many of us heard that old saying, “life would be boring if we were all the same.” But what does that mean? Does it extend past personality differences or hair colours? In reality, we should mean that every person of every background and culture is essential to our world. Especially in recent years, we have all been taught that Diversity is necessary, that it is what makes life so interesting, and yet we often aren’t exposed to much in the way of diversity; other religious values, cultures, and traditions, in our day-to-day lives unless we seek them out. This appreciation of diversity and different religious traditions begins at home.
Holidays are not Universal!
Holidays are not a universal experience, not everyone celebrates or observes the same calendar holidays as others, and as the holiday season approaches, it’s vital that we remember there is a diverse set of holidays that are celebrated all around us, not just our own. It’s essential for children to understand and express their family traditions, holidays and beliefs. Still, the holiday season can also be an excellent time to encourage the investigation of other cultures.
Taking the time to learn about other cultures helps to expand your child’s experiences and the world, and it also helps create more understanding across cultures. One of the best things we can do for our growing kids is to be open and honest, expose them to others’ way of life, and teach them that not everyone’s the same. This is crucial to developing a broader worldview and helping children empathize with others. And in doing this, we are reminded that variety is the spice of life!
Variety is the Spice of Life!
We Need to Begin By Valuing Other Cultures
How do we do this? How do we teach our children about other holidays and traditions? Well, actually, the expansion of worldview and exploration of others starts with us, the parents, by first seeing value in and being open to learning about other cultures. Learning about different cultures and holidays yourself will open the door to a better discussion with your children.
You may not have grown up knowing about much more than your family traditions and holidays that were celebrated within your family. It is possible that many of those you were friends with or went to school with practiced similar traditions to yours. Therefore, this may take some research and study to investigate and consider other cultures, traditions and holidays.
Discussing new concepts with your children can be daunting, so you should take the time to inform yourself to answer their questions. Don’t be intimidated; just be prepared.
So begin your research and preparation with questions:
- Why is a holiday celebrated?
- What is the historical or cultural significance of the holiday?
- When was it first celebrated, and what was its origin?
- Are religious values, commercial traditions or economic interests associated with this holiday?
- What are some things that are observed as part of this holiday?
This is a great start, but it is crucial that you don’t just focus on the holidays. Also, think broader and talk about family traditions. Some families may not celebrate a specific holiday, but they may have a family tradition they could share. Along with this, rather than focusing only on the holidays, you can start to explore different cultures year-round.
Holidays are one part of exploring other cultures. Still, if you incorporate year-round opportunities to learn about and explore different cultures, you and your children will have a much broader experience and learn much more. Imagine how your child’s cultural awareness and sensitivity would be increased by learning this new information!
There are Many Ways You Can Introduce New Holidays and Cultures!
Some ways you can explore other cultures and traditions are:
- Reading children’s books about different holidays. Check out your local library for activities and books available.
- Try food from different cultures for each of the holidays/cultures you are exploring. Not sure where to start? Check out a multi-cultural cookbook or look for recipes on the internet. Take the time to discuss why specific foods are essential and part of a particular holiday tradition.
- Compare and Contrast. Attend a local holiday festival as a family. While you’re there, look for things that are different and similar to your holiday traditions.
- Visit cultural centres or museums and explore different holiday celebrations related to that specific culture.
- Visit with or interview people that celebrate different holidays and ask questions to learn about them.
Learn about Diwali, Hanukkah, Indigenous Peoples Winter Solstice, Christmas in North America, Kwanzaa, and Lunar New Year with the Schoolio Winter Celebrations unit! Get it free for the month of December with coupon code: HOLIDAYFREE.
As well here are some suggested resources that could help you:
- PBS Parents: Search for “holiday diversity” or “cultural diversity” for a great list of resources.
- Anti-Bias Education: The December Holidays from the National Association for the Education of Young Children
- Celebrating Winter Holidays in the Classroom from Scholastic
When you actively pursue knowledge about others’ traditions and cultural heritage, you will see your world in a new way, and so will your children. This can also lead to many open and honest conversations about the world and the people around us. This openness can lead to developing a more inclusive worldview, which can also open other doors to learning; the possibilities are endless.