It is becoming more common for us to refer to vacation time in December as winter holidays or winter break. This is not because we are trying to get rid of the term “Christmas” but because not all our students celebrate Christmas. Diwali, Hanukkah, Christmas, Chinese New Year and Holi are just some of the celebrations happening in the late fall and winter season, so using the term Winter Break is more inclusive for everyone.
Learning about these celebrations can be fascinating for students, perhaps because they often assume everyone celebrates the same holidays as them. Learning how other students celebrate, the food they eat, games played and stories told to give an insight into their peers’ lives. Educating for tolerance and understanding can help to eliminate ignorance and fear. Opportunities for student voices are plenty when we include holidays all of our students are involved in.
As a student who celebrates one of these holidays, this can be an opportunity to be an expert and share knowledge, experiences and stories. Students can enjoy being the leader and teach about their cultural background. If the student is willing, family members could also share their knowledge with students acting as a human library. Adults often enjoy having the opportunity to share their culture and address any misinformation that might be present. Having an expert share their knowledge gives students an authentic voice and an opportunity to challenge their understanding. Asking questions to a guest speaker can help students clarify their understanding.
Using a picture book as a starting point gives us as educators, a comfortable introduction into a topic, especially when we are also learning. Picture/informational books provide summaries and talking points. They give us an insight into a culture, history and common practises. Often a craft or art activity is suggested, giving teachers an opportunity to provide students with a practical application of their learning.
As educators, we must be willing to discuss and celebrate differences. Doing so builds positive community relations and respect for each other. While we recognize that no one group is as homogenous as it might seem and there is diversity within a common group, learning about world celebrations is an accessible starting point for young students.