Celebrating the Diversity of December

Fat men sporting red suits, wreaths, silver bells with bows, elaborately decorated trees, and aisles of pricey toys just waiting to be plucked off the shelves – the reminders of Christmas are everywhere. It’s no wonder kids who don’t even celebrate this holiday can still tell you what it’s all about.

There’s no doubt, Christmas is a magical time for families across the globe. However, this is not the only important celebration that happens in December – Hanukkah and Kwanzaa also go on during this time of the year.

Hanukkah is also referred to as the festival of lights, and is observed by Jews all over the globe. Hanukkah is celebrated for eight days with a menorah that holds eight candles. On each of the eight days, a candle is lit to celebrate the taking back of the temple of Jerusalem. During this time, Jews participate in family-based and communal rituals.

Kwanzaa begins on December, 26, and lasts for seven days. Kwanzaa was started in 1970, and is generally celebrated by African Americans. During each day, families light a candle and talk about one of the seven principles the holiday is based on:

1.  Unity

2.  Self-determination

3.  Collective work and responsibility

4.  Cooperative economics

5.  Purpose

6.  Creativity

7.  Faith

On the seventh day, the families get together, feast, and exchange simple (often handmade) gifts. Unlike Christmas and Hanukkah, Kwanza is not a religious celebration, so some families who observe this holiday may also celebrate Christmas.

While it’s tempting to only focus on Christmas in December, it’s important to recognize the diversity of the month so that every child feels special. Even if you don’t have kids in your class who celebrate Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, teaching youngsters about these festivities is a great way to incorporate social studies into your curriculum.

Teaching young children about diversity is important. When they are exposed to the diverse celebrations that take place in December, they learn to respect others’ cultures and beliefs, and they are better able to function in an increasingly diverse society.

Some simple ways you can celebrate the diversity of December in your classroom is to:

• Read books about Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza.

• Invite parents of the kids who celebrate these holidays to come in and share a simple traditional cooking or craft activity.

• Encourage children to talk about how they celebrate their special holiday.

• Talk to kids about some of the differences and similarities of all the holidays.

December is a festive time for people who celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanza. Don’t let this month pass by without taking the opportunity to expose kids to other cultures, and teach them about tolerance and respect for others.

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