Last week was the beginning of Hanukkah, and it reminded me how much Jackie and I loved the winter holidays. We used them as a way to teach the kids about diversity and introduce them to the fact that each family is unique and may celebrate differently according to their own traditions.
These traditions may include special foods they serve, decorations or trees that they put up and even who they celebrated with. We liked to discuss these holidays and traditions to give the kids a fun way to embrace cultural differences.
Right after Thanksgiving, we began to ask the parents in our classroom what holidays they observed as well as how they were celebrated. Knowing this information allowed us the opportunity to talk about these differences with the children. At times, we were fortunate enough to have a parent come into the class to share a story, prepare a special food or engage in an activity that represented their holiday.
We had one child from Holland whose parents told us they celebrated St. Nicholas Day on December 6th. “Sinterklaas” wore red robes and a tall pointed hat. He traveled by ship with a huge sack of toys for the children. The family told us that the ornaments on their tree looked like little wooden shoes. On this day, the children would put a pair of shoes or boots into a window with the hope that St. Nicholas would fill them with chocolate or small presents.
There was also a little boy in our class from Croatia. Their Christmas started on November 25th with St. Catherine Day; then throughout December they celebrated other saints. On November 25th they made a wreath of straw or evergreens with four candles on it. The wreath symbolized endlessness and the candles represented history and life. Like the little girl in our class, they too celebrated St. Nicholas Day. They put up Christmas trees and decorated them with ornaments in the shape of fruit. Finally, on December 25th, they added a fifth candle to the wreath for Christmas Day.
One wonderful dad came in to share how Hanukkah is celebrated and even made latkes with the children as well as playing the Dreidel game.
After learning about how their peers celebrated the holidays, the children eagerly began to talk about some of their traditions putting up Christmas tree, candles in the windows, making cookies as a snack for Santa or even leaving out carrots for his reindeer, lighting a menorah, and playing the dreidel game. The children were eager to share what was happening in their family.
In the book, Family First: Your Step By Step Plan For Creating a Phenomenal Family by Dr. Phil McGraw, he discusses the importance of creating family traditions with your children. These traditions bring your family together.
As you can see, we strongly believe in that sharing our holidays and traditions is what truly brings us all together and honors who we are. What a wonderful thing!
Wishing you all a peaceful holiday season!