What are Winter holidays around the world?
How do you teach about Winter holidays around the world to early childhood and special education students? Keep it short and simple! What a wonderful way to teach about diversity and inclusion! It's important that even the youngest students learn that holiday traditions are different around the world and here at home. They may have friends who have different holiday traditions, wear different clothing, or may not celebrate holidays at all!
While we may not be able to teach about all possible traditions and holidays, we can at least try to cover some of the most common ones. I created a social emotional learning activity about various holidays around the world I've encountered with students in the United States.
I choose not to include religious explanations. Being that these are intended only for littles to understand that everyone may have different celebrations and traditions than themselves, I wanted to keep it simple. It's also important to include that some friends may not celebrate anything, and that’s OK, too! We can be friends and share the fun of the season with everyone!
[Yes, I know that Diwali is typically a Fall holiday, but I wanted to include it, anyway. It's a beautiful celebration.]
Diwali is a Hindu celebration known as the Festival of Lights. Diwali lasts 5 or 6 days between October and November. Diwali celebrates victory of light over darkness and good over evil.
During Diwali, families light small clay lamps and set off firecrackers. Some families wear fancy new clothes and share goodies with friends and family.
Saint Lucia Day
In some Scandinavian countries, Saint Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13th. It is meant to bring hope and light during the darkest time of the year.
Girls dress up as “Lucia brides” in long white dresses with red sashes. They wear a wreath of candles or lights on their heads. Boys dress in white pajama-like costumes. Families sing traditional songs to welcome the Christmas season.
Las Posadas is a 9-day celebration between December 16 and 24 in Mexico, Guatemala, and southwest United States.
Each night, a child dresses up as an angel and leads other children dressed in silver and gold robes carrying candles through the streets of the town pretending to look for a place to sleep. Adults follow playing music and singing. Goodies are handed out at the houses they stop at (but they can’t go in!), and they read and sing.
At the end, children get to break open star-shaped pinatas filled with candy and toys.
Hanukkah is an eight-day Jewish celebration also known as the Festival of Lights (another festival of lights!). It begins on different days each year but lasts 8 days usually in December.
Families celebrate by lighting a candle each of the 8 nights and reciting blessings. Families eat traditional foods like potato pancakes and jam-filled donuts. Children play with dreidels (four-sided wood spinning tops) and exchange gifts (usually one per night!) wrapped in silver and blue paper.
Christmas is celebrated by many families around the world in different ways. In the United States, it usually means Santa Claus! A jolly, plump man in a red suit with a white beard who brings presents to good girls and boys on December 25th.
Around the world, Santa may wear something different, or families might do different celebrations.
In Australia, it’s WARM when Christmas comes.
It’s their summer!
In England, families open “crackers” before Christmas dinner which pop open and may have a paper crown, a joke, or a little present in them.
In China, they give apples wrapped in colored paper.
During Christmas, families might decorate a tree with lights and colored balls, decorate or put lights on houses, and there might be large family gatherings.
And Christmas morning usually means opening of presents!
Kwanzaa means “First Fruits” and is based on an ancient African festival that celebrates family life and unity. From December 26 to January 1st, African Americans dress in colorful clothing, decorate their homes with fruits and vegetables, and light a candle each night. Seven values are celebrated like unity, creativity, and faith.
The colors black, red, and green are important and represent the people, the struggle, and the hope of their community.
Families celebrate with songs and dances, African drums, story and poetry, and great food! They share African works of art and celebrate the community’s culture. Oh, and gift giving!
La Befana is celebrated in Italy on January 6th. It represents a Mother Nature figure symbolizing rebirth.
La Befana is an old witch who flies through the country the evening before and brings good children treats. If you’re not good, you might get a lump of coal!
Boxing Day happens the day after Christmas and is celebrated in a few countries like England, Canada, and Australia. People don’t have to go to work or school, and they enjoy soccer matches (called “football” there!) and horse races.
Chinese New Year
On the first day of the lunar calendar, in January or February, Chinese New Year is celebrated. Celebrations last 15 days and is sometimes called the Spring Festival because it means the coldest part of the year is almost over.
People celebrating Chinese New Year usually make trips home to be with family and friends. Families hang red decorations and give presents wrapped in red paper.
Celebrations include traditional dances, fireworks, and big parades.
And No Holidays!
AND, some friends don’t celebrate any official holiday during winter or anytime. That’s OK, too! The best thing about holiday celebrations is just being with family and friends, so we don’t HAVE to have a special date for that. We can just show our love and care for each other EVERY DAY!