The last few months of the year are filled with family celebrations in many cultures. This time of year presents a unique opportunity to teach children about different celebrations and observances such as Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Christmas. In daycare, we focus on ensuring that all children feel welcome and have a true sense of belonging and having the opportunity to participate in learning, crafts and songs from their own culture and that of others in the same room is a powerful lesson.
No matter what the ages of your children are, there are ways to introduce them to the range of holidays from different cultures in fun and interesting ways. As parents and as childcare Providers, an easy way to do this to read a book and do a craft/activity about the holiday you are learning about.
Diwali (Oct 24th)
Although Diwali fell in October this year, it’s a good time to learn and explore this important holiday for those of Hindu faith. It is a 5 day long celebration that begins on the darkest night of the month and is called the festival of lights. It spreads the message of friendship and togetherness, hope and success. The homes of those who celebrate are decorated with lights, flowers and rangolis (coloured sand to decorate the floor or other flat surface)
Books about Diwali: Binny’s Diwali by Thrity Umrigar, Let’s Celebrate Diwali by Anjali Josi
Kwanzaa (Dec 26-Jan 1st)
Kwanzaa is a week long celebration that honours African heritage and families and communities come together to feast and honour their ancestors and affirm the bonds between them. They celebrate 7 principles – Unity, Self-determination, collective work, responsibility, cooperation, creativity and faith. Part of the celebration is lighting a candle every day to highlight one of the seven principles
Books about Kwanzaa: My first Kwanzaa, by Karen Katz, K is for Kwanzaa by Juwanda Ford
Hanukkah (December 18-Dec 26th)
Hanukkah means dedication in Hebrew and is also known as the festival of lights. For eight days and nights, candles are lit, songs are sung, and dreidels are spun to celebrate one of the most joyous of Jewish holidays. Traditional foods eaten during this holiday include latkes, beef brisket, matzo ball soup and challah bread.
Books about Hanukkah: Hanukkah Bear by Eric Kimmel, Happy Hannukah Curious George by H.A. Ray
Christmas (Dec 25th)
Christmas is a holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. Christians attend a mass and exchange gifts and spend time with their family eating and celebrating. Christmas is also celebrated by people who are not Christian by focusing on good deeds, sharing gifts, putting up a Christmas tree and eating! Santa Claus has also become a part of this holiday over time as he is known for giving gifts.
Books about Christmas: Christmas in the Manger by Laura Godwin, The night before Christmas by Clement Moore
We are so lucky to live in a country that is rich in various cultural and religious traditions, and it can only help to promote peace and understanding if our children grow up valuing and appreciating the traditions of others.