Celebrating The Holiday Season In A Culturally Responsive Way

paper lanterns sitting outside on the ground

If you don’t know what culturally responsive teaching is check out my post here before reading this one. November and December is a time of year marked with numerous important holidays around the world. How can teach about these holidays and celebrate along with students while still being culturally responsive? Here’s some suggestions:

Incorporate different holidays equally in your classroom decorations.

Does your classroom look like the Christmas ad for a local department store with an oversized Christmas tree, Santa and an Elf on a shelf? Maybe you stuck a 4-inch tall Menorah in the corner and call that “diverse”. Well, it isn’t! Being truly culturally responsive means that all holidays and cultures are represented equally.

Help students see that the same holiday can be celebrated in multiple ways

Not all students believe in Santa. Some students don’t celebrate Christmas with a large tree, dozens of gifts and a Christmas turkey. Books like Daddy Christmas & Hanukkah Mama, Tree of Cranes and Too Many Tamales help students see that even Christmas could be celebrated in different ways by diverse families.

Some students end of feeling very bad this time of year because all their friends are talking about the latest Iphone they got or the new video game their parents stood in line all day to get them. Try to be responsive to the fact that all your students don’t come from the same economic backgrounds.

Read books about traditions and holidays around the world.

Christmas is not the only major holiday happening this time of year. There is also Hanukkah, Diwali (November or December) Kwanza and Chinese New Year. Ramadan is another major holiday celebrated in April or May around the world.

TheCoreCoaches.com has some great ideas for teaching about each of these holidays.

Sunnyandbrightinprimary has a FREE 55 page passport book that talks about all of these major holidays as well as how Christmas is celebrated around the world. I have used this booklet with my students. Just print the countries and holidays you decide to focus on. For each country there is a reading passage that introduces the holiday and traditions to students, a set of reading comprehension questions and a stamp that students can glue into the blank pages in their passport book. My students came running into the class everyday asking what country we were going to next!

There are soooo many great resources and products out there for teaching about holidays around the world this time of year. When evaluating whether or not its a culturally responsive product to use with your students ask yourself:

Does this product or resource show these cultures in a positive way?

Does this product or resource depict people in a particular country using a stereotype (such as Mexicans always wearing a large hat, or Asians picking rice, or Africans in mud huts with animals roaming around them).

Does this product only depict Christmas as the stereotypical snow, Christmas tree, Santa scene? Christmas is not always celebrated that way.

Invite students and their families to share about traditions they have.

I came across a great flipbook that I have done with my students a few times. Students can complete it regardless of what holiday their families celebrate. It even works for students who aren’t from religious families at all. Those students might have traditions around celebrating birthdays. You can download the book for free from Classroomfreebiestoo

Focus on themes common in many cultures and holidays.

Discuss universal concepts and values such as family togetherness, kindness and thankfulness. Most holidays incorporate these values to some degree.

I saw an idea for a countdown chain that encouraged acts of kindness each day. This would be great to do with students and have them countdown to the Winter break.

Carry the discussion on diversity and culture beyond just this time of year.

You should celebrate diversity and accurately depict different cultures in the images, texts and activities you do throughout all your classroom lessons. If you’d like to know more about how to do that check out my post on Elements of Culturally Responsive Teaching.