I still remember when I was in grade school, and I felt as though I was the only person in my class that was not celebrating Christmas. My closest friends had Christmas trees, sparkly lights, and lots of presents covering their floors. I remember asking my mom for a Hanukkah bush. This didn’t happen. 🙂 I knew that it was okay to be different. I knew that Hanukkah was still special, but I missed celebrating Christmas. There was a feeling of shared excitement — both at school and around the community — that seemed to come with celebrating Christmas. Maybe I felt left out.
When my parents got divorced and my mom and step-dad got together, I celebrated my first Christmas. It was awesome! There were Christmas Eve traditions. We put up a tree. We strung popcorn, while my dog at the time, Princess, tried to eat as many pieces as we strung. We even had the big family dinner, and the turkey fiasco with the dog jumping on the table at the end of the meal, and sticking her head inside the turkey cavity. What fun!
We still have many of these traditions — usually without a tree, as the dogs make this impossible. (They love to jump and eat anything on the bottom 3/4 of the tree, and decorating 1/4 of a Christmas tree looks kind of ridiculous. 🙂 ) I share these stories because in addition to these Christmas traditions, we also have Hanukkah ones. We still light the menorah for the 8 days of Hanukkah, and often, have had Hanukkah songs and candle lighting at our Christmas Eve dinners. Over the years, I’ve been to Christmas Eve services at the church and I’ve been to Hanukkah parties at the synagogue. There’s something special about both of these experiences!
So now, almost 25 years since my very first Christmas, I get to teach students that celebrate a multitude of holidays. As the snow started to fall and holiday decorations went up around the community and in the school, the students all started to experience this holiday joy. I want to recognize all holiday celebrations. I want students to be excited about what they do, and not — like when I was younger — only wishing as though they were celebrating something different. But how do I do this?
- I can give students opportunities to share with others about what they do.
- I can look for books, songs, and artefacts that align with the different holiday celebrations.
- I can listen to what students are interested in learning about, and respond to their interests.
- I can focus on overlapping themes.
It’s this last idea that made me think of one of Angie Harrison‘s recent tweets. Angie is a Kindergarten teacher in York Region, and she is one of two teachers behind this What Can You See, How Can You Help global project. Early this afternoon, I saw this tweet:
I checked out the link, and totally loved the idea. I even went on Amazon and ordered a couple of elves to be shipped out tomorrow. Yes, I know that elves make us think about Christmas, but acts of kindness can align with any holiday. (And maybe I can even think about putting an elf, some snowmen, and some stuffed people together to perform these acts of kindness …) When I introduced my class to Angie and Jocelyn‘s global project on Monday, they were so excited to do something to help others. As Angie mentioned in a tweet today, you can actually hear the engagement in their voices.
I love that students see the fun in doing something for someone else. At this time of the year when it’s so easy to get caught up in our own wishes, I love that we can make other wishes come true. Maybe a theme of kindness will help us recognize, celebrate, and enjoy all of the holidays and in a meaningful way. What do you think? In the classroom, how do you recognize and celebrate different holidays? How do you help children see the meaning behind these holidays? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this, as we all gear up for the month of celebrations!
Your post always inspire! A tradition with our kinders is to invite the parents in to the class and share their holiday traditions with us: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, St. Lucia (Christmas) Los Posadas (Christmas) depending on parent cultural/holiday traditions. From books to crafts to food we partake! Kindness, mindfulness and gratitude a through line throughout the year.
Thanks for your comment, Faige! I love the idea of inviting parents in to talk to the students about their holiday traditions. Right now, I have parents that visit every Friday. Maybe I could ask to see if any of them are interested in sharing about their traditions. This could be a great way to meaningfully recognize all holidays/cultures!
What a beautiful post Aviva. I don’t usually comment on posts however I can’t resist on this one. I, like you grew up not celebrating Christmas. My Christmas holiday was always spent in Florida soaking up the sun with my family. I really believe what’s important at holIday time is spending time with family and loved ones.
I also really like the idea of the kindness elf. Or as you said the kindness snowman or whatever you want it to be. The most important part is teaching our students to grow up kind and even helping others. So how would I like to celebrate this month with my students. By teaching them the gift of kindness and giving. I will definitely be trying to do the kindness elf and am also going to continue my kindness and giving projects my class are working on with local charities. I am going to continue teaching the gift of kindness this month and hope when they grow up they pass this gift on to others during this holiday season. Thanks for the post Aviva!
Thanks for the comment, Sharon! Yes, family time is so important during the holidays, and I’m glad that I still get to spend the holiday season with my family (celebrating many different things). Kindness and giving are wonderful themes for December, and really for all months of the year. I’d like to start this Kindness Elf/Snowman/Person in December, but I’m hoping that we can continue with “giving to others” as the year goes on. Angie and Jocelyn’s project is a great reminder that no matter how young our students may be, they can all make a difference. It’s nice to make that difference together!
Another beautiful post. You write with such honesty and reflection. I look forward to hearing about your kindness project. We are on day two and are having wonderful conversations about what it means to be kind. Today the Kindness elves let a note saying they heard we were good at making play dough. They suggested we make a batch and give it to another k class. This generated excitement and some interesting conversation. One child said, ” if we do that then we won’t have any.” So our students discussed what it means to give up something for someone else. One child suggested we make a bigger batch and cut it in half and give half away. This is what we ended up doing, but it was a great way to generate conversation about helping others. I’m intrigued with the conversations that will develop over the month. Best wishes on your kindness project.
Thanks for the comment and the kind words, Angie! I love hearing your “kindness elf” story. What a great solution your students had, and what a great learning opportunity for them too. My Kindness Elves just arrived in the mail today. Students have been thinking about ways that we can be kind and help others. I’m actually hoping to use some of their ideas as part of this project. I’m interested in hearing what they have to say, and how this project helps them better understand what we can do to help others.