Holiday Celebrations

Photograph by Jeff Woodward.Winter holiday celebrations! They’re such a big part of American school life. But as our schools grow more diverse, traditional celebrations can leave some children and families feeling excluded or uncomfortable. Also, even if everyone at your school is fine with the traditional celebrations, there’s the matter of time pressure: We’re constantly trying to squeeze more into the school day, and holiday parties can take time away from learning.

Here are a few ideas for alternatives to traditional winter holiday parties.
  • Winter solstice luncheon. Have a class feast on (or close to) the day of the winter solstice. Families contribute a traditional family dish, from the winter holiday season or not. (Be sure families know your school’s food restriction policies.) The class then sits down to a family-style buffet luncheon, sampling dishes from different families and cultures.
  • Family game and story fest. Margaret Berry Wilson has had students share a game, story, or tradition from their family’s celebration of a holiday, again from any season. Chinese yo-yo’ing, variations on the Go Fish card game, versions of fairy tales from around the world—expect a delightful variety of activities!
  • Poetry pajama party. This one’s been a favorite of classes I’ve taught. Students come to school in PJs and read poetry to each other or quietly by themselves. It can be poetry about winter or a holiday from any time of year, or a holiday from anywhere in the world. If you time it right, this could also double as the culmination of a poetry-writing unit.

All these ideas lend themselves to curricular connections. Depending on their grade, students can write about the dishes and games they brought from home, or practice speaking about them with classmates. A solstice luncheon can tie in with studies of the seasons for young children and the solar system for older students. A poetry party reinforces literacy learning. And of course, inviting children to share family foods and traditions teaches the class the important social skills of inclusiveness and honoring all members of their community.

Tags: Celebrations and Holidays, Family Connections

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