No matter which winter holiday your family celebrates, this is a magical season of creating family memories and special activities. It’s easy to get so consumed by our own family’s holiday though that we forget about the opportunities to learn about other winter traditions and holidays. No matter what the ages of your children are, there are ways to introduce them to the other winter holidays in fun and interesting ways.
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. Fortunately, there are so many wonderful resources to do this online.
Consider making December a month of multicultural holiday lessons
December is an opportunity to have fun and give and receive gifts, but it is also a month filled with teachable moments. Consider having a weekly date with your family to learn about a different winter holiday or tradition throughout the month. There are many to choose from:
- Saint Nicholas Day (Christian)
- Fiesta of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Mexican)
- St. Lucia Day (Swedish)
- Hanukkah (Jewish)
- Christmas Day (Christian)
- Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian)
- Boxing Day (Australian, Canadian, English, Irish)
- Kwanzaa (African American)
- Omisoka (Japanese)
- Yule (Pagan)
- Saturnalia (Pagan)
- Diwali (Indian)
- Winter Solstice (Science/Nature)
Introducing your family to new holidays can be very simple if you choose a children’s book and a fun craft as the framework for your family lessons. You can especially bring the holiday to life for your kids by searching online for local festivals or experiences so your children can be part of a real life celebration. Committing to trying one new holiday experience for a tradition outside of your own each year is an exciting way to make family lessons come alive, and it also gives you a new family tradition to work on each year.
To get started, this is a list of books to learn about the many ways to celebrate Christmas around the world:
And this pin offers various ways for young children to start learning about winter holidays around the world through hands on activities:
Teaching children about Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa is a holiday celebrated both in the United States and in other countries. The celebration honors African heritage and runs from December 26th through January 1st. It was first introduced to the United States in 1966 and celebrates African American family, culture, and traditions.
This is an easy to understand video for kids that you can show your family to introduce the seven basic principles of Kwanzaa:
This is an easy to make wreath that highlights the seven principles of Kwanzaa. The supplies are probably things you already have in your home, and it makes for a pretty decoration. After it is completed, you can use it as a way to discuss a different principle of Kwanzaa for each night of the holiday and to discuss the ways that it applies in your family’s life.
You can also request children’s books about Kwanzaa from the library to read with the family. Here is a helpful list of recommendations:
Be on the lookout for Kwanzaa events in your area that typically offer performances, African drumming, and music for all ages.
Teaching children about Hanukkah
Hanukkah is a Jewish festival also called the Festival of Lights. The eight day celebration’s most well-known symbol is the menorah, and following the ritual of menorah candle lighting with your family is a beautiful tradition and way to enhance your own winter traditions with cultural awareness and education.
This is a very helpful video for your family to watch to explain Hanukkah and to address common misconceptions with awesomely hilarious fellow mom Mayim Bialik:
This pin contains several beautiful and easy to make crafts for both little ones and younger kids. If you don’t have a menorah at home, you can make a version for your family all together with simple materials like construction paper, toilet paper rolls, or felt.
Be sure to check out these books about Hanukkah to share with the family:
Teaching your children about Omisoka
Japanese New Year is a fun holiday to learn about with your family. It is celebrated on the same day as our New Year’s Eve, and it gives your family the opportunity to try cooking some Japanese foods at home or to visit a Japanese restaurant together. The holiday is often celebrated with a giant feast, cleaning the house from top to bottom to prepare for a new year, and sending special postcards to family and friends on January 1st.
This is an easy to understand video explanation of Japanese New Year that gives you a look at the food, family, tradition, and postcard aspects of the holiday:
As a family craft idea, you can make Japanese New Year postcards together and deliver them to family and friends on January 1st. You can search Pinterest for “Japanese New Year postcards” which will provide designs that you can trace for younger children to color or offer inspiration for older children’s drawings. Here is an example:
You can also find more books about Omisoka and Japanese culture here:
No matter which holidays you choose to explore with your family, opening their eyes to traditions outside of your own also opens up the world to them. Appreciating the beauty of different cultures and families can only enrich your holiday season. Have fun exploring new holidays and connecting with our wonderfully diverse world in new ways!
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