It’s that time of year again! People all over the world are celebrating a wide variety of winter holiday traditions! We can’t visit all these amazing places to experience their traditions, but the study of culturally important and significant holidays in other countries can help your homeschool kids identify the similarities and differences between holiday customs and instill in them a deeper level of appreciation and respect for others.
We all agree that it’s important to raise children to experience a greater awareness of others around them, and holiday celebrations provide the perfect opportunity for your children to learn about our multicultural world while learning about how children around the world enjoy their holiday traditions.
For the homeschool parent, comparing holiday festivities around the world will help you integrate reading and writing skill practice with all the other learning opportunities you offer to your homeschool students on a day-to-day basis. And you’ll be doing this while the kids are enjoying fun holiday activities!
HOW TO TEACH HOMESCHOOLERS ABOUT HOLIDAYS IN OTHER COUNTRIES
The great side effect of including an international holidays study section in your curriculum will be that you are helping your children expand their cultural world without the expense of worldwide travel!
Michigan State University Extension (How can you teach your young child about different holidays? – MSU Extension) offers several useful tips, summarized here:
- Do your own research on different international holidays. Ask yourself these questions:
- Why is this holiday celebrated?
- What is the historical origin of the holiday?
- What are the religious, commercial and economic values and interests addressed?
- Use the study of winter holiday traditions around the world to incorporate year-round opportunities to learn about and explore other cultures.
- Check out your local library for children’s books about different holidays. Read the books to your children or make the books a reading assignment to discuss later.
- Use online resources to look up the holiday culinary traditions of the countries you are studying. Talk about the foods and why they’re an important part of the country’s cultural tradition. If you’re ready for it, you can also try having your homeschool students actually cook a foreign holiday treat or two!
- Many cities and neighborhoods host holiday festivals specific to different cultures. Take your kids to these festivals and ask them to look for things that are similar to your own traditions.
- Visit cultural centers and museums that are hosting specific cultural holiday exhibitions.
WHY LEARN ABOUT OTHER CULTURES?
Why is it important to teach your homeschool students about a wide range of holiday traditions? Not only is this an exciting way to expand your children’s awareness of the world but checking out other holiday traditions can have the effect of getting them more excited about exploring their own traditions.
The website “Communities in Schools” lists three great reasons your homeschool student should learn about other cultures. Here’s a summary of those three reasons:
Learning to Celebrate Diversity – Learning about different people and their holiday celebrations in a positive environment can help students learn to celebrate diversity. This positive attitude of celebrating diversity leads to cultural sensitivity and a more global awareness of humanity.
Understanding Multiple Points of View – Understanding the world from multiple points of view is a vital part of developing critical thinking skills. “Critical thinking is the thought process that gives students the power to think for themselves, interpret and analyze information and make decisions based on supportable evidence.” In addition, critical thinking skills help students apply what they have learned and then use their education to make the world a better place.
Increased Understanding Can Lead to Reduced Bullying – “Classrooms are made up of many different students from many diverse backgrounds. Unfortunately, some students have learned to lash out at people from lifestyles and backgrounds they do not understand either because of false preconceptions or because they are afraid of what they do not know. Learning about other cultures can dispel the fears and misunderstandings students may have about another culture” and can lead to a better understanding and appreciation of why some kids do things differently than others. (SOURCE: 3 Reasons Students Should Learn About Other Cultures – Communities in Schools (cisjax.org)
HOLIDAYS AROUND THE WORLD
Priscilla Blossom, writing for the website Care.com Resources on November 23, 2022, offers a great list of nine diverse December holidays. She writes: “While Xmas clearly rules our nation’s festivities, there are several other holidays steeped in rich tradition being celebrated throughout December. In fact, there are many holidays celebrated all around the world come wintertime.” (SOURCE: How to teach kids about the diverse winter holidays – Care.com Resources)
Introducing your homeschoolers to these December holidays can be an educational springboard to looking for more interesting holidays around the world. Let them research each holiday on their own. Says Blossom: “Bonus: It’ll expand their horizons and give them a greater appreciation and understanding of cultures outside their own.”
- St. Lucia Day – December 13. Celebrated in Sweden, Scandinavia, and Italy.
- Bodhi Day – December 8. A Buddhist celebration observed in China, the Philippines, Japan and Vietnam and other Buddhist communities.
- La Purisma – December 7. Celebrated in Nicaragua, Miami & other Nicaraguan communities.
- Kwanzaa – December 26 to January 1. Celebrated in the U.S. and parts of Canada and the Caribbean.
- Hanukkah – dates move around depending on the Jewish religious calendar. In 2022, Hanukkah is December 18 through December 26. Celebrated by Jewish people around the world.
- Saint Nicholas Day – December 6. Celebrated in Europe, including the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Belgium.
- Las Posadas – December 16 to December 25. Celebrated in Spain, Mexico, Guatemala, and other Latin American countries.
- Yule – December 21. Originated in Germanic countries.
- Chrismukkah – occurs throughout December. Combines Hanukkah and Christmas. Celebrated by interfaith families, mainly in the U.S.