By: Bethany Porter, Collections Analyst.
Christmas is one of my favorite holidays. It is not, however, celebrated by everyone. I found about a dozen holidays around the world during December, January, and February that are just as exciting. Here are a few of the major ones that you can share with your classroom, children, and families, plus a few more from eastern traditions.
Christmas (December 25)
I loved reading about world Christmas traditions when I was a child. I am a 4th generation American, so many of my traditions are a residual Polish/Scottish/Irish smörgåsbord. My favorite part about Christmas morning was the treasure hunt my dad created for my brothers and I. We had to find a key to open the box full of our stockings. I didn’t realize until several years later that other kids did not have to work for their stockings!
Christmas Around the World – this is a lovely picture book about Christmas traditions around the world. In Holland, children sit out shoes for Sinterklaas to fill up with treats – much like we use Stockings in the United States. Children in Mexico celebrate Las Posadas by having a parade and opening a piñata. People in Brazil celebrate Christmas by setting off fireworks. I could write an entire blog about Global Christmas celebrations!
Hanukkah (December 24 – January 1)
Hanukkah takes place over eight nights. It usually starts in December, based on the Jewish calendar. This holiday is celebrated as an expression of the freedom to practice Judaism. I’m sure you have heard of “The Festival of Lights.” Hanukkah is so named because of the menorah with its eight candles, one for each night of the celebration. Caleb’s Hanukkah would be a great title to use to teach children the basics of this holiday. Caleb’s family celebrates by gifting the children gelt – money, both real and chocolate. Children are encouraged to share this money with others.
Kwanzaa (December 26 – January 1)
Kwanzaa is a great nonfiction book for kids that includes a glossary of important terms. Kwanzaa means “first fruits of the harvest,” and is an African-American holiday used to celebrate African heritage. This holiday uses a candle holder called a kinara to hold 7 candles that represent 7 different ideas. This celebration takes place over 7 nights, one night for each idea. Tables are set with the kinara, harvest fruits and vegetables, and an ear of corn for each child in the family. Gifts are given during this holiday, and the end of the festivity is concluded with a big family dinner. This holiday is a wonderful display of unity throughout this community.
Chinese New Year (January 28)
How do you celebrate the New Year? Maybe you watch the ball drop in New York City from the comfort and warmth of your own living room. This is not a very exciting day for me, but it is an exciting celebration for people from China. My 5-year-old stepson’s family celebrates this holiday. When I asked him about his favorite part of Chinese New Year, his answer was one that could be used for just about any other holiday: candy! Chinese New Year is so much more than sweet treats, though.
The celebration of the New Year is a time for new beginnings. Elaborate lion costumes are worn. These lions collect red envelopes that contain a gift for the lion (usually $1), and people “feed” their envelopes to the lion in hopes that he will bestow them with good fortune. The lion gives children candies as a way of saying thank you.
Chinese New Year is a nonfiction picture book with beautiful illustrations. It is full of information about this event. Did you know that some people spend 15 days on this festivity? What a great way to start the New Year!
Engage with someone who celebrates a different holiday during this holiday season. There are so many wonderful traditions throughout the world, and this time of year brings out the generous, happy nature in people. I will be celebrating Christmas, as always, and will also be lucky enough to observe Chinese New Year, as well. Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays! I hope your season is filled with joy.