“ ’Tis the season to deck the halls, light the menorah and take part in a myriad of other festivities that we enjoy celebrating. For as familiar as we are with the standard traditions, a good question to raise to your class is, “How are these holidays celebrated in other parts of the world?” Another question to pose is, “What other holidays are celebrated around the world that we might not even know about?”
First, let’s take a look at Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Diwali. Different projects exist that help expose children to how their classmates’ families celebrate these holidays and the traditions that go with them. Using a cross-curricular approach, you can find lessons that utilize art, math, social studies, literature and technology to teach about the holidays in fun ways that also sharpen cognitive thinking skills.
Next, let’s take a look at how Christmas is celebrated in other countries. For instance, Christmas in Croatia is celebrated by the female head of the household planting wheat seeds in a round dish of shallow water. She does this roughly two weeks before Christmas. Once the seeds germinate (on or around Christmas Eve), she ties the plants together with ribbons that are the colors of the Croatian flag. She then places them on the floor for the Christmas dinner. A candle is then sometimes lit and placed in between the wheat. This symbolizes the soul of each person. If the wheat grows strong and healthy by this time, the belief is that it will be a prosperous new year. This is just one example of how Christmas is celebrated in another country. Other countries have other traditions that give a unique insight into their culture.
Various lesson plans exist that show how Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Diwali are celebrated in other parts of the world. While celebrating Hanukkah in Israel, you would learn about the four sides to a dreidel, what each symbol means and how to play the dreidel game. Kwanzaa, which is an African-American holiday, celebrates social change and progress in the African-American community. Recipes, games and coloring projects exist to help further teach about Kwanzaa for children. Diwali is an Indian holiday, which celebrates the New Year as well as being a festival of unity. Fun projects for students to take part in further teach about Diwali, while incorporating arts and crafts.
On any given day, there is a holiday to celebrate in some part of the globe. A fun Web site to show your class is the Earth Calendar. You can use this site to learn about holidays by date, religion or country. You can even learn about the lunar phases and the names for each moon during each month. Perhaps of greatest interest is discovering virtually unknown holidays in remote parts of the world. For instance, did you know that Turkmenistan celebrates Harvest Holiday on November 30? That’s a little known fact with which you can impress your students! This can lead into a social studies mini-lesson by having them look up facts about both the holiday and the country. Other comprehensive lesson plans exist to expose students to various symbols and how they relate to a person, place or an event with regard to a specific holiday. This can even involve writing to a pen pal in another country and learning first hand how they celebrate their holiday.
After you finish examining the various holidays around the world, you might want to try an extra creative writing assignment with your class. This works best with grades 2-6. If life exists on other planets, what types of holidays do you think they celebrate? Ask them to write a short story on the holidays they think would exist on Mars, Jupiter or Saturn (or any of the other planets). What are the names of these holidays? What specifically do they celebrate? How would they be celebrated? Do they have special foods, presents or decorations? If not, then what do they do? Are there any new traditions that go along with these holidays? What types of songs would they sing? Students can draw pictures to go with their stories and these can be hung up around the room. After all the stories have been written, the class can vote to see which one(s) they like the best and then set aside a day to celebrate them in the classroom. This is just another fun way to get into the holiday spirit with your students and expand their imaginations and critical thinking skills.
Upon the conclusion of your journey throughout holiday celebrations in this world and around the solar system, you can look at your students and proudly say, “Srozhdestovm Kristovim”, “Linksmu Kaledu” or “Kuwa na Krismasi njema”. No matter whether you say it in Russian, Lithuanian or Swahili, it all comes out the same. “Season’s Greetings!”