Monday, December 11, 2023

How Can You Celebrate December Holidays Appropriately? Here are Some Resources that Help!

I’ve recently seen a number of posts in teacher Facebook groups asking for ideas about decorating their classrooms or doors for Christmas. In response, I’d like to offer some info and links to resources about what is and is not allowed in public schools regarding December holidays because it’s an important issue, maybe even more so for teachers with English Learners in their classes who may not be Christian. (And, yes, I did respond to those Facebook posts.) 

Title in blue at top on snowy blue background, with lit candle in clear, round glass with snowmen on it and wrapped in red ribbon, set on a knitted brown background with green branches at the bottom right.
Find great resources about lots of holidays HERE

Celebrating Holidays Year Round

When I was a student, many of my classrooms had Christmas displays and we sang Christmas carols in music class. No other religion was represented. As someone who isn’t Christian, that always bothered me. I felt excluded and unseen, to use today’s terminology.

As a result, when I became a teacher, I made a point of acknowledging all major religions’ holidays in my classes. There’s a wonderful International Calendar put out by the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers of Madison, Wisconsin, that lists holidays – secular and religious – for pretty much every day of the year. I hung it at the front of my classroom and one year, my school’s Cultural Committee distributed it to every teacher in the building. It also makes a great gift in case you’re looking for something.

Resources about How to Celebrate December Holidays in Public Schools

I didn’t speak up when I was a kid but I did when I was teaching back in Massachusetts. A colleague I was very friendly with created a Christmas display in his classroom and I said something about it to him (but I don’t remember now exactly what). The upshot was that I gave him a dreidel and other Hanukkah-related items and every year after that, he also displayed those things. The Anti-Defamation League has an excellent online guide that explains how religious holidays can be acknowledged. It’s called The December Dilemma: December Holiday Guidelines for Public School. They also have a Q&A page that addresses specific questions educators often have. I shared these resources with teachers at my school.

Another resource I discovered some years ago is available through MiddleWeb. It’s a round up of links to several articles and resources for teaching about holidays, specifically December holidays. This resource round up is updated every year so you might want to bookmark it. 

Celebrating 6 Winter Holidays

Also, I just created a new word search and crossword puzzle resource about 6 winter holidays. My goal in making it was so students who aren’t Christian would know their religious and cultural traditions are recognized and appreciated, too, and Christian students would learn about other holidays besides Christmas. The holidays addressed in this resource represent African-American, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Jewish, and Pagan celebrations (winter solstice is the Pagan one). A Muslim holiday isn’t included, however, because there is no one holiday that usually occurs in December or November.  Please feel free to share the link.

Cover of Winter Holidays Puzzles TPT resource about 6 holidays
For more info & to purchase this resource, click HERE
I hope all these resources help you make more informed choices about celebrating December holidays in your classroom and school.