Happy Holidays! I wish you the happiest of celebrations this season, no matter what holiday you celebrate. If I know for sure that you celebrate Christmas, of course I will greet you with "Merry Christmas!" The same for "Happy Chanukah!" if I know that to be your holiday. I also find it easiest to answer in the way I am greeted, whether the greeting fits my own celebration or not. If someone greets me with, "Joyous Jellybean Day!", I will be sure to answer, "Thank you, and a Joyous Jellybean Day to you too!"
For me, the celebrations at this time of the year are all about the values they instill in our hearts, not about the specific names or even specific religious practices. As a teacher of mostly diverse populations over the years, I have loved learning about the diverse celebrations that occur at this time of the year. The similarities have always amazed me. For one, the presence of candles in the rituals associated with so many of our winter holiday celebrations. Candles can symbolize so many different things, but they all succeed at bringing light and love into our hearts. Each of the winter holidays we have studied in Rainbow City also comes complete with lifelong values tidily wrapped up to reaffirm during the holiday season.
And so, as we sing, wrap, greet, feast, and otherwise make merry during these winter months, it's also a great time to address values education with our children. What do we stand for? What's most important to us? What really lies beneath the shiny ribbons and glorious boxes? Unless we teach in a religious school, we probably shouldn't be teaching religion at any time of the year. But values? Solid, character-building values? Of course we can address those!
In my opinion, Kwanzaa is a perfect holiday to address values that many of us hold dear already. This year, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and Chanukah all converge during the same week. Chanukah -
December 24-January 1, Kwanzaa - December 26-January 1, Christmas - December 24-25. I view this convergence as a sign that it just may be the perfect year to get a Kwanzaa celebration going in all of our homes and classrooms.
If you prefer not to put a label of a specific holiday on your celebration of values this year, it will still work. Who could argue with celebration of unity in your classroom community? Or a celebration of the creativity that dwells within each of us? Responsibility? Self-determination? Purpose? Of course! All of these are so connected to what we try to instill in students every day in every lesson!
You might want to start by introducing a value each day (or each week) in your Morning Meeting discussion. Or start with journals. Start somewhere this year, and build on it next year. I have blogged about this before, but a favorite activity I'm my classroom for years was a carousel of holidays, where we shared the values, foods, and fun of each of our own special holidays. Here's a post you may be interested in:
For an actual Kwanzaa celebration or lesson, you might like this bundle I've put together for you!
Studying Christmas around the world may be fun and enriching for a homogenous classroom, where all families celebrate Christmas. (Are you sure that EVERYONE in your class celebrates Christmas? Have you asked?) Even if you're positive that you stand before a truly homogenous Christian class, taking a look at the values and celebrations of others can't hurt, and may be enlightening!
Wishing you all the peace and joy that you seek in this holiday season!