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De-Centering Christmas Celebrations in Our Classrooms

When I think back to my classroom, I taught primary grades for all of my early years. I can recall using tools like problematic behavior charts and centering perhaps more common winter celebrations. Now that I know better, I can do better.

Later, I came to realize how holiday celebrations in my classroom and my colleagues’ classrooms were also an issue.

Let me paint the picture for you. While preparing for US Thanksgiving, perhaps kids were busy crafting hats with colored feathers or pilgrim hats to wear for a Thanksgiving show. Are you cringing yet? I know I am.

Approaching winter break, kids are excited about the holidays. In our work with educators, we’re supporting them in de-centering Christmas celebrations in an effort to honor all kids and make them all feel welcome.

The winter holidays bring many questions for teachers:

  • Are we creating a whole section of our classroom for a Christmas tree?
  • Are we writing letters to Santa?
  • How many Christmas books will we read aloud?
  • Did we think about the Jewish kids in the class? (that’s me!)
  • Did we consider the Jehovah’s witness students (even if we don’t have any)?
  • Did we consider students who may not celebrate any of these holidays?

How inclusive can our holiday celebrations be if we’re creating a school environment that glorifies a holiday that not everyone celebrates? When I was a kid, all I ever wanted was to have a Christmas tree and get piles of presents. Kids are impressionable and when we’re doing these things, we’re basically saying that this is the better, more preferred holiday.

When we fail to center all holidays, we fail to recognize the diverse backgrounds and cultures.

Below are some ideas to de-center Christmas in the classroom from @teachandtransform on Instagram.

Here are some ideas to re-center other celebrations: 

  • Consider hosting a winter celebration to honor the season
  • If you’ll read holiday books, think about choosing one for each holiday celebrated during that time
  • Make sure to help kids understand that some people celebrate, others don’t, and that’s totally okay
  • Consider skipping holiday reading completely and enjoy some other great books — books about giving, appreciation, family, or traditions
  • If we’re in a letter-writing unit, maybe you can learn about the types of letters you might write — thank you letters, invitation letters, or persuasive letters. Then, kids could choose who to write to, what to say and what kind of letter they want to make.

I’m keenly aware that I’ve done many of these things wrong as a teacher. It saddens me to realize that I’ve done things to harm kids unknowingly. Now that I know better, I can do better. I want to be the kind of leader you look up to. This means that I have to be direct and honest in sharing my experiences with you — especially if they’re uncomfortable.

Which of these holiday practices have you done away with? Have you realized you’re only celebrating particular winter holidays because that’s what you’ve always done? Let’s decide to do what’s best for the kids. And if you’re like I was and are still doing some of these things, my intention is to show you another way.

What holiday practices are you now ready to let go of?

If you learned something new from this article, please share it with a fellow educator.

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