As we approach the holiday season, the overall vibe of our community will change. We will begin to feel a sense of joy and gratefulness that we don’t normally feel any other time of year. During this time, most of us feel a deeper sense of community. We are more inclined to give back to our communities and spend more time reminding people how much we appreciate them.
However, for some people, this time of year is very isolating. Our society often forgets to include holidays outside of mainstream society. We sometimes forget that, though we may have families to go home to, not everyone does.
In our classrooms, we celebrate with good intentions. But, sometimes, even the best of intentions can have negative outcomes. It is important to remember that everyone deserves to feel loved, included, and important — especially during this time of year.
Coming up with ways to maintain inclusivity in your classroom during this holiday season can be a big deal for your students. Truthfully, you may be the only one to make sure they feel included. Something as simple as the language you use can be the difference between making and breaking their holiday season.
Before we make it all the way into the holiday season, let’s acknowledge that autumn is a big time for holidays too.
Inclusive Fall Holidays
During the fall, we have a handful of holidays and events that can be celebrated!
- Indigenous Peoples’ Day
- Veterans Day
- Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
- Earlier this fall was Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Moon Festival and so many more.
Some tips and tricks that you can use to be inclusive in your classroom this fall:
- Get to know your students. Learn what holidays they celebrate at home or if they celebrate holidays at all, and even if no one in your class celebrates a certain holiday, acknowledge it! Most importantly, don’t make assumptions.
Some of the bigger United States holidays are almost impossible to ignore, and we shouldn’t think we have to ignore them, but there are ways to make sure everyone is included.
- Saying things like Fall, Spooky Season, Harvest, Foliage, and Autumn instead of Halloween or Thanksgiving.
- Acknowledging the histories of the holidays (both good and bad).
- Avoiding things specific to these holidays like pumpkin carving and eating turkey.
Whatever you decide to do in your classroom for any holiday, big or small, give your students the option to not participate. If they choose not to participate give them an appropriate alternative.
Inclusive Winter Holidays
- Winter solstice
- New Years Day
- Three Kings Day
- Chinese New Year
- And many, many more
Holidays Around the World:
They always say knowledge is power and the best way for someone to understand is for them to learn.
Holidays Around the World is a unit that can take you and your students on a trip to 16 different countries where you can learn about their holidays and how they celebrate.
Inclusive Holiday Language:
Let’s start with the phrase “holiday season.” Here is a list of ways to say to wish someone a happy holiday season without including any of the specific holidays during this season. There are also some options for us to use when we want to include those who don’t celebrate any holidays this time of year.
- Happy Holidays
- Seasons Greetings
- Warm Wishes
- Enjoy your Holidays
- Best Holidays
- ‘Tis The Season
- Happy Winter
- Happy New Year
During the winter, there are various holidays celebrated around the world, and they all have completely different backstories and histories. As you celebrate and acknowledge each one in your classroom, avoid making some feel like the ‘regular’ or ‘normal’ holidays and others feel ‘special’ or ‘exotic.’
A way to do this may be to theme the holidays together. Instead of a holiday party, do a celebration of lights party and acknowledge how different holidays worldwide use lights to celebrate.
Knowing the difference between holiday symbols and religious symbols:
Many holidays have a religious history, making it hard to maintain neutrality in the classroom when celebrating certain holidays. Here is a list of religious symbols associated with the Winter holidays.
- Nativity Scene
- Nine pointed Star
Don’t want to celebrate any holidays at all?
Not celebrating holidays is okay too. There are other ways to be festive, have classroom parties, or make a day special that is not based around any specific holiday.
Here are some ideas:
- First day of a new season
- The last day of a new season
- 100th day of school (or any number of days you feel is special enough)
- The first day of a month
- The last day of a month
- Full moon
- New moon
- Celebrate the end of a book the class is reading
One last thing:
This list can go on forever because there are so many unique ways people spend this time of year, but simply remembering that family dynamics are different for everyone is a way you can maintain inclusive language all year long.
Acknowledging that even though parents are usually a mother and father, that is not true for everyone. Some students have only one parent. Some have no parents or two parents of the same gender. Students may be raised by a grandparent, aunt, uncle, older sibling, resource parent, or legal guardian. Remembering to avoid using the words ‘mom and dad’ or talking about a specific parent can help a student feel more included.
Other things to say:
The holiday season is a time where people get to celebrate their culture, religion, and native background. They are a time that can either be filled with celebration and pride in our unique selves, or they can be filled with worry and anger towards the lack of inclusivity in our society.
Remember that every student is unique in who they are, where they are from, and their family dynamic. Acknowledging their unique qualities is a great way to inspire them to do the same for someone else in the future.
For more support in navigating these sensitive subjects, look to your fellow teachers, join the Facebook groups Fearless Kindergarten, Fearless First Grade Teachers, or Fearless Second Grade Teachers and lean on your peers for support and guidance. You’re never in it alone.
You can also join Teaching Tiny Humans for emails, and support on dealing with touchy subjects. Follow us on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook @educationtothecore for continued information and resources as the season progresses, or listen to our podcast Where the Primary Things Are.
Written by – Korryna Sanchez
At Education to the Core, we exist to help our teachers build a stronger classroom as they connect with our community to find trusted, state-of-the-art resources designed by teachers for teachers. We aspire to be the world’s leading & most trusted community for educational resources for teachers. We improve the lives of every teacher and learner with the most comprehensive, reliable, and inclusive educational resources.
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