For the last of school before the break, Ms. Johnson’s crew learned about various holiday traditions around the world. I thought it was important for my students to know and understand that everyone does not celebrate Christmas or believe in Santa.
In the middle of November, one of my students exclaimed, “Ms. Johnson, Christmas is here and Santa is on his way!” Before the excitement ensued in the classroom, his comment was followed by another student’s conviction, “Santa isn’t real!” Now, this happened last year, but I gently explained that some people believe in Santa and some people do not. I added, “Its just like colors. If your favorite color is pink and his is blue, does that stop it from being your favorite color? Does he have to use the color pink? No. It’s just like Santa, some people believe in him and some people don’t, but it shouldn’t stop him from being real to you.” I am not sure if this is a good answer, but those students were satisfied with the response.
This year, I used the same explanation, but I think it went over their 3ft bodies. They started to bicker about whether Santa is real and that gave me the idea to show them a bunch of people that do not believe in Santa to show them that everyone is different.
The last week of Term 1, I started the week with a lesson about Kwanzaa. Some of my students were familiar with it and some of the students missed the idea that people who celebrate Kwanzaa do not celebrate Christmas. I would start the lessons with a video (usually from sesame street) and have the students write about why Kwanzaa would be important to some people. They came up with ideas that Kwanzaa is important because people can dance with their family; they get to light the candles on the kinara; they get to eat lots of food; and they get to spend time with their families. After they gave their responses, we made and colored kinaras and it’s candles.
Day two, I taught them about Hanukkah. They enjoyed learning about menorahs, driedls, and the fact that you get presents for many days instead of just one. They also learned the importance of the candle and how it was a Hanukkah miracle that it burned for eight days. Yet in still, I had some students that didn’t understand that people would not celebrate Christmas.
Day three, we learned about St. Lucia’s day. They loved the story about the girl being the savior for her village and that women get to wear crowns with candles while men wear tall cone hats with stars. Some students understood why people would celebrate this holiday instead of Christmas. It was on this day that they made the connection that holidays are meant to bring light/happiness into people’s lives and that is why it’s important.
Day four, I introduced them to Diwali, a holiday in India that is also known as “The Festival of Lights.” They were amazed to learn about henna, Rangoli (sand designs) and the fireworks that happen at the end of the celebration. They said that Diwali is important people because neighbors share food (show compassion), spend time together, and watch the fireworks together. This seemed to be the class favorite, but just when I thought that my kinders still didn’t understand that people believe in different things, one student said, “I want to celebrate Diwali instead of Christmas; it seems more fun!” That’s when a big smile appeared on my face. Not because my kids would rather celebrate another holiday rather than Christmas, but because they understand that people choose holidays because they are different and believe in things that make them happy.
Day five, I taught them about Christmas, Santa, and reindeer. When the Santa’s realness debate was about to commence, one students said, “Remember its ok if people don’t think Santa is not real because he is real to me and he will send me presents.” Another student replied, “Ok he can be real to you and my mom will give me my presents.”
I want my kids to know their options. I want them to know about the world and make informed choices. I want their minds to escape from Detroit so that they can come back and offer those opportunities to their communities. I wanted my kids to understand that difference is okay and to respect people’s difference in thinking and being. They know the importance of diversity. They also know that people will treat them differently because of the color of their skin or because where they live. My students also know that their jobs are to teach those people how to show compassion and be respectful because that is what leaders do!
All in all, Happy Holidays everyone!