Equity Minute - Observing Winter Holidays in the Classroom

December is often the month we think of celebrations and traditions, with Christmas holidays upon us. Though many people celebrate some aspect of Christmas (the birth of Jesus Christ, Santa Claus, gift giving, etc.), it is important to keep in mind that many of our students do not celebrate Christmas and may have other traditions that should be validated. For example, Diwali was on November 7th, a popular Hindu festival known as the Festival of Lights. On November 20th those of Islamic Faith recognized ‘Mawlid al-Nabi’ which marked the birthday of the prophet Muhammad. The birthday of Guru Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh faith, was celebrated on November 23rd. Shortly after Advent begins on December 2nd, which is the start of the Church year and preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ, Mahayana Buddhists celebrate Bodhi Day on December 8. This is also known as ‘Awakening Day’ and is the anniversary of Buddha’s enlightenment. Neopagans celebrate Yule (Dec. 21st) and then there is ‘Death of the Prophet Zarathustra,’ recognized by those of the Zoroastrian faith on December 26th. Other more well-known celebrations are coming up, such as Hanukkah - the Jewish Festival of Lights (Dec. 3-10th), Christmas Day - the birth of Jesus Christ (Dec. 25th), Kwanzaa - African Canadian heritage and harvest festival (Dec. 26th - Jan 1st).

How can we include so many traditions in meaningful ways? One way is by having resources that acknowledge the diversity of our student population. Books, posters, and decorations that are not just ‘Christmas’ centred, can open up conversations with students about different traditions. Having school-wide announcements highlighting some of the days of significance is another way that brings awareness to the diversity represented in our schools and communities. Students and staff sharing personal experiences is also very meaningful and a connecting point as we learn from each other. If the students are doing Christmas activities in class, for example, writing letters to Santa or making Christmas crafts, we should be accommodating for the students not celebrating Christmas by altering the activity accordingly. Offering options such as writing a letter to a friend or family member or inviting students to make a craft that is meaningful to a tradition of their choice are ways to make activities more inclusive.

As we think about our own traditions and celebrations this holiday season, let us be mindful of the many other days of significance to ensure that we are being equitable and inclusive in our teaching practice.

Reference: Days of Significance Calendar created in collaboration with Interfaith Grand River.