Holiday Celebrations

Winter holiday celebrations! They’re such a big part of American school life. But as our schools grow more diverse, traditional celebrations can leave some children and families feeling excluded or uncomfortable. Also, even if everyone at your school is fine with the traditional celebrations, there’s the matter of time pressure: We’re constantly trying to squeeze more into the school day, and holiday parties can take time away from learning.
Here are a few ideas for alternatives to traditional winter holiday parties.
  • Winter solstice luncheon. Have a class feast on (or close to) the day of the winter solstice. Families contribute a traditional family dish, from the winter holiday season or not. (Be sure families know your school’s food restriction policies.) The class then sits down to a family-style buffet luncheon, sampling dishes from different families and cultures.
  • Family game and story fest. My colleague Margaret Berry Wilson has had students share a game, story, or tradition from their family’s celebration of a holiday, again from any season. Chinese yo-yo’ing, variations on the Go Fish card game, versions of fairy tales from around the world—expect a delightful variety of activities!
  • Poetry pajama party. This one’s been a favorite of classes I’ve taught. Students come to school in PJs and read poetry to each other or quietly by themselves. It can be poetry about winter or a holiday from any time of year, or a holiday from anywhere in the world. If you time it right, this could also double as the culmination of a poetry-writing unit.

All these ideas lend themselves to curricular connections. Depending on their grade, students can write about the dishes and games they brought from home, or practice speaking about them with classmates. A solstice luncheon can tie in with studies of the seasons for young children and the solar system for older students. A poetry party reinforces literacy learning. And of course, inviting children to share family foods and traditions teaches the class the important social skills of inclusiveness and honoring all members of their community.

Have you got ideas for inclusive holiday celebrations? Please share here in the comments—or add to the thread started last week on this topic on the Responsive Classroom Facebook page!

Mike Anderson is an education consultant who leads great learning throughout the United States and beyond. He is an award winning teacher and the author of many books. You can follow him on Twitter at @balancedteacher.

  • Mike Anderson
    Mike Anderson is an education consultant, award-winning teacher, and author of many books including What We Say and How We Say It MatterThe Well-Balanced Teacher, The First Six Weeks of School, The Research-Ready Classroom, and Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn. Learn more about Mike and his work or invite him to work with your school or district through his website: Connect with Mike on Twitter: @balancedteacher.

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    Mike Anderson
    Leading Great Learning
    Durham, NH
    Phone: +1 413.658.7907

    Leading Great Learning

    Mike Anderson is an energetic, experienced, and highly sought-after educational consultant who helps facilitate great learning in schools all over the United States and beyond. He has over twenty years of experience as a teacher, consultant, presenter, and developer and has authored many books and articles about great teaching and learning.