Holiday Celebrations: Looking Through the Lens of Family Engagement

Holiday Celebrations: Looking Through the Lens of Family Engagement

Do holiday celebrations cause a lot of disagreements in your center or school? The role of holiday celebrations in the classroom is a common debate in the education field. Everyone has a few holidays they love to celebrate, but it's important to remember that not everyone celebrates the same holidays and that many people celebrate holidays differently. In The Welcoming Classroom, Johnna Darragh Ernst, PhD, points out that several questions arise if you look at holiday celebrations through the lens of family engagement:

  • Will the holiday alienate anyone within the environment and, therefore, work against creating a sense of belonging and acceptance?
  • How strongly do your own schemas shape your perception of the holiday? Is it possible, for example, that two individuals might view the historical significance of Thanksgiving differently and hold the celebration in differing lights?
  • Does a celebration based on your individual schema of the event reflect cultural competence?

One solution for ensuring that everyone feels comfortable is to celebrate the holidays of all children and families within the classroom. "Teachers in this situation must be mindful of creating meaningful celebrations that accurately reflect how children and families engage with the holiday," writes Ernst. "Another solution is not to celebrate specific holidays, but to infuse the core values of what is meaningful about the holiday into the classroom environment: the joy of getting together, sharing, or showing appreciation."

When planning holiday celebrations, it's also important to remember that celebrations can create challenges for students and their families. For example, if you ask children to pass out valentines to the rest of the class or dress up for Halloween, it might create a financial burden for the family. Carefully thinking through objectives and available resources is one way you can address socioeconomic issues when it comes to celebrating holidays. Instead of asking parents to buy Valentine's Day cards or a costume for Halloween, why not let children make Valentine's Day cards with materials in the classroom or use the clothes in the dramatic play center to dress up? "Supporting access and meaningful participation for each family requires thinking through the kinds of activities we design as well as the resources we provide," writes Ernst.

Be sure to read our other articles on incorporating holidays into your lesson plans and on finding fun ways to include them in student assignments. We also have some great tips on dealing with challenging behavior during the holiday season.