The holidays are a time for family to come together to celebrate tradition and to learn the reason for the season. While Christmas and Hanukkah tend to be to be the dominant winter holidays in American culture, December is a month with several other holidays, too. Teaching your children about how different cultures and religions celebrate these holidays can do wonders for their ability to respect other cultures and expand their worldview.
"Children need to understand that in our heart of hearts, we are all the same, we are one. We're simply born with different looks into families with different beliefs, and different traditions; yet we all have the same capacity to love," says Sharon Silver, founder of “Proactive Parenting”
How do you expose children to other beliefs and holidays? "The best way for children to understand and learn anything is for them to participate using a hands-on approach," says Silver.
Here are Seven December holidays, and ways to introduce them to your children in a manner that will be both fun and enlightening for you both.
· Christmas: December 25th is about more than just Santa Claus. Teaching children the real meaning of Christmas. Teach your children Christmas songs such as "Silent Night" and "Joy to the World.”
· Hanukkah: Hanukkah, or the Festival of Lights, is the eight-day Jewish celebration. The dates change every year, but it usually takes place between the end of November and the end of December. Your family can create and color a Menorah, while you explain what the Menorah candles symbolize.
· St. Nicholas Day: St. Nicholas Day is December 6th celebrated largely in Europe, that's in honor of St. Nicholas, the original Santa Claus. One tradition on St. Nicholas Day is to have your children put shoes outside of their doors. If they have been good during the year "St. Nicholas" comes to the house and leaves a little gift or treats inside their shoes i.e. tangerines, chocolate, or a small toy, such as a yo-yo.
· Las Posadas: Las Posadas is a nine-day festival, mostly celebrated in Mexico, Central America and parts of the United States, which starts December 16th and lasts until Christmas Eve on the 24th. The poinsettia has great significance in this holiday.
· Kwanzaa: Kwanzaa is a holiday that honors African heritage and ends with a large feast.
· Yule (Winter Solstice): Yule, or the winter solstice, is a festive and fun holiday, with many fun traditions associated with this holiday including, decorating trees, wreaths, singing songs, and using candles to decorate ones home.
Remember, December isn't the only month filled with new, exciting cultures, customs and holidays to explore!
Exploring different holidays will be a great learning experience for your kids -- and for you.