During the month of December, I invite families to come into my classroom to teach us about their family holiday traditions. Working at a public school means I cannot “teach” anything religious. I will do cute activities with Christmas trees, menorahs or even a Kinara if I have students who celebrate Kwanzaa but nothing that actually teaches religion. By inviting families to school, the children are exposed to many different traditions and cultures.
Over the next few weeks, we have someone coming in to make Christmas ornaments, another making handmade holiday cards with us, one who is reading us their family’s favorite Christmas story and someone coming in to share a Filipino Christmas tradition with us. I love these few weeks because I learn a lot too.
Today, the grandfather of one of my students came to school to teach us a little bit about Hanukkah. He showed the class a menorah, taught them how to play dreidel and brought latkes with applesauce. He told them all about the story of why they celebrate for eight days and compared it to the one day of gifts on Christmas. He asked the children if they knew why they got gifts on Christmas and most of the children enthusiastically raised their hands. All of the adults in the room expected the same answer from a room filled with five and six year olds.
He chose one little girl who surprised us all when she said, “Some people believe that Christmas is all about getting, but actually, it is all about giving.” Even the kids stopped to take that in. Everyone agreed with her. It was such a great teachable moment. She made me so proud.