No matter what your religion or lack thereof, what better way to continue your child’s education during the winter break than to teach her about the traditional Western holidays of the season? There are nearly enough December holidays to cover one a day for 2 weeks, if you wish. If you prefer, you may focus more on one of the holidays, and leave out some of the lesser known celebrations. For instance, you could use one day for Christmas, and another day to discuss how Christmas came to be celebrated on different dates in different countries.
Hanukkah Even if you are not Jewish, this is a fascinating story and can be used for one night of study or stretched out into the full 8. You can focus your child’s study on the history of the holiday or talk about the various traditions that are now used in the celebrations and how they came to be. For younger children, this is a good holiday for using art in education. Activities: Make a dreidel and learn the rules to play the dreidel game; make a menorah; visit a synagogue; learn to make latkes.
Christmas There are so many angles from which to approach a study of the most well-known and widely-celebrated Christian holy day. Depending on your personal beliefs, it can be addressed from a religious or a secular standpoint. You can have our child study the origins of the traditions, such as the evergreen tree, and how they compare to certain pagan ceremonies, or have him study the stories of Jesus’ birth straight from the Bible. This is another excellent holiday for utilizing art as a study aid. Activities: Buy and distribute small anonymous gifts to illustrate the story of Saint Nicolas; visit a Christian church; go to a tree farm and discuss the genesis of the evergreen tree as part of the Christmas festivities.
St. Stephen’s Day / Boxing Day Traditionally held on the 26th of December, one or both of these holidays are generally recognized in the United Kingdom, Canada, Italy, Kenya, Ireland, and others. The first is typically a Catholic holiday, celebrating the first martyr and the second is a secular day for remembering, and giving gifts to, those in service. Activities: This would make a good educational field trip holiday, to study with your child the origins of the holiday(s) and take them out to donate time or money, illustrating the original purpose of the celebration.
Kwanzaa This week long holiday, which began in 1966, is an excellent opportunity for studying African culture, particularly culture and traditions with African-American origins. Activities: Visit an African cultural center; learn the native fruits of Africa and see how many can be found locally; choose and study one African tribe for each day of Kwanzaa.
Other holidays from around the world which can be substituted include Saint Barbara’s Day (Lebanon) – a holiday much like our Halloween, Christmas Eve (various), New Year’s Eve (various), Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day, Human Light, and Winter Solstice (United States).