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Making Sure Every Child Feels Included in Holiday Celebrations: A Guide for Educators

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January 03, 2024


The holiday season is an exciting and magical time for all of us, but it’s especially meaningful for kids. With twinkling lights, sweet treats, and cherished traditions, the holiday season is an opportunity for children to experience the warmth and joy of a close-knit community. 

However, for some students, the holiday season can bring about feelings of confusion, frustration, or even exclusion. 

As educators, it’s our job to create a warm and welcoming environment for all of our students, regardless of their beliefs, backgrounds, or abilities. 

In this blog post, we’ll share some tips and tricks for making sure every child feels included in holiday celebrations. Let’s spread cheer and positivity together!

What is an Inclusive Classroom?

Close-up shot of unrecognizable teacher helping her cute little pupil to make ideal Christmas present for her mom, they using gouache and paintbrushes

So what exactly is an inclusive classroom? 

Essentially, it means understanding that every child is unique and has different needs and backgrounds. This includes recognizing disabilities and special needs, as well as socioeconomic backgrounds, the languages they speak, their religious practices, and even their sexual orientations.

Inclusion means ensuring that every student is given the opportunity to participate in classroom activities and is treated with respect and dignity. It means accommodating students who may require a little extra support or assistance, and celebrating the differences that make our classrooms rich and diverse.

As special educators, we have an important role to play in creating inclusive classrooms. We can provide individualized instruction and support to students with special needs, and foster a sense of community where every student feels valued and included – and the holiday season is no exception. 

Tips for Including Every Child in Your Holiday Celebrations

Side view portrait of boy and girl drawing on walls while wearing Santa hats and antlers for Christmas, copy space

We have a unique responsibility to create an inclusive classroom environment that celebrates the diversity of our students. With the holiday season upon us, it’s important to ensure that every child feels valued and included in classroom celebrations. Here are some tips to help you include every child in your holiday celebrations.

Start With Some Research

One of the best ways to understand your students’ beliefs, experiences, and preferences is by conducting a survey or a classroom discussion. 

Encourage your students to share their holiday traditions and incorporate them into classroom celebrations. This will help you to create a more inclusive classroom environment where every child feels valued and included.

It’s also important to highlight the importance of being respectful and mindful of students who don’t celebrate any holidays. Some students may come from families that don’t celebrate holidays due to their cultural or religious beliefs, and by being mindful of these differences, we can create a more welcoming classroom environment for all students.

Understanding Cultural and Religious Diversity

Having a diverse classroom requires a deeper understanding of cultural and religious differences. As educators, we have the opportunity to teach our students about different cultures and religions, and how they celebrate holidays. 

By doing so, we can help our students to develop empathy and respect for others who may have different beliefs than their own.

It’s important to provide examples of different holidays celebrated by various cultures and religions. 

For example, you could discuss Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights celebrated in October or November each year, or Hanukkah, the Jewish holiday that falls in December and celebrates the miracle of the oil in the Temple. By learning about different holidays, our students can develop a richer understanding and appreciation of the diversity of our world.

Avoiding Stereotypes

We all know that stereotypes can be harmful, and perpetuating them during the holiday season can have a significant impact on children’s beliefs and attitudes towards different cultures and ethnic groups. As a result, we need to avoid stereotypes during the holiday season by emphasizing the unique aspects of each holiday and its cultural significance. 

When teaching about different holidays, avoid generalizations and focus on the specifics. Avoid comparing holidays or making assumptions about what kids celebrate. 

Instead, provide students an opportunity to share their personal experiences with the holiday. Encouraging students to talk about their family traditions and cultures can promote understanding and highlight the diversity within the classroom.

Focus on Winter Instead of Holidays 

Another way to make sure every child is included is to focus on winter instead of holidays. This approach helps to recognize the similarities between different cultures and the shared experiences of winter. 

Activities such as creating snow art or studying winter constellations can be great opportunities to emphasize scientific concepts while avoiding exclusively religious content. 

Promoting Inclusivity

Holiday decorations, music, and food can be a great way to promote inclusivity and build relationships in the classroom. 

Inclusivity doesn’t mean eliminating things like Christmas trees or Hanukkah lights if you don’t want to; it’s about incorporating different cultural traditions that help to represent the diversity in the classroom in an accurate and fair ways.

When choosing decorations, try to find items that represent multiple cultures or are universally recognized. For example, a tree decorated with ornaments from different cultures or a classroom display with handcrafted snowflakes from different kids can show unity in diversity. 

Make sure the music playlist represents different cultures, religions, and perspectives, promoting a beautiful cultural exchange. Sharing diverse foods or organizing a potluck with traditional or contemporary dishes from different cultures can be an excellent way for students to experience different tastes and cultural practices that they’ve not encountered before.

Focus on Creating Your Own Inclusive Holiday Traditions in the Classroom

One of the best ways to ensure inclusivity during the holiday season is by creating your own traditions in the classroom. 

Be mindful of the cultures and traditions represented in your classroom and try to incorporate them into your celebrations. For instance, you may choose to include a holiday crafts session where students can make ornaments depicting their traditional holiday celebrations. 

The key here is to really think outside the box. Go beyond what you’ve always viewed as holiday “traditions” based on your own culture and upbringing – and try some of these other ideas instead.

Use the Season to Recognize the Impact of Giving

The holiday season is a time for giving back to the community, and it’s a fantastic opportunity to teach your students about the impact of giving. You may choose to organize a food drive, toy drive, or clothing drive to help families in need. 

Get your students involved by encouraging them to participate in the collection of items and sorting them for distribution. This gesture will not only help improve the lives of those in need but also promote a sense of community among your students.

Encourage Student Involvement 

Involving your students in holiday preparations is an excellent way to encourage them to take ownership of the celebrations. 

Allow them to share their ideas and suggestions for activities, crafts and decorations. Giving them a sense of responsibility will boost their self-esteem and help them feel valued in your classroom.

Choose Inclusive Seasonal Reads

Reading is an excellent way to teach students about new cultures and traditions. During the holiday season, choose books that showcase diverse holiday celebrations. There are many books that offer a wealth of information on holiday customs from around the world. 

Use the books as an opportunity to educate your students on the rich history and diversity of the holidays.

Practice Gratitude

The holiday season is a time of reflection, compassion, and gratitude. Take advantage of this opportunity to promote gratitude in the classroom by asking your students to share what they are thankful for. 

Encourage them to talk about people, experiences, and things that bring them joy and add value to their lives. This practice will not only help your students develop a positive mindset, but it will also foster a sense of community among them.

Address Parent Concerns

When planning your holiday celebrations, it’s important to acknowledge that some parents may have concerns about their child participating. Therefore, it’s important to address these concerns in a respectful manner. Here are some suggestions for how to approach parents:

  • Start by acknowledging their concerns: Begin the conversation by letting the parents know that you understand their concerns about their child participating in the holiday celebrations.
  • Provide information about the activity: Explain the activity to the parents and how it relates to the students’ learning. This will help them understand the value of the celebration.
  • Offer alternatives: If parents are uncomfortable with their child participating in the activity, offer alternatives that align with their beliefs. This could be as simple as allowing the child to participate in a different way or choosing another activity that they feel more comfortable with.

Final Thoughts

Pile of books, Santa Claus hat, Christmas-tree decorations and Gifts on a wooden background.

It’s our duty to make sure that every child in our classrooms feels included, heard, and respected. This is especially true when it comes to holiday celebrations.

By incorporating diverse perspectives and traditions, we can create a welcoming and inclusive classroom environment that embraces the beauty of diversity.

With the tips and strategies outlined in this guide, you’ll be able to create unforgettable holiday celebrations that all of your students will remember for years to come. Happy holidays, everyone!

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a passionate special education teacher with [number] years of experience, uses her classroom knowledge to craft engaging stories that celebrate the unique strengths of all learners.