Although we don’t all share the same religious beliefs, it is still incredibly important that we teach our children to respect other faiths, traditions, values and customs.
A few ways to accomplish this is to break it down into three steps:
• Meet with someone who knows and celebrates the holiday you are studying. If possible, find someone who actually celebrates the holidays listed below and have your child sit down for a conversation with him or her. They will learn more from someone who believes and follows the holiday tradition and religions than they ever will off the Internet.
• Learn the true meaning behind each holiday rather than discussing only the tidbits we might already know about it.
• Do a craft to help your child go deeper.
Christmas: Read the Biblical version of the Christmas story. Remind your older children that Santa stems from stories of people who shared with the less fortunate and that the holiday is as much about giving as it is about receiving.
Hanukkah: Focus on the story of the Maccabees and their fight for freedom. Remind them that the eight candles are not only to receive one gift each day, but they actually represent the miracle the Maccabees experienced at the temple.
Kwanzaa: Find books and stories of Kwanzaa’s importance to the African-American culture. This celebration honors African heritage and culminates with a large feast. Consider recreating the feast as a way to celebrate Kwanzaa with your children.
Saint Nicholas Day: The original Santa Claus! St. Nick has different legends in several European
countries so read them all and give your kids a chance to experience Santa in a whole new way. Have your kids set their shoe in front of the chimney to see if St. Nicholas will leave a treat!
Las Posadas: The Hispanic celebration of the Virgin Mary and her selfless act of carrying Jesus. Mostly celebrated in Mexico and Central America, it is celebrated the nine days before Christmas and reenacts the journey Joseph and Mary took. The poinsettia has great significance in this holiday and can be used as representation.
Crafts are an excellent way to engage children and help them understand each holiday. Remember to explore the religious reason for the holiday, not the commercial one.
Christmas: Create a manger and talk about Jesus’ selfless act of becoming human.
Hanukkah: Create or color a Menorah. As you create it talk through what each colored candle represents.
Kwanzaa: Make paper Kwanzaa candles. Celebrate with a feast and have each child bring a traditional food item.
Saint Nicholas Day: Create St. Nicholas Day cards and deliver them to friends, relatives or nursing homes … thanking people for their kind actions throughout the year.
Las Posadas: Create a “hand poinsettia.” Handprints represent the nine leaves on their poinsettia. The nine leaves represent the nine months Joseph and Mary prepared for the coming of Jesus.
Remember, you are trying to teach your child the significance of each holiday and its importance to that religion. Many adults, who have been celebrating these holidays their entire lives, do not know (or have forgotten) the true meaning behind many holidays. Most likely, you will learn as much as your child. Tolerance, understanding, appreciation and respect are lessons anyone can learn.
Robert Nickell (a.k.a. Daddy Nickell), father of 7, offers his “5 cents” worth of advice to expectant and new parents. Nickell is the founder of DaddyScrubs.com, delivery room duds, gifts, and apparel for dads, and the Daddyscrubs.com blog, where he covers topics about parenting and the latest baby and kids gear, all from a dad’s perspective.