Mindful Teaching Through Holiday Traditions
Holiday Traditions are Fun and Can Be Educational Too
Many holiday traditions are simply fun activities during which families spend time and take part in together. However, it is important to remember our values are weaved through our traditions like garland on the Christmas tree. For many families, traditions are centered on their religious beliefs; they offer a chance to educate and celebrate the fundamental teachings and customs of their faith.
This opportunity to share our beliefs extends over more than just religion. By actively examining your traditions and deliberately imparting your values through them, you can ensure you are communicating more than a consumerist or narrow emphasis upon the holiday.
One of our family’s favourite activities as we count down the days until Christmas is learning about different holiday traditions around the world. We have a book we bring out every year that includes stories and information about how different people and cultures celebrate this special time of year.
This year we plan to use the internet to explore further and focus on areas my children have studied in school or are especially relevant to us – such as the countries of our cultural heritage and Syria. This seemingly simple activity offers a concrete opportunity to communicate our feelings and values about diversity and inclusion.
Increasing our children’s understanding of diversity, inclusion, and open mindedness is especially important to us because we live in Canada, one of the most multicultural countries in the world, and our children have special needs that are often viewed as “different.” Diversity extends beyond ethnicity and race and spans gender, religious affiliations, language, sexual orientation, economic status, and abilities.
For our family, encouraging exploration of other cultural, religious, and international celebrations of the holidays teaches us all empathy, understanding or appreciation of “the Other,” affords our children a chance to ask questions, and places our belief system into a larger context rather than a bias void.
Through our holiday traditions, we strengthen the messages we impart to our children at other times.
Mindful attention to the significance of these traditions can make them even more meaningful
- Baking/Cooking: Time spent with loved ones creating and enjoying goodies together? Celebrate and remember those who have passed on their recipes and love?
- Gift Giving: Emphasize giving and generosity of spirit? Financial awareness?
- Nativity Scene/ Menorah/ Drumming/ Singing/ Ringing a Bell: Fundamental teachings? Symbol? Educate? Celebrate? Historical significance?
- Candy/ Treats: Nutritional choice? Balance between sweets and healthy choices?
- Santa/ Elf on the Shelf: Symbol of childlike wonder and belief in magic? Encourage good behaviour? Importance of laughter and light heartedness?
- Charitable Acts: Gratitude? Importance of giving to those less fortunate?
- Skating party/ Annual family ski trip/ Outdoor hike to choose Christmas tree: Integrate fitness into every day? Encourage children to be active for life?
- Reading: Importance of literacy? Support emerging reader? Impart information?
Through our traditions, we affirm our values and strengthen our messages to our children. What are some of your family’s favourite holiday traditions? What messages are embedded within them? This year, purposefully examine the moments you share together through a lens of a learner in order to be thoughtful in the messages you impart and inspire.
Share here how your family celebrates the season and how your traditions teach.
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