As you no doubt know, there are so many December holidays other than Christmas. Perhaps your family already celebrates a different holiday in December. Older children will surely have discussed these in school. At Picniic we believe that no matter your tradition, it is worthwhile to learn about other cultures and other people. It is especially important to help our children learn the importance of multicultural celebrations in our increasingly global community. It is one fun way to engage with neighbors and investigate new foods, cultures, and ideas. Awareness and sensitivity to other people is a key element of building character in children, especially in today’s world. We can’t possibly cover all the fun holiday traditions the world has to offer in this one blog, but here is a little snapshot of festivals you may not be already celebrating in your home and ways to help your children learn about them.
Traditions Related to Christmas
1. Saint Nicholas Day
Saint Nicholas Day, December 6, is celebrated by many Christians the world over, but especially in Germany. Saint Nicholas’ true story is the inspiration for our modern-day Santa Claus. This day is included here because most families in the US celebrate Christmas and Saint Nicholas Day is a great opportunity to learn about the gift-giving tradition at Christmas time that can so easily overwhelm us when Christmas should be a time of joy and selflessness. This day comes at the beginning of December and can set the tone for your month and make a big impression on little ones. So before December 6th comes, you can read the true story of this saint, have your children set out their shoes or stockings the night before and wake up to small gifts of chocolate coins, giftcards, or a small toy. Incorporate some giving or charity experience to the week to make the concept really hit home. We like this book – Saint Nicholas: The Real Story of the Christmas Legend
2. Las Posadas
Las Posadas is a Mexican holiday which dramatizes the journey of Mary and Joseph in searching for lodging in Bethlehem and being repeatedly turned away from full inns and having to settle for a stable the night before Jesus’ birth. The 400-year-old celebration is traditionally carried out over nine days from December 16th to December 24th and sets the stage for the Nativity story on Christmas Day. It is a great opportunity to learn about the heritage of t he many Mexican immigrants to this country. Perhaps you have Mexican or even South American neighbors who celebrate Las Posadas. Learning about this holiday can be a wonderful bridge to conversations with them. So, join in the drama if you have neighbors who celebrate. Or, recreate the tradition in your own home by having your children pretend their bedrooms are the various “inns” and culminate the experience with a piñata party. Here is our favorite book about the holiday – Nine Days to Christmas
Other Christmas-related traditions
3. St. Lucia Day (Swedish)
4. Three Kings Day/Epiphany (Christian)
Holidays Other than Christmas
Kwanzaa is the fastest growing December holiday in the US as many African-Americans are finding the celebration a wonderful way to connect with their roots and the strong values of their ancestors. Kwanzaa was born out of the civil rights movement in the 1960s lasts for seven days from December 26th to December 31st. A candle is lit each night as the family reflects on an important principle that should be a rule of life in the coming year. The seven principles are: unity, self-determination, responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. These are principles of life that should be important to all people but are particularly important to a minority group of people who need to support each other and find unity amongst themselves. With increased racial tension in our country, it is more important than ever to reach out to our neighbors in support and what better way to do that than through sharing in a holiday tradition. Join a Kwanzaa celebration on December 31st or prepare gifts or treats for your neighbors on that day.
Here is a book recommendation to help your children learn about Kwanzaa – The Story of Kwanzaa
Hanukkah is a traditional Jewish holiday retelling the miraculous events of the Maccabean revolt that led to the Jewish people regaining control of the temple in Jerusalem. The menorah is lit, one candle at a time, over the course of eight nights. There are often gifts presented to children, dreidel games played, and oil-based foods, such as latkes, shared. There are many Jewish-Americans that celebrate Hanukkah during December. It is a great opportunity to learn about the importance of the temple to the Jewish faith and religious freedom, in general. Join your Jewish friends for a Hanukkah celebration or try your hand at making latkes on your own.
Here is our favorite children’s book about the holiday – The Story of Hanukkah
Omisoka is the Japanese New Year’s celebration held on December 31st. Traditionally, the Japanese people spend their last day of the year with purification activities that are good for anyone to do. These activities include house cleaning, paying off debts, and bathing. In addition to these, Buddhists spend time engaging in purification rituals specific to their religion. At the close of the old year, bells are rung and ceremonies held at Buddhist temples and parties are held in homes. Long udon or soba noodles are traditionally eaten symbolizing the crossing over from one year into the next and good wishes are bestowed on family and friends.
Here is a website just for kids with a simple explanation of this holiday – kidsworld.com
* You can also explore Chinese New Year and other New Year celebrations from around the world.
You may or may not have heard of the ancient Roman Festival of Saturnalia. Kids will be fascinated by this ancient holiday and all the traditions that have been incorporated into Western celebrations of Christmas and New Year’s. In fact, the first Christmas celebrations were held in Rome. Some believe that the Festival of Saturnalia was refashioned by the church into the religious holiday we know today. This article does a good job of explaining the ancient roots of Christmas – historytoday.com
Visit your local library and find more ways that the ancient Romans impacted our culture through architecture, science, government, and education.
Think we missed out on any other winter holidays? Tell us about them in the comments here below. We’d also love to hear about how you celebrate your winter holidays 🙂
From all of us here at Picniic,