Celebrating diversity at Christmas

Library Home  >  Diversity and Inclusion
  Published on Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Celebrating diversity at Christmas

Library Home  >  Diversity and Inclusion
  Published on Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Celebrating Christmas extends beyond the fun and fanfare of sparkly decorations, carol singing, and crafting. It's also a great opportunity to embrace the diversity within the community of children and families in your service.

Australia is one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse populations in the world. We are home to the world’s oldest continuous cultures, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, and being multicultural is central to our national identity.

This diversity in our population means that Christmas does not look the same to every child. For example a child of French heritage may celebrate St Nicholas' Day on the 6th of December and enjoy their main Christmas meal called Le Reveillon, on 24th December.

Some young children don't celebrate Christmas at all.

Christmas provides a wonderful opportunity for children, families and educators to learn more about each other and be culturally inclusive. Early childhood services are the ideal location for children to experience a range of cultures and form friendships with people from a variety of backgrounds.

In addition the Early Years Learning Framework describes cultural competence as being much more than awareness of cultural differences and says: It is the ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures.

According to the EYLF cultural competence encompasses:

  • being aware of one’s own world view
  • developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences
  • gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views
  • developing skills for communication and interaction across cultures.

Community Child Care's booklet on Exploring Celebrations in Children's Services says, 'Each person has their own culture which they bring with them to the child care setting. What one person may value or believe in may be very different to the next person, even if both are from the same cultural and linguistic background. Christmas will have different meanings for different people, depending on their values, experiences and beliefs…

Having an understanding of the way that culture and cultural practices influence a family's values and beliefs will enable early childhood educators to incorporate celebrations in a sensitive and respectful manner.'

First step: 'How do you celebrate Christmas?'

Talking to families is a great starting point. Asking families what Christmas means to them and how they celebrate draws them in and informs educators.

If they don't celebrate Christmas there's a good opportunity to learn about the holidays that are equally significant in their lives and how they celebrate them. Ensuring inclusivity can encourage meaningful discussions and allows families to provide examples of their own unique traditions.

By working together, parents and teachers can plan strategies for children whose family beliefs do not permit participation in traditional Australian holiday celebrations. Families can take part in creating satisfactory alternatives for the child within the classroom.

Sharing different approaches to celebrations provides a real opportunity for children to think and talk about diversity. Engaging them by sharing their own experiences and traditions brings meaning and inclusivity plus it's a great time to celebrate differences.

Embracing diversity at Christmas time could include some or all of the following ideas:

Sharing

Sit children in a circle and provide an opportunity to share how they celebrate this time of year at home with their families. It's a bit like a show-and-tell. You can use this as a springboard to create ideas for classroom participation such as having a feast of different foods, or consider an art and craft hands-on fun project (see our next article).
 

Get parents involved

Encourage parents to bring in items or photos from their celebrations to share with the class. Parents and/or children can show the class how different items are used and why they are so special and important to their celebration.

Read books

Young children will love a selection of colourful books revealing how different cultures mark the festive season. Children may even have their own Christmas tradition book at home that they can bring in. Include books about celebrations such as Eid ul Fitr at the end of Ramadan or Diwali, the Hindu Festival of Lights.

Connect globally

You could throw an 'around-the-world' themed party, with food and activities from around the globe alongside the traditional Christmas celebration. Embrace different languages spoken by translating how they express 'Merry Christmas' and even create a poster or sing songs in different languages.

Involve the community

A wonderful way to make any major celebration more meaningful is to include your wider community. This might mean inviting guests to your classroom so they can talk about their celebrations. Reaching out to older members of the community or grandparents during this time of year can also be a wonderful experience for children.
Personal experiences

Give children an opportunity to experience and learn that not everyone celebrates holidays in the same way. Some families celebrate by focusing on religious events and traditions, while others may celebrate the holiday in more secular ways. Create opportunities for children to talk about these differences, emphasising that our individual ways of celebrating is what makes this time especially meaningful and unique for each of us.

Early Childhood Consultant, Catharine Hydon, wrote, 'Becoming culturally competent is about connections and relationships. Firstly, as educators, connecting to our own cultural identity, knowing what's important to us and where these ideas come from. From there, our efforts to recognise and celebrate the cultural identity of the children and families we work with can be as small as learning a greeting in a child's home language, introducing a Dreamtime story, or asking a family about how they plan to celebrate their version of New Year.

'As we become more confident we can look for bigger projects that intentionally invite children to think and learn about their own and others' cultural identity, challenge prejudice when we encounter it, and explore new ways of knowing and being.

Cultural competency is ultimately about respect, learning to respect our own and each other's identity, standing up to actions that erode these rights and exploring ways to demonstrate this commitment every day.'

This child care article was last reviewed or updated on Monday, 30 December 2019



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