Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa

dreidel This is always an exciting time during the school year because my students always got excited. Of course when they start putting up Christmas stuff in the stores before Halloween arrives, it really drags the excitement along (but that is another story that I won’t go into!). Usually all of my students are Christians because I live in an area that is considered the “Bible belt.” So, this makes me want to give my students to holidays that others may be celebrating. I make it quite clear that I’m not encouraging my students to change religions but instead I want to encourage tolerance of other cultures and religions.

It was actually very educational to me when I found a synagogue that opened their store in order for me to buy dreidels. According to Wikipedia,

A dreidel is a four-sided spinning top, played with during the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.”

When I bought this dreidel, the person even gave me lessons on how to play the game and was quite excited that I would teach my class about this game and about Chanukah. More from wikipedia,

“Hanukkah (also spelled Chanukah), also known as the Festival of Lights, is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, and may occur from late November to late December on the Gregorian calendar. The festival is observed by the kindling of the lights of a special candelabrum, the nine-branched Menorah or Hanukiah, one light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. An extra light called a shamash (Hebrew: "guard" or "servant") is also lit each night for the purpose of lighting the others, and is given a distinct location, usually above or below the rest.”

Wikipedia also says,
“Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration held in the United States honoring African heritage and culture, marked by participants lighting a kinara (candle holder). It is observed from December 26 to January 1 each year, primarily in the United States. Kwanzaa is considered one of the primary holidays within the U.S. Christmas and holiday season.”

I think it is important that students learn about other cultures and the holidays they celebrate. After studying these three celebrations, I like to have students find ways that all of them are alike. It is fascinating to watch them come up with similarities that they didn’t realize. For my students, all of these are so very different and they don’t think of ways they can be alike. Once we start discussing the similarities, they start to come up with more. In fact, I had one student who came up to me the next day after the lesson to tell me that they talked about this over dinner and they came up with a few more ways they were similar. The student wanted to bring up the discussion again so he could share his family’s ideas.

I really felt this was a successful lesson in teaching tolerance as well as learning about cultural diversity. What other holidays do you know that are being celebrated during this time? Do you do any special lessons on this topic? If so, please share because I would love to know.

Original image: 'The Geflocktne Dreidl' by: Philip Chapman-Bell

1 comment:

Liliana said...

I agree that learning about different holidays allows the students to find not the differences but the commonalities. For example holidays bring family togetherness, sharing food, lights and music. Diwali, an indian holiday, is another example.