December is a celebratory and holy month for many people around the world. I truly believe that in order to raise worldly people, we must learn about, understand and respect the customs and traditions and the multicultural holidays of people who are different from us.
I always say ignorance begets fear and hate. We must teach our children to first seek to understand – because then comes love.
It seemed the perfect time for this post, since 3 major celebrations occur during the month of December: Chanukah (Jewish), Christmas (Christian) and Kwanzaa (people of African decent). In this post, I will describe traditions, cultures and ideas. I have included some free planning printables, if you want to help your children to understand and appreciate aspects of the traditions.
I have also included some great children’s book recommendations to help your children understand multi-step processes.
Chanukah is a Jewish Holiday that starts on the Hebrew calendar 25 Kislev – which corresponds to November 27, 2013 and lasts for 8 days.
Here is a short sweet view of the Hanukkah story that you can watch with your children.
Day 1. Recite Blessings 1, 2 and 3 and light one candle of the menorah Day 2. Recite Blessings 1 and 2 and light two candles of the menorah Day 3. Recite blessings 1 and 2 and light 3 candles of the Menorah. Also light the Shabbat candles
Day 4. Recite Blessings 1 and 2. After Shabbat ends and the Havdalah is said, light 4 lights in the menorah.
Day 5. Recite blessings 1 and 2 and light the 5th light in the menorah.
Day 6. Recite blessings 1 and 2 and light the 6th light in the menorah.
Day 7. Recite blessings 1 and 2 and light the 7th light in the menorah.
Day 8. The last day of Hanukkah. Recite blessings 1 and 2 and light the 8th light in the menorah.
Here are 8 good Picture Book recommendations to help children understand Chanukah:
1. 8 Wild Nights: A Family Hanukkah Tale – Chaos ensues when wacky extended family stay for the 8 days of Hanukkah.
2. Zigazak! A Magical Hanukkah Night – 2 devils arrive in town on the first day of Hanukkah. They make Drediels walk and latkes fly.
3. Sammy Spider’s First Hanukkah – Hanukkah from the perspective of a preschooler – Drediels, latkes, and lighting candles.
4. The Adventures of Latkaland: A Hanukkah Story – A great book for older children – this beginning chapter book tells a story of Jacob Stern and his family. The family is visited by a stranger on the first night of Hanukkah. Read about all of Jacob’s exciting adventures.
5. Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins – a cute story adapted from the real Hanukkah story – where the Syrians forbade the Jews to worship. It’s a cute story that kids identify with and love.
6. Hanukkah Haiku – A popular Japanese poem, brings this Hanukkah story to life.
7. Hanukkah – A Counting Book – A board book for babies/toddlers, learn to count all the candles in the menorah in English, Hebrew and Yiddish.
8. It’s Hanukkah – based on a Children’s Hebrew song, this board book is in celebration of ritual and family.
To help you teach your children more about Chanukah, I have put together a Free Chanukah Planning Guide.
Surprisingly – or maybe not too surprisingly, I do not know much about Kwanzaa, so this post is a learning experience for me as well.
Take a look at this great video for information on the history of Kwanzaa
Kwanzaa takes always starts on December 26 and lasts for 7 days – until January 1st. Each day honors 1 principle of Kwanzaa. The principles are as follows:
1. Unity – Being a part of a community that stays together.
2. Self determination – speaking for yourself and what benefits the community
3. Collective work and responsibility – Helping others within the community.
4. Cooperative economics – supporting business that support the community
5. A sense of purpose – Setting goals that benefit the community at large.
6. Creativity – making the community better and more beautiful.
7. Faith – believing that a better world can be created for communities now and in the future.
It’s really community oriented, eh? Well, you have to think about the time in history of African-Americans. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by an African-American Professor, Maulana “Ron” Karenga. It was a time of great struggle and great change in the social status, acceptance, and livelihood of African-Americans. African-Americans of the time were struggling with segregation and were fighting for equal protection under the law. So, with that in mind, it was really important to build a strong community.
The Colors are Green, Black and Red. Green representing the fertile earth, Black representing the color of the skin and Red representing the blood that was spilled during the sacrifice for equality.
There are seven symbols of Kwanzaa (one to go with each day). Here is a great video which explains what each symbol means and where it is placed on the table.
Gathering the Seven Symbols of Kwanzaa by MonkeySee
Kwanzaa Book suggestions for children
1. The Story of Kwanza – learn about the symbols, meaning and history of this African-American Tradition.
2. The Children’s Book on Kwanzaa – A guide on how to celebrate the holiday.
3. Seven spools of thread – A clever story and breathtaking artwork illustrates the 7 principles of Kwanzaa
4. My First Kwanzaa Book – a great first picture book which talks to children about Kwanzaa
5. It’s Kwanzaa Time – This book has it all with crafts, recipes, songs and games.
6. Santa’s Kwanzaa – Santa is done laying presents beneath the tree and goes back to the North Pole to celebrate Kwanzaa with his family.
7. Li’l Rabbit’s Kwanzaa – Grandma rabbit is sick so his family won’t celebrate the biggest event in Kwanzaa, Karamu. Fortunately Li’l rabbit knows what to do!
If you are interested in teaching your children about Kwanzaa, see my Free Kwanzaa Guide for writing prompts your children will enjoy.
The most well-known holiday in December – Christmas traditionally celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ. While the holiday has been overly commercialized, I have heard many rationalizations as to why people give gifts. There are probably as many reasons as the number of people who give gifts. The most common reason for giving gifts, is because Jesus was a giving person, but I don’t buy it. If Jesus was walking this earth today – I don’t think he would walk into Best Buy and buy an iPad – even if you asked for it. No, he is not a temporal giver. He is a giver of forgiveness, understanding, education, compassion, joy – but most of all – love.
With that said, if I walked into someone’s house on Christmas, and said “I’m giving you a gift of love.” they would first think I was a little bit of crazy – and second they would be very disappointed. See, they wanted that iPad, and so do I.
What are you gonna do? We try the best we can.
Here is a cute video on Christmas from Children
Why do we have Christmas Trees?
Why do we have Christmas Carols?
Here are some Christmas books and movies that we have enjoyed in this house.
2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas
9. A Christmas Story (DVD)
10. The twelve Days of Christmas
For more information on the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas (AKA buying gifts), please download our Free “All Year Around” Gift and Planning Guide.
The Squishable Baby focuses on creating positive learning experiences through everyday life. I believe that learning about – and respecting diversity, different religions, other cultures, charity, and our environment – through play, through crafts, through lessons, through giving – will not only produce more empathetic children and adults – but will put a child on a path to a love of lifelong learning.
When I’m not blogging, I’m dyeing. When I’m not dyeing, I’m sewing. Yep. I hand dye and sew Merino wool and bamboo pants for babies. They are fun, soft and squishy pants that they can rough and tumble play in – or go out at night and be fancy in! The fibers are certainly sustainable – and durable! They are perfect for environmentally cautious busy body squishes.
You can find me in various places.by
Latest posts by Lisa Nelson (see all)
- The History of Halloween Traditions - October 7, 2016
- Celebrating Christmas Musical Traditions Around the World - December 19, 2014
- Multicultural Holidays in December with Free Printables - November 20, 2013
Thank you for such a great post so rich with resources – and your printables are wonderful!
Lisa Nelson says
Thank you Marie-Claude. I really hope you find this useful and hope that you can incorporate at something in some way this holiday season.
Have a wonderful Wednesday!
Wow Lisa! This is a great post, and thank you for taking the time to write it up. I love, love the printables they’ve been saved on to my computer to print and use with my little man. Great job!
Lisa Nelson says
Thanks Frances! Now off to your blog to see how the Spanish learning is going!
I love this post Lisa and I just downloaded your gift guide – thank you for that and for the printables!
Lisa Nelson says
It’s my pleasure! Thanks for stopping by!