Celebrate Winter Holidays
Around the World Traditions
Cultural Celebrations in the Montessori Environment - Winter Holidays from Around the World!
A number of holidays begin with the arrival of winter. As the days grow shorter and nights grow longer, many cultures celebrate light. Samhain, the first day of winter in the Celtic calendar, is celebrated from sunset on October 31 to sunset on November 1 and is symbolized by the lighting of bonfires on hilltops. Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, celebrates the victory of good versus evil. And Dia de los Meurtos traces its origins to the Aztec celebration Catrina, the goddess of the dead. November first issues Calan Gaeaf, the Welsh first day of winter, and December welcomes a number of significant celebrations, including Chanukah, Christmas, and New Year’s.
To create an atmosphere of multicultural inclusion, your Montessori environment may choose to focus on holidays that may be less well known.
Christmas Thinking Questions
1. Think of a Christmas symbol that is widely used and recognized. In your own words, explain the meaning behind this symbol.
2. If no one knows exactly when Jesus was born, why do we celebrate Christmas on December 25?
3. What is the purpose of the advent wreath? How is it like the menorah lit for Hanukkah and the kinara lit for Kwanzaa?
4. Who was the original Santa Claus? Why was he so well known?
5. If you were to explain Christmas to a friend who had never heard of it before, what story would you tell?
Hanukkah Thinking Questions
1. When the candles are lit on the menorah, they are a symbol. What do they symbolize? Tell the story in your own words.
2. What is the tzedakah box used for? Why do you think it might have special meaning during Hanukkah?
3. What do the four Hebrew letters on the sides of a dreidel stand for? What does that phrase have to do with Hanukkah?
4. Why does Hanukkah start on a different day each year?
5. If you were to explain Hanukkah to a friend who had never heard of it before, what story would you tell?
Kwanzaa Thinking Questions
1. The traditions, names, and decorations of Kwanzaa reflect African culture, but it is an American holiday. Explain the meaning of the holiday in your own words.
2. Think about the seven principles of Kwanzaa: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith. These principles reflect how we should live our lives, work together, and build our community. Choose one, describe it in your own words, and give an example from your life.
3. What is an example of a gift that might be given for Kwanzaa? What makes these gifts special?
4. If you were to explain Kwanzaa to a friend who had never heard of it before, what would you say?
5. Kwanzaa is a holiday about looking back and looking forward. Why do you think Maulana Karenga, the founder of Kwanzaa, chose the week between Christmas and New Year's for this holiday?
Compare Two Holidays - or - Holiday Research
- Why do people celebrate this holiday?
- When does this holiday take place?
- Who celebrates this holiday?
- Where is this holiday celebrated — in one country or many countries?
- How do people celebrate? Describe a popular tradition.
- What are some important symbols of this holiday?
- Share one more interesting fact about the holiday.
Keep a Holiday Journal
Have students write their own holiday journals with a first-person account of a family celebration. Let them choose whether they'd like to write about a holiday their families really celebrate, or one they've just learned about in this online activity. Encourage them to use personal experiences or facts they've learned to describe the sights, sounds, tastes, and feelings of the holiday. Allow them to sketch pictures in their journals too.