Despite some common traditions, your child may be confused by other people's holiday celebrations. Teach her to have an open mind about different people and practices by adding some multicultural traditions to your holiday celebrations. Use the following facts to teach your child about each celebration:
Then: More than 2,000 years ago, Jewish people were forced to leave their holy city, Jerusalem. They fought and won a long battle, and when they came back to the city they went to rebuild their temple. They lit the temple's menorah (an oil lamp). There was only enough oil for one day, but the Jews believe God performed a miracle and the menorah lights burned for eight days.
Now: Hanukkah (or Chanukah) is sometimes called "The Festival of Lights." Jews celebrate their victory and the miracle of the menorah for eight nights. Each night they light candles in their own menorah: one candle the first night, two candles the second night, and so on. Families also offer blessings to God, exchange gifts, and eat traditional food such as latkes (potato pancakes).
Then: Muslims believe that more than 1,300 years ago, in the month they call Ramadan, the prophet Muhammad received the Koran (Muslims' holy book). Muslims show their love for the Koran and Allah by praying and fasting during Ramadan.
Now: The daily fast is very important. For the whole month, everyone except small children, older adults, or adults who might get sick eat nothing between sunrise and sunset. Children join the fast when their parents decide that they are old enough. Each night of Ramadan, families have a small meal, and at the end of the month, they break the fast with a three-day festival, 'Eid-ul-Fitr.
During 'Eid-ul-Fitr, Muslims give gifts to each other and donate to charities. Children may take a day off of school and parents may take a day off from work.
Then: Christians observe the birthday of Jesus, whom they believe is the son of God. According to the Gospels (Christians' holy stories), Jesus' parents were very poor, and he was born in a stable more than 2,000 years ago. Shepherds came to see the newborn baby along with three kings (or wise men) who brought Jesus gifts.
Now: While non-religious traditions are popular, Christmas is a religious holiday. Some Christians mark the four weeks before December 25th by lighting candles for Advent (a time of waiting) and by doing good deeds. On Christmas Eve, Santa Claus (or St. Nicholas) brings gifts to good children. In some countries, gifts are not given until January 6th, the day celebrating the three kings' visit.
Then: The word "Kwanzaa" comes from a Swahili phrase that means "first fruits." African-American activist Maulana Karenga started the holiday in 1966 to encourage people to learn about and celebrate their African heritage. Kwanzaa honors the harvest celebrations of ancient Africa as well as the culture of today's Africans and African Americans.
Now: Kwanzaa celebrations include the lighting of seven candles, one for each day of the festival. Each candle represents one of the holiday's seven principles: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Families also celebrate with festive dinners, stories, and clothing, or decorations inspired by traditional African culture.
Whether you know someone who will be celebrating these holidays or not, introducing your child to a variety of cultures gives you a chance to teach her about the world. It will also help her to take pride in your family's own heritage and traditions.