Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Using Holiday Celebrations to Promote Multiculturalism in Early Childhood Settings

Hi! I'm Ayn and I am a Pre-K teacher in the Bright From The Start Georgia Pre-K program, serving 4 and 5 year olds in Georgia (USA). I've been teaching in early childhood classrooms for about 20 years. I share my classroom adventures on my blog, little illuminations

Winter holiday time is always a tricky proposition in community early childhood settings. Some teachers choose to ignore the holidays altogether, some celebrate only the commercial aspects of the holidays. Church based programs often celebrate the more religious themes. I find that this is a fantastic time to expose my students to a variety of cultures and traditions they might not otherwise encounter. I know some parents prefer their children not participate in holiday celebrations not of their own faith. By highlighting so many different customs, most parents are happy to have their children participate in all of our multicultural celebrations.  I make sure that we find a way to include every students' culture in our celebrations. Parents are encouraged to come in and help their child share their family's holiday traditions. During the winter season, we learn about Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and also learn about holidays and traditions of other countries and how they celebrate them.

We recently celebrated  the Muslim holidays, Ramadan and Eid Ul Fitr. One of our moms came in and did a little demonstration, read a story and shared a special snack. This particular student has special dietary needs due to his religion.  After learning about his culture, the other students now understand why he occasionally has a meal that is from home, instead of what the rest of us are eating. In the pre-k world, understanding pretty much translates into acceptance.  By highlighting a variety of beliefs, children have a better understanding of why some of their friends don't celebrate the same way their own families do.

In the coming weeks, we'll highlight a variety of cultures and traditions. Here are a few of the traditions we'll explore:

We will celebrate Hanukkah, reading stories, playing dreidel games and learning songs.

We will celebrate Christmas by singing carols, having our "Elf on The Shelf" visit, and playing lots of "reindeer games". We learn about Kwanzaa by reading books and doing a few activities. This is one of the holidays I'd like to showcase more, but I always seem to have a hard time finding folks who can come share the traditions with us. We also have a "Holidays Around The World" passport and "stop" each day into another country to learn about their customs and traditions.

In January, we will learn about Chinese New Year. We'll make paper lanterns and learn more about the significance of this holiday to the Chinese people.

Also in January, we'll highlight Pacific Northwest Indian Tribes in the US. I bring artifacts, toys and children's books from the region and share lots of traditions and native foods.

Here's a different spin on the usual holiday ideas: Teach Preschool has just been writing about a wonderful alternative to the holiday hoopla. She is celebrating the 5 Senses of Preschool. The holiday season is jammed packed with sensorial experiences and Deborah Stewart presents ways to take advantage of these opportunities.

I encourage teachers everywhere to embrace the holiday season and all the opportunities it presents, instead of shying away and avoiding the issue altogether. There are so many wonderful ways to bring multiculturalism into your class and this is a fabulous time to do it!

Merry Christmukkawanzaa
 Happy Holidays!                    

Stop by and visit me anytime at or visit the little illuminations fanpage on facebook!


  1. It's wonderful how you include so many other cultures & their celebrations. I'd neve heard of Eid Ul Fitr before. Maybe sometime you could at the differences in customs in places such as Australia & Pacific Islands where it is Summer during the holiday season.

    While the ham & turkey are still common place as is in line with our British background, Seafood, in particular prawns, & salads are just as popular, if not more so, due to the often very hot Christmas Days we encounter.

    WOnderful contribution & loved your links to your blog, facebook page & your program.

  2. Ayn- I love these ideas! I always struggle to find a good balance with my kids between exposing them to new ideas and traditions and helping them understand what they see at home! Thanks for these ideas!

  3. Greg~ Thanks so much! I'll be calling on you and "the gang" to fill me in on your holiday customs! Shrimp on Christmas? I'd be in HEAVEN!!! :)

    Pam~ Thanks! Finding balance is tricky sometimes! I get excited when families want to come in and share. I just don't know that much about some traditions and couldn't share it with the kids without family support!

  4. Ayn - what TERRIFIC energy you bring to these projects; you are a GIFT to our blog collaborative and our readers!!! Thanks for helping us infuse culture into our celebration!


  5. Awesome activities, Ayn! I wasn't familiar with Eid until I worked on my master's degree in England, and they celebrated a number of religious holidays at the day nursery where I did my school placement. I love the idea of teaching children about many different cultures during their preschool years. Your post inspired to me start a new Multicultural Education Pinterest board - and I added it to my Kids' Non-Christian Religious Activities board at


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