Incorporating Multiculturalism in the Classroom around the Holidays

xmas treeBy Nick Rocha – Teaching during the winter months can often inspire teachers to integrate Christmas symbols and topics into their classroom activities. The holiday season is a wonderful time to reflect on the previous year, spend time with friends and family, and show compassion to the less fortunate. But integrating Christmas traditions and practices into the curriculum can alienate students who do not share a similar faith or cannot afford presents under the tree. How can teachers instill the fundamental principles of Christmas, such as compassion and generosity, without isolating students?

The Christmas season and consumerism has been deeply connected. Many companies and industries advertise holiday deals and reinforce the idea that Christmas gifts should be something physical and material in nature. Telling students that they will be rewarded with physical goods for being “good” around Christmas time also reinforces that idea. Asking students specifically what they want for Christmas can bring about disappointment if their families cannot afford presents for the holidays.

According to the Child Defense Fund, more than one out of five children live in poverty, and the proportion increases to one out of four for children below the age of six. One method that teachers can utilize in the classroom is to ask students about what they are grateful for and focus on giving instead of receiving. This allows students to reflect and to appreciate the goodness that is around them without feeling disappointed or feel like they are in a contest with their peers.

The Christmas season can also bring about ethnocentrism. “The intensity of the Christmas curriculum in non-religiously affiliated schools and centers isolates children of minority faiths, while contributing to the development of ethnocentrism in majority children” (Schlachter, 1986). Highlighting Christmas traditions and symbols without highlighting other religious practices and holidays can advocate Christianity as superior over other religions. Teachers should appreciate multiculturalism and note that some students do not celebrate Christmas or have other religious celebrations throughout the year. Educators should allow students to be open about their religion and integrate other religious symbols and festivities (besides Christmas) into the curriculum so that no student feels left out.

Educators need to appreciate multicultural diversity in their classrooms and to take into consideration the socioeconomic status of each student. Christmas is a time to appreciate what we have and to teach students how to be compassionate and generous. Celebrating other religions and allowing students to explore their spirituality will bring about cultural appreciation and a greater understanding of diversity within the classroom.

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