Celebrations Around the World
In this lesson, we broaden our awareness of different cultures and how they celebrate holidays. An optional service project includes writing letters to request diverse holidays be added to the community calendar, if they aren't already observed.
Identify 2-3 holidays they didn’t know before; recognize commonalities in holiday celebrations across cultures; create a calendar of observances
- books or internet access to research observances
- a blank printed or digital calendar for the year
Research an upcoming holiday/observance from a culture other than the dominant one in your area. Bring in a symbol or artifact of that celebration.
Kwanzaa - a nonreligious festival observed by many African Americans to celebrate cultural heritage and traditional values
Hanukkah - a Jewish festival that lasts 8 days and includes lighting eight lights to commemorate the rededication of the Temple
Diwali - a Hindu festival of lights that marks the beginning of the fiscal year in India
Invite youth to share what holidays and celebrations their families recognize.
- Schools and organizations tend to center Christian holidays and celebrations, leaving out those youth who celebrate other occasions or don’t celebrate holidays
at all. Which holidays do you see represented in your space? Which holidays are often overlooked?
- What commonalities does the group notice between celebrations around the world? e.g., candles or light, giving, large meals, family, etc.
- Remember that there may also be students in your group who don’t celebrate holidays at all (for religious reasons or otherwise). Does your classroom/organizational culture respect the boundaries and comfort of those learners?
- Video, “What is Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Diwali? | Nina's World” from Universal Kids [https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kkINRdhT004]
- Video, “Winter Holidays Celebrated Around the World” https://youtu.be/PhGY4lQndyU
- Book, What Do You Celebrate? by Whitney Stewart
Decorate for an upcoming holiday from a culture that is not the dominant one of the group. This could include a poster, lights, handouts, music or a food item. As youth ask questions, share that the items are related to a celebration and describe that celebration, including the culture where it originates.
Invite the youth to share what holidays and festivals they celebrate. Discuss any differences and similarities among the students’ celebrations.
Watch the video, “What is Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Diwali? | Nina's World” from Universal Kids (or an alternate for older youth). Discuss what the group noticed about the three holidays. What is similar? What is different?
Share with the group that there are different holidays and festivals celebrated in every culture around the world and around the calendar. Teach them about the upcoming holiday you researched (see Teacher Preparation, above).
Using the internet and available books, have young people research observances for each month that center non-dominant cultures. Compile these onto a
- calendar. The group may choose to share this calendar with the adults in their school/group space.
- Include on the group’s calendar some observances that relate to marginalized identities, such as disability awareness days, Pride month, and mental health awareness days.
- Have individuals or pairs choose a country and research a major celebration in that country. They present the findings back to the group.
Giving back to the community: If your school or organization’s demographic data does not match its calendar of observances, you can ask them to include other cultural holidays in their calendar. Do this with a letter writing campaign (e.g., to the school board) or write a petition to request this. Here are some sample petitions from Change.org that might offer some guidance: