How (and Why) to Talk About Holidays and Religion in Your Classroom

How (and Why) to Talk About Holidays and Religion in Your Classroom

In this blog, we revisit how to talk about the holidays and religion. While these tips are especially applicable right now, they can be used to help us understand cultural celebrations any time of year. Cue singing children:            It’s that time of year… Christmas is so near… Wait! Can we say that in a public school?! The holidays are a time for tradition. For instance, it’s the annual time of year when educators grapple with questions of faith and inclusion in their classrooms and schools. What is appropriate to celebrate? What decorations are allowed? Can the choir sing “Silent Night” in the Christmas—oops!—holiday concert? To avoid potential controversy, some schools ban the mention of holidays or religions altogether. Yet, in this divisive atmosphere (hate crimes against Muslims were up 67% in 2015, and hate crimes of all kinds spiked after the election), it’s even more important to know how to talk about this and not just sweep it under the (prayer?) rug. With the fire (from the Yule log?) burning so hot, it is understandable to not want to add any fuel. However, in an increasingly diverse society, schools have an obligation to help students collaborate across cultures and religions. We can’t learn about other beliefs by pretending they don’t exist. Give students the gift of understanding this holiday season, and let them help guide how we handle these questions. Three of our favorite strategies for real learning—not just feel-good gestures—when discussing holidays and religion in school: Give students a voice: What do you know about the traditions and celebrations that are important to your students? Provide opportunities for students...