Top 7 Tips to Keep Your Classroom Inclusive During Christmas & New Years

Dec 28, 2022

During the Christmas season, many people around the world celebrate the holidays and traditions of their respective religions. While the specifics of these celebrations may vary widely, there are a few general principles that can help you to respectfully and thoughtfully participate in the holiday traditions of others as well as teach your students to do the same.

It’s time to have some “real talk” about ways we can teach our students about the different traditions and major world religious holidays celebrated during Christmas. By learning about and understanding the diverse holiday traditions of the people around us, we can create a more inclusive and understanding community that cancels the “December Dilemma”. The tips discussed in this episode can also be applied after students return from Winter Break too.

In this episode you will learn:

  • How the major world religions celebrate during the Christmas Season.
  • Ways to embrace cultural and religious differences during the Christmas season.
  • Inclusive classroom strategies to foster an even greater sense of community in your students.

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One of the most important things to remember is to be open-minded and respectful of other people's beliefs and traditions. This means avoiding judgment or criticism of the practices of others and instead approaching them with curiosity and a desire to learn. It's also important to be mindful of cultural sensitivities and to avoid appropriating or commercializing the traditions of others.  Before you can teach your students how to 

show respect and appreciation for the traditions and beliefs of others during the Christmas holidays, it is important to make sure you have a strong understanding of what those traditions and beliefs are in at least the major religions. 


How Teachers Can Build Their Knowledge of Different Christmas Religious Holidays & Traditions 

One way to celebrate different religious holidays and traditions during Christmas is to learn about and participate in the traditions of others. This can be as simple as attending a religious service or event, such as a Hanukkah menorah lighting or a Kwanzaa feast. While Christmas is primarily a Christian holiday, there are many other religious traditions that are also celebrated during this time of year. 

Each major world religion has a holiday and or specific traditions during this time of the year.  Lets review the major holidays and/or traditions of Christianity, Judaism, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhism and Islam..  



Major Holiday/Traditions


Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, and is observed by Christians around the world. On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, many Christians attend church services and sing Christmas carols. They may also decorate their homes with Christmas trees, lights, and other decorations, and exchange gifts with loved ones.


Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Jewish holiday that is often celebrated around the same time as Christmas. Hanukkah commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days in the Temple in Jerusalem. During Hanukkah, Jews light candles on a menorah and exchange gifts with loved ones. They also eat traditional foods such as latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts).


Hindus in India and around the world celebrate the festival of lights, known as Diwali, during the winter months. Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil and is a time for Hindus to come together with family and friends and exchange gifts. Homes are decorated with lights and candles, and traditional foods and sweets are enjoyed.


Sikhs celebrate the birth of their founder, Guru Nanak, on the day of Gurpurab. This holiday is marked by special prayers, kirtans (devotional songs), and the sharing of food with the community. Gurpurab is a time for Sikhs to come together and celebrate their faith.


Many Buddhists observe Bodhi Day, which commemorates the day that the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, attained enlightenment. Bodhi Day is typically celebrated on December 8th and is a time for Buddhists to reflect on the teachings of the Buddha and to practice mindfulness and compassion.


Some Islamic holidays may fall in or around December such as  Eid al-Fitr, a celebration that marks the end of Ramadan in the Muslim faith. The Eid has shifting dates, and although it has fallen over the summer during recent years (in 2022, it was May 1), it can fall much later in the calendar and is therefore a holiday to consider in thinking about during December as the date shifts. 


Another way to learn more about different religious holidays and traditions during Christmas is to reach out to your friends and neighbors who celebrate these traditions and offer your support and encouragement. This could involve simply sending a card or gift to show your appreciation for their cultural traditions, or perhaps offering to help with the planning and execution of a holiday event or celebration. By showing an interest in and a willingness to support others' traditions, you can help to build bridges of understanding and respect within your community.

No matter what your religious beliefs, Christmas is a time to come together with loved ones and celebrate the traditions and values that are important to you. Whether you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, Gurpurab, or Bodhi Day, the most important thing is to show respect and appreciation for the traditions and beliefs of others. By learning about and understanding the diverse holiday traditions of the people around us, we can create a more inclusive and understanding society and embed some of these inclusive practices in our classrooms.


Not Everyone Celebrates Holidays

It is also important to note that not everyone celebrates holidays in December and even throughout the year, and some observe holidays with cultural or family traditions rather than religious ones. According to the Pew Research Center, 70.6% of Americans identify as Christian, almost 6% belong to faiths such as Judaism, Islam, Buddhism or Hinduism, and about 23% of the U.S. population is unaffiliated, meaning they are agnostic, atheist, or “nothing in particular.” While many unaffiliated people celebrate Christmas and other holidays in a secular way, some may not celebrate at all. Additionally, some people who are religious, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, do not celebrate holidays. It is always better to never assume what your students, families or colleagues celebrate, particularly considering the enormous diversity within and among traditions during this time of year.  

Asking questions is one of the best ways to deepen our understanding of different cultures, beliefs and non-beliefs. During the holiday season, it is especially important to be curious and ask respectful questions of your coworkers. Doing so will help create a more inclusive and understanding environment for everyone. When asking someone about their holiday practices, be sure to come from a place of genuine curiosity and respect. This is a great way to ensure that everyone feels included and respected this holiday season.


7 Tips to Keep Your Classroom Inclusive During Christmas

Now lets transition the conversation to how we can help our students learn about and celebrate diversity in the classroom during the Christmas season and after their return to school once Winter Break is over.  

  1. Create a welcoming and inclusive environment for the holidays: One of the key strategies to make your classroom more inclusive during the Christmas holidays is to create a welcoming and inclusive environment. This can involve things like decorating the classroom with holiday-themed decorations that represent a variety of different cultures and traditions, and making sure that all students feel included and valued.
  2. Celebrate diversity when students return from winter break: Another important strategy is to celebrate diversity and encourage students to share their own holiday traditions and cultural practices when they return in January. This can involve hosting a holiday-themed cultural celebration or classroom potluck where students and even their families are invited to share their favorite holiday dishes and traditions.  By allowing students to present their own holiday traditions within your classroom, you can help students feel more included and respected.
  3. Incorporate inclusive language: It's important to be mindful of the language you use in your classroom, especially during the holiday season when students may have different beliefs and traditions. Avoid using language that assumes everyone celebrates Christmas or refers to specific holiday traditions as "normal." Make sure to use inclusive language that does not exclude or stereotype any particular group of people. For example, instead of saying "Merry Christmas," consider saying "Happy Holidays" or "Season's Greetings."
  4. Provide accommodations: If you have students with disabilities in your classroom, it's important to make sure they have the necessary accommodations to fully participate in holiday activities. This might include providing materials in alternative formats, such as large print or audio, or offering extra support and accommodations as needed.
  5. Encourage student kindness, respect and understanding: Above all, it's important to foster a culture of respect and understanding in your classroom, particularly during the holiday season when students may have different beliefs and traditions. Encourage your students to be open-minded and accepting of their classmates' differences, and to engage in respectful discussions about their own traditions and beliefs. By creating a culture of inclusivity, you can help your students feel welcomed and supported, no matter what holiday traditions they celebrate.
  6. Celebrate the winter season: If you want to celebrate the holiday season in your classroom without focusing on specific religious traditions, you can instead celebrate the winter season as a whole. This can involve activities like making winter-themed crafts, learning about animals that live in cold climates, or studying the science behind snow and ice. This approach allows you to celebrate the season without excluding any students based on their beliefs or traditions. 
  7. Start New Traditions: It is totally okay and a good idea to start new traditions during the holiday season like acknowledging holidays that fall outside of December, sending winter cards to the elderly in nursing homes or to students and their families.  Another new tradition idea could be a class service or charity project that is completed before the holiday break or even in January when students return.


Finally, it's important to remember that the holiday season is a time for celebration and joy, and that there are many ways to come together and share in this joy regardless of religious or cultural differences. By teaching our students the importance of being open-minded, respectful, and supportive of others' traditions, and by finding ways to come together and share in the joy of the holiday season, we can foster a sense of understanding and unity within our school and classroom communities.

What were your takeaways from today’s episode? Take a screenshot of this episode and tag us on social media at @edugladiators with your favorite tip that you will try to keep your classroom inclusive during the holidays. We also would greatly appreciate a positive review to help spread our EduGladiators mission to create a new era of education by having “real talk” that inspire real action for all students! Also, be sure to subscribe to the Real Talk Education podcast and never miss a new episode. 



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