For many educators, this is a tricky time of year. Many children are celebrating a holiday, whether it's the thoroughly secular Christmas season, the religious variety, Hanukkah, Yule, Kwanzaa or one of the many other festivities that fall in midwinter.
Some teachers or classrooms try to sidestep the whole conundrum by focusing on a winter them or a general festivity theme, while others completely ignore the holidays and try to continue with business as usual. This is one of those cases where the problem lies with the parents.
Once upon a time, about twenty years ago, the standard holiday observance in early elementary was simple. We made arts and crafts, learned a few songs and played some games that celebrated each of the major winter holiday cultures.
It was often set up as an “around the world” unit with students focusing on a different culture or continent every few days. The kids learned a lot and even better, it widened their cultural understanding at a young age, laying the groundwork for thinking, caring adults.
Then, things changed. A few vocal parents became upset that their child learned that not everyone practiced their religion or that the holiday period wasn't just owned by their particular denomination. Parents on the other side became upset because they felt their beliefs weren't covered fully or that religion was being brought into the classroom.
This is a case when educators must stand up for themselves. The children deserve festivals in the classroom, and a well-educated child needs to learn about the myriad of cultures and beliefs that make up our country. If parents have a problem with it, there are home education and private school options that cater to their narrow world view.