As a child growing up on a farm in Iowa, I was not exposed to many people from other cultures. I knew children who lived on farms and I knew children who lived in town. As the only child with red hair in my elementary school, I was probably the most “diverse.”

I had friends that went to a different church than I did. Sometimes I wondered why they had certain religious artifacts in their homes that were different than the ones we had in mine. I wondered why they couldn’t eat certain foods every day of the week. I was curious, but after all, wouldn’t it be rude to ask them? It wasn’t until I attended middle school that I began to understand that families differ in many ways, not just in their religious beliefs.

This time of year can be difficult for families that do not celebrate Christmas. The media bombards us with images of Santa Claus, Nativity scenes, Christmas trees and items to decorate your house for Christmas. But how does this feel for people who are not Christian?

Every culture has celebrations, but the reasons and the way they celebrate are very different. Although Christmas, Kwanzaa and Hanukkah are celebrated around the same time each year, they are all celebrated for very different reasons. Now is a good time to introduce children to other cultures and beliefs. But how can you do this when most of the people you know have very similar backgrounds?

  • Ask your friends, neighbors and coworkers what winter holidays they celebrate. Most will appreciate that you want to know more about their culture.
  • Ask others if they want to tell you about the traditions they have.
  • Serve food from other cultures and talk about how and where the food is prepared, or invite other families to your house for a potluck and ask if they want to bring a favorite dish from their culture.
  • Talk to your children about the differences and similarities of celebrations.
  • Learn songs from other cultures and sing them to your children. You can do a Google search of “how do you say….?” This may bring up an audio file of the correct way to pronounce a word.
  • Read books about other cultures to your children.
  • Have dolls, toys, music and books that depict other cultures, abilities, family units and gender roles.

Why is understanding other cultures so important? Honoring a child’s culture is necessary to building positive self-esteem. How they live and what they believe is part of who they are. If you don’t respect their culture, they will think you don’t respect them. It is also important to introduce children to other cultures so they will have an open mind and respect for others.

Take advantage of winter holidays to learn more about other winter celebrations and share other cultures with your children.


Tags: holidays , Christmas , Kwanzaa , Hanukkah , food , diversity , traditions , cultures , celebrations , songs , singing , books

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