By Elena Barker
As an educator, you’re probably familiar with the December dilemma — it’s that time of year when you face the delicate task of recognizing the many religious holidays celebrated in December.
However, you shouldn’t dread the month of December for this reason. Simply look at it as an opportunity to discuss other cultures and religious traditions with your students. After all, inclusivity is the name of the (educational) game! So, consider the following ways you can turn the December dilemma into a December to remember for your students:
Public school teachers and administrators must walk a fine line between teaching these religious holidays and celebrating them. Under the First Amendment, the government cannot promote one religion over another. Public schools are therefore not allowed to celebrate religious holidays in the form of organized prayer or worship. According to the ADL, a leading anti-hate organization, educators can constitutionally teach religious holidays, “if it furthers a genuine secular program of education, is presented objectively, and does not have the effect of advancing or inhibiting religion.”
Legal issues aside, you should be careful how you decorate your classroom for the holidays. Religious symbols can be used as teaching aids during a lesson, but they should be avoided as decoration. After all, you could risk making your students feel uncomfortable if their religion is not represented. Indeed, some of your students may not practice any religion at all.
While Christmas has received most of the glory in winter celebrations of yore, today’s educators are now including other holidays into classroom discussions. Kwanza, Hanukkah, Boxing Day, and Ōmisoka can all be included in your holiday lesson plan. If you’d like, you can even talk about holidays that don’t happen in December. For example, there’s Diwali, an October festival celebrated by Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists.
Have you faced the December dilemma in your classroom before? Tell us how you handled it in the comments below!