Saturday, November 29, 2008

Christmas - To teach, or not to teach?

At this time of year many teachers are pondering how to cover Christmas, if at all. Our classes are multicultural and we desire to respect the diversity of beliefs of the children in our care. For teachers in Australia, Christmas also marks the end of the school year, and traditionally the last couple of weeks have become a time for "Christmas Crafts" - making decorations, cards, presents, colouring sheets, singing Christmas carols etc all in preparation for the holiday. Christmas, in our minds, is also connected with all the happy feelings around finishing the school year and the coming of the summer.

In our schools we now have a number of students who follow Islam, some Hindu believers and also of the Buddhist faith. One way that schools acknowledge this diversity is to include units of work that look at the beliefs and celebrations of all of these faiths. Last year, when I was teaching Year 3, we did a really fascinating unit "Kaleidoscope of Cultures" where we did just this. One significant part of this was when we visited Places of Worship around our city. We learnt a lot from seeing these places and hearing from people of various beliefs. But these units of work are not included in the curriculum every year, as students do not to revisit this to such a degree each year. Some teachers then feel awkward about teaching Christian celebrations in the absence of the celebrations of other religions.

If teachers do decide to celebrate Christmas with their classes, they are then faced with the question of how they will accomplish this. Do they then go with the secular approach - Santa, reindeer, gifts etc, or do they reflect on the Christian belief and the story of the nativity? Often they will select the secular - choosing the least offensive approach to people of other beliefs. In the past, I have tried to mesh the two (secular and religious), and throughout the year I explain the other beliefs and celebrations of students in the class at times like Ramadan. I haven't found the ideal answer yet, but I am interested to hear your perspectives.


  1. I have always had a variety of backgrounds in my class so I have a plan that covers all of them. We talk about the fact that there are many festivals and celebrations that people all over the world are experiencing. I stretch things a bit when I tell them there are common themes and activities that make them similar. They all celebrate family, good food, special clothes, and most have some representation in lights.

  2. I am not a school teacher, but I tend to think that as Christmas is a season which we all participate in to some degree (because all you have to do is go to the shops and you'll discover it is Christmas - usually from about September onwards!) it is good to give the kids an idea of the reason why Christmas is celebrated - not just Santa, but Jesus as well.

    I think it is then important to cover other religious festivals at other times of the year too, to respect other people's beliefs too.


I'd love to hear your thoughts and questions. Please don't be shy...