As we approach our mid-year break I want to wish you all happy holidays. For many of you, I may have just triggered an involuntary cringe. Certainly that was not my intent, but I would like to explore it further. We sometimes hear in Alberta, “Why can’t they just say merry Christmas?” While that greeting certainly reflects the Christian heritage of the majority in our province we, as teachers, know that traditions of many faiths are observed during the holiday season. We know because that is what is reflected in the students in our classrooms.
The plurality of Alberta school populations is at an all-time high, and their diversity will continue to increase. Since we embrace differences in our classrooms, maybe we can incorporate that spirit into our greetings. At this time of year, I think this could be an educational opportunity for all of us. Maybe we respond cheerfully to someone’s generic greeting with “Happy holidays to you as well. For me it’s ____________. What’s your holiday?” And we fill in that blank with what it is we celebrate, be it Hanukkah, Krampusnacht, Saint Nicholas Day, Bodhi, Saturnalia, Posadas Navidenas, Longest Night, Solstice, Pancha Ganapati, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Saint Stephen’s Day, Hogmanay, New Year’s Eve, Watch Night, Orthodox Christmas or Kwanzaa.
If we take time this season to learn a little about the holiday celebrations of others, maybe we will make some people who perhaps feel excluded feel more valued. If we share with others a little about our traditions, maybe we will begin, in some small way, to strengthen our communities. Understanding and sharing are inexpensive ways of paying forward goodwill and, as my family would say, showing the Christmas spirit.
Enjoy your time with family and friends, get some rest, and for the second time this school year I wish you a very happy New Year. While it’s a little bit early, you can substitute any celebration you want and it will still be my wish for you. ❚
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