Learning from Traditions
Normally I would be getting ready for a long vacation which I take every year to visit family and friends. I would be packing swimming suits and summer dresses because my loved ones are back in my homeland, Brazil. The official beginning of winter here is the official beginning of summer there. Kind of an upside down world but with no darkness or Demogorgons.
Here in the Ohio, students love to hear how my experiences with holidays and other celebrations are very different from their own. The idea of a white Christmas is pretty much foreign to Brazilians. We come together, put up a Christmas tree, share gifts and eat a big meal. However, many of these details are imported. There’s only one pine tree native to Brazil – though, it looks nothing like the regular Christmas tree. About one-fourth of the world’s known plant species are naturally found in Brazil, but if you find a regular-looking pine tree there it’s an introduced species, not a native one. Another import is the turkey, which somehow became one of the main dishes for our Christmas feast. I have a suspicion it’s because we don’t celebrate Thanksgiving and somebody was really clever in finding a way into the Brazilian market.
The purpose for sharing these stories is not to complain about the commercial side of the holidays or capitalism or Christmas. Rather, to reflect on your own experiences, and how sharing and learning about other people’s traditions and celebrations can really open people’s minds and exposed them to new things. In fact, maybe you learned something new reading about my holiday traditions.
For a while, the education field has talked about Global Citizenship Education for students and Cultural Competency for teachers, concepts that are closely intertwined. One explore how the world is increasingly interconnected and the importance of empowering learners of all ages to become active promoters of more peaceful, tolerant, inclusive and sustainable society. The other focuses on understanding your own culture, that of others and the role of culture in education.
Talking about how traditions change from one place to another, or from one culture to another, can barely scratch the surface. However, if you’re looking for a way to introduce diversity and inclusion to your classroom, this may be a good starting point. By providing a safe space for your students to share their own traditions, inviting members of the community to do the same, and by being open about your own, you bring authenticity and relevance to your classroom.
Here are a couple articles that might support you as you consider how to teach about holidays in public schools, or how to reflect on December holidays and the practices of your own school.
Ohio History Connection has also created several iterations of our Cultural Traditions program. This program celebrates global traditions within and outside of the month of December, and it has been delivered in-person and virtually to K-4 students (and sometimes older students as well). If you missed the latest events, you can still get more information about how to reserve the program at [email protected].
We wish you all a wonderful Holiday season and hope you get to celebrate it in your own way!