As you and your entire class of excited children are undoubtable aware Christmas is coming, but why not mix it up this year and teach your pupils something new about other religious and cultural festivities happening across the world this winter.
Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of light, is an eight-day holiday that takes place this year on the 24th of December and ends on the 1st of January. The story of Hanukkah is based over two and a half milleniums ago when a Syrian king, Anitochus, attempted to force the Jewish people to worship different gods. A group of Jews called the Maccabees fought the Syrians for three years before recapturing the city of Jerusalem, however their temple was destroyed. After repairing and cleaning the temple the Jewish people rededicated it to their God by lighting a lamp, called a Menorah, which was a symbol of God’s presence. Only one small jar of oil could be found in the war torn city, but the story goes that the lamp miraculously stayed alight for eight days. To this day Jewish people celebrate this momentous occasion every year during the months of November / December in accordance with the Hebrew calendar. They light a candle each day on an eight-arm candelabrum called a Hanukiah, this symbolises how God looked after the Jewish people during their time of need.
Hanukkah Lesson Plans
There are plenty fun activities you can do for a lessons about Hanukkah like getting students to story board the events of the Hanukkah story, or discussing the moral lessons inherent in the story. However this is also a great frame to start discussing the history of Jewish culture and belief, as well encouraging tolerance of different beliefs in your class. For a more detailed account of the story here is a great place to start. Below is a list brilliant lessons plans and resources to help you plan a fun and informative lessons.
· A list of Twinkl teaching resources on the story of Hannukkah.
· Hannuakkah printouts, lessons plans, slide shows and a quiz from TeacherVision.
· An informative, child-friendly YouTube video ‘The Story of Hanukkah from Speakboos.
From December the 26th to January the 1st African-Amierican culture is celebrated during the Kwanzaa festival. This a relatively new cultural tradition that was started in the US in 1965 as the first African-American specific holiday by Maulana Karenga who was a major figure in the Black Power movement. The name derives from a Swahili phrase meaning ‘first fruits of the harvest’ and celebration is all about reconnecting African-Amiericans to their African cultural heritage, history and traditions. Originally considered an oppositional alternative to Christmas, Karenga bought the festival into the mainstream by changing its position so that practicing Christians and people from other religious backgrounds would not be alienated.
Kwanzaa Lesson Plans
This modern festival is a great way to open discussions about race, segregation, cultural assimilation and the importance of maintaining cultural traditions. Why not teach your class about a new tradition that is still gaining momentum that many children in England would not have heard of. Take a look through these interesting ideas for lessons and activities:
· Learn more about the 7 days, 7 principals and 7 symbols of Kwanzaa with this resource from education world.
· Free educational activities about Kwanzaa from abcteach.
Taking place on the winter solstice Yule or Yuletide is a winter festival that originated in Germanic Pagan society. In Norse society the winter solstice was a time of lawlessness, feasting and celebrating and as Christianity took over Yule was merged with Christmas (as well as other cultural and religious winter festivals) so many of the traditions we have at Christmas today have their roots in Paganism. One example of this is the evidence that suggests that the idea of decorating a Christmas tree comes from the Pagans.
Yule Lesson Ideas
Learning more about the roots of Christmas in Paganism and other early beliefs is an interesting way of examining the holiday without spoiling the magic for children. In fact the Pagan beliefs associated with the winter solstice are riddled with ancient Gods, battles, druids and incantations which only add to the feeling of mysticism and magic. Here are some great resources on which to base your lesson:
· Information about how Pagans celebrate the winter solstice.
· An article from Live Science about the Pagan routes of Christmas.
· An informative article on the history of Yule.
Chalica is a holiday in December celebrated by Unitarian Universalists. This is a little-known religion with roots in liberal Christianity that is based on the free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Unitarian Universalists do not necessarily share the same creed but are all united in their search for spiritual growth, this means that many see themselves more as agnostic or atheist in terms of their beliefs. During the seven days of Chalica Unitarian Universalists celebrate a different Principal and Purposes each night and symbolically light a chalice on fire. These principals promote peace, equality, justice and the idea of a united world community.
Chalica Lesson Plans
Leading lessons about Chalica is sure to spark some interesting discussions on the nature of religious belief and whether a religion needs to include a belief in the supernatural. Here are some useful resources to help you plan lessons about Chalica and Unitarian Universalism.
· The Unitarian Universalist website.
· The official Chalica blog with ideas for activities, video and information about the seven Principal and Purposes.