Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – 10 reasons for including Christmas in the classroom by Norah Colvin


Today we continue with the series of posts from the archives of educator Norah Colvin.  Norah talks us through making a very special Christmas decoration.

10 reasons for including Christmas in the classroom by Norah Colvin

The end of the school year in Australia is fast approaching; assessment is almost done and reports completed.

After a hectic year, thoughts are turning towards Christmas and the long summer holidays.

However the teaching and learning in the classroom doesn’t stop until the final farewells on the last day of school.

These last few weeks of the school year allow a little more flexibility and time for spontaneous explorations of children’s interests after the curriculum’s imposed learnings have been achieved. Sure, skills still need to be practised and extended but the pressure is not so relentless.

As the thoughts of most children are on Christmas and what they will do during the holidays, why not harness those interests and that excitement to make classroom learning meaningful and fun while developing important social and cultural concepts and understandings as well as practising and extending literacy and numeracy skills.

Over recent years there has been some controversy over whether Christmas should be included in school programs, some arguing that it is not inclusive and excludes those students whose cultural backgrounds neither recognise nor celebrate Christmas.

I have a number of reasons to support my argument that Christmas should be learned about in school, and my reference is to secular rather than religious celebrations which are best left to organisations dedicated to that purpose.

I would like to say that the main reason is that I love Christmas (the excitement, the anticipation, the decorations, the gift-giving, the celebrations with family and friends)!

But that would not be true.

My focus is educational:

  • Cultural respect: Most children in Australian schools celebrate Christmas. Including
  • Christmas in the classroom program acknowledges this and draws upon their interests and prior knowledge.
  • Cultural awareness: Investigation of traditions celebrated by other class members, community groups or countries develops a recognition of other perspectives, including those who do not celebrate Christmas and those who celebrate other traditions such as Hanukkah, Ramadan or Chinese New Year.
  • Cultural understanding: Learning about the traditions of the dominant culture in which one lives makes one more comfortable within that society, more able to converse about important events and holidays, and able to develop shared experiences i.e. helps to develop feelings of being included, rather than excluded by participating in the outward traditions. However, this knowledge does not necessitate participation or belief.
  • Cultural acceptance: Learning to understand that, although not everyone shares the same beliefs or traditions, we all share a common humanity and that there is good in everyone is important for creating a peaceful and nonjudgmental world.
  • Self-awareness: Christmas is a time for reflecting on the year’s achievements and behaviour e.g. whether you have been “naughty or nice” or whether you have worked hard are superficial questions which can lead to deeper introspection. This self-reflection can lead to celebration as well as to the setting of positive goals for improvement.
  • Other-awareness: Recognising one’s own strengths can help to identify, recognise and appreciate the strengths and achievements of others.
  • Emotional intelligence: Children learn to recognise and describe their own emotions, and the emotions of others. They understand that not everyone thinks and feels the same way about similar events and learn to respect the thoughts and feelings of others.
  • Social-awareness: Recognising how others think and feel about certain events can develop feelings of empathy. Children are more likely to find common ground upon which friendships can be built.
  • Being kind to each other: Christmas is all about sharing and giving. In a classroom these can lead to discussions about working cooperatively and collaboratively, getting along with each other, and giving the greatest gift of all: friendship.
  • Enjoyment, recognition and fun! I couldn’t stop at 9, and I think the inclusion of fun in the classroom is one of the most powerful ways to engage and motivate learners!

Decorating the classroom is one way of setting the scene for explorations of Christmas traditions while encouraging the children to work cooperatively, take pride in their shared achievements and talk about how Christmas is celebrated (or not) in their families.

It became a tradition in my year one classroom to make a large 3D Christmas tree to adorn our classroom wall and become the focal point of our learning.

We would sit in front of it to have our discussions and read our stories.

To the display surrounding it, we would add child-made decorations, stories and poems they had written, holiday messages and gifts.

I would photograph each child in front of the tree, holding a sign with the message e.g. “Happy Christmas 2013”. These photographs would then be added to calendars which became a Christmas gift for parents.

The children loved doing the tree, partly because of the inherent excitement at the end of the school year with Christmas holidays imminent. But they also loved doing it because they were working together, making something meaningful to them; and as they worked together and saw the tree take shape, they realised that what can be achieved together is far more (as well as more fun) than they would have achieved on their own.

And while they were busily tracing and cutting, they were talking and sharing ideas and thoughts with each other and with me. We began to learn a lot about each other’s experiences, traditions and feelings.

Having made the tree together, the children had an enormous sense of collective pride in what they had achieved, especially when all those viewing it remarked upon how lovely it looked.

While I include instructions for making the tree here, they are also available from readilearn.

What do you think? Do you think Christmas should be celebrated in schools?

Should learning about Christmas be included in school programs in Australia?

What reasons would you add to my list? What do you disagree with?

©Norah Colvin 2013

My thanks to Norah for sharing this lovely 3D Christmas tree for children to make and I am sure that she would welcome your feedback.

About Norah Colvin

I am an experienced and passionate educator. I teach. I write. I create.

I have spent almost all my life thinking and learning about thinking and learning.

I have been involved in many educational roles, both in and out of formal schooling situations, always combining my love of teaching and writing by creating original materials to support children’s learning.

Now as I step away from the classroom again, I embark upon my latest iteration: sharing my thoughts about education by challenging what exists while asking what could be; and inviting early childhood educators to support children’s learning through use of my original teaching materials which are now available on my website

Connect to Norah via her websites


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66 thoughts on “Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – 10 reasons for including Christmas in the classroom by Norah Colvin

  1. I love how you included Christmas in your classroom, Norah. I believe Christmas should be acknowledged and I feel sad it can’t be discussed in terms of education about world religions, too. As long as all world religions are taught, it gives children an appreciation for the religions of the world that influence so much of history and philosophy. Aside from that, it is almost like the elephant in the living room if it can’t be discussed. I like how you’ve made it fun and captured the positive aspects of it, along with including the other events of the season, like Hanukkah.

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Wonderful, Norah! Of course Christmas should be celebrated in classrooms, especially when most children celebrate Christmas. I love the handprint tree. We make a handprint wreath to hang on the classroom door. I save all my old Christmas cards for children to cut-up and tape all over the classroom. There are so many ways to celebrate… and learn. Your post gives us the many important reasons why. Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord Christmas Posts from Your Archives – 10 reasons for including Christmas in the classroom by Norah Colvin | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  4. I love your inclusive approach to education, Norah. Having children work together on projects helps develop social skills and fosters tolerance of other ways of being. If you have a child in your class who celebrates e.g. Chanukah, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, do you center a project around this as well? Your pupils and their parents must adore you ❤

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Tina. I haven’t taught children who celebrate Chanukah or Kwanzaa but I have taught children from a variety of cultures and traditions and always provide opportunities for the children and their families to teach us about their traditions. I believe it to be an important part of creating a welcoming and supportive environment, and it’s a great education for us all as well!

      Liked by 2 people

  5. I loved this Norah. Of course it should be included, celebrated and taught. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to learning about traditions of the people we share a world with. Your ideas are brilliant. And of course other religious celebrations should be included in the conversation. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Absolutely agree that Christmas should be celebrated in schools as other major festivals should be as well. My daughter at primary school learned all about the major festivals around the world. What I remember was learning all about the Norse traditions because we lived in Orkney and had strong ties to Norway. What a wonderful idea for the Christmas calendar and decorations, Norah. Beautiful. xxx

    Liked by 3 people

  7. I strongly believe that Christmas – AND Solstice and Hanukah and Kwanzaa – ALL belong in elementary classrooms all around the world, Norah — in the spirit of awareness and inclusion. POSITIVE focus only – with “religion” left to the churches and synagogues, I simply cannot see a platform for objection.

    Group activities like crafting this clever tree – and also menorahs and Kwanzaa celebratory symbols, along with a day of show and tell for all of the children to explain to their classmates how they celebrate at their house (parents can help here if the kids are little) – would go a long way toward a grown-up world of peace and respect.

    Happy Merry EVERYTHING to everyone.
    (Madelyn Griffith-Haynie – ADDandSoMuchMORE dot com)
    ADD/EFD Coach Training Field founder; ADD Coaching co-founder
    “It takes a village to transform a world!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Christmas Trees, Abba, Santa’s wish list and Potatoes… | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

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