Posted: Dec 17, 2012 5:00 AM
Around-the-world celebrations are found on calendars from mid-November until the beginning of January. Christmas lights still deck the halls (and malls) around the country, but diversity education doesn’t only happen in schools. Menorahs decorating the lawns of city hall give parents the chance to discuss the similarities and differences found in holiday celebrations.


Five days of Diwali

Calls to respect the turkey before decorating for December holidays are fair, but the Hindu celebration of Diwali generally falls before Thanksgiving. Diwali translates to "row of lamps," and the 5-day festival is popularly known as "the festival of lights." Fireworks are used to drive away evil spirits and lights are kept lit to welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth. The focus on awareness of inner light allows families to discuss compassion and the knowledge that all things are connected.


Happy Hanukkah

Hanukkah's proximity to Christmas has increased public recognition of the Jewish holiday. Meaning "dedication," Hanukkah is also known as "the festival of lights." From the brightly lit menorah to the spinning dreidel, symbols of the 8-day celebration are found on decorations in countless locations. The branches of nine candles from one stem signify strength and unification, and the beauty of light is a central theme of the holiday that falls around mid-December.

Revelry and non-commercialism

For those who prefer their holiday celebrations skewed towards pop culture and away from commercialism or religious traditions, Dec. 23 offers the chance to celebrate Festivus. Popularized by the pop culture juggernaut Seinfeld, Festivus celebrates with an unadorned pole and the ritual "Airing of the Grievances." This December holiday isn't truly complete until the head of the household is wrestled to the floor in the "Feats of Strength" competition. For all its parody and irreverence, Festivus is truly "for the rest of us," inviting friends from all backgrounds to take a break from the holiday bustle.

Nativity scene

The nativity of Jesus

Christmas is the most recognized of the December holidays. The cultural symbols of Santa Claus and his reindeer sometimes overshadow the religious symbolism of the holiday and the birth of Christ. As one of the two most significant Christian holidays, Christmas shows the possibility of hope and renewal.


Celebrating family, community and culture

Kwanzaa is the final holiday celebrated in December. A 7-day celebration ending on Jan. 1, Kwanzaa is an African-American cultural celebration, not a religious holiday. The symbols of Kwanzaa focus on the strength and beauty of tradition while emphasizing the positivity of self-determination, family and the future.

Bringing family and friends together

Holiday celebrations give families the opportunity to honor cultural and religious traditions, and December holidays focus on beauty, light and renewal. The similarities found in celebrations around the world make learning about religious and cultural diversity a natural part of the holiday season.

More on multicultural holiday celebrations

Celebrating interfaith holidays
Encouraging the holiday spirit in teens
Holiday decorations for every home