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How to Talk to Kids about Other People’s Holiday Celebrations

It’s the Holiday Season, and we all have our traditions that make it feel like the holidays. We all celebrate differently, but as children grow and make friends outside of your circle, they may experience traditions that are new to them. It could be something as simple as, “Jane has an Elf on the Shelf that comes to her house and makes messes! Why don’t we have an Elf?” or something more complex like, “David said his family doesn’t have Christmas! They light candles and give gifts for 8 days! And what’s a latke?” Understanding the traditions that are important to others is a great step in creating empathy, and it’s a bit of educational fun – here are a few ideas for discussing how other people celebrate with your kids:

  • Talk about how many holidays occur this time of year! Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, liturgical Advent, Kwanzaa, Christmas, New Year’s, and more – even if you only celebrate one of these, it’s cool to know what other people might be looking forward to as the days get colder and shorter. To go even deeper, Netflix has a sweet kid’s holiday special called Waffles & Mochi’s Holiday Feast that includes two holidays celebrated in other countries – Makahiki in Hawaii and Juovllat in Norway. It’s a great example of how we may celebrate differently, but our values are all incredibly similar!

  • Go to your local library and check out some books on a few holidays you’d like to learn about. Books written for children are often straightforward and factual, so you and your child can gain a basic understanding of the traditions. Sometimes they focus more on the spirit of the holiday, which can be just as delightful!

  • Once you have a basic understanding, see what interests your child the most about these new-to-them traditions. Is it the food? A special activity? The stories behind the traditions? With an access point, you can expand their imagination by cooking together or putting a call out to family friends to see if they have traditional stories they can share.

  • Check your city’s community calendar to see if there are any public celebrations you can attend. This is a great way to experience things firsthand! You can also keep an eye out as you drive around and point out decorations that differ from yours at home. Large public areas like malls often incorporate several holidays, so you might find something that sparks conversation as you’re driving home from that fun activity you signed up for through Kivity!

  • Talk about why you celebrate that way you do. Tell the story of how Grandma always burned the Thanksgiving turkey, so one year the family decided to get fried chicken from the grocery store instead, and that’s why your family has fried chicken on Thanksgiving! Sometimes we get so entrenched in our “traditions” that we don’t stop to consider why we do them, or if we even like them. Taking a moment to get clear on your “why” for each tradition will remind you why it’s so important for your family to carry on – or you might realize it’s not working for you anymore, and you can replace it with something new. Traditions can be started at any time, and maybe in taking a look at how other people celebrate, you’ll discover something new and meaningful for your family!

What are some of your family’s favorite traditions? What are some new traditions you would like to make with your family this year? What are some that you want to throw out because they’re not working anymore? Share your thoughts with us, and we’ll all celebrate together!

Originally featured on 12/7/21


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