Christmas is coming! But not everyone feels the excitement
Christmas is coming, and for many of us, it is a very exciting time of year. However, we need to remember that this is not the way for everyone for a variety of reasons. The most obvious reason being Christmas as a Christian celebration. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australia now has approximately 44% of our population who identifies as Christian. This indicates that involving all children in Christmas celebrations may contradict religious and moral beliefs of many families.
So, what can educators do?
Does this mean the end of celebrations to respect the diverse cultural family background of the children who attend the setting?
Celebrations are not a thing of the past, but to be culturally responsive, educators need to consider celebrations sensitively and this might mean thinking of them in a different way.
Avoid stereotypes that assume conformity where it does not exist. One of the most important tasks is not to make assumptions about what families believe or feel about celebrations. Incorporating a question in enrolment forms that asks families about celebrations, what they celebrate and how is a start. With religious celebrations, it is important that all families are informed and consulted and for these consultations to be reflected in a ‘Celebration policy’. Rather than focusing on one festival in depth, it is important to present celebrations equally. Start with the celebrations at particular times of year that are important to your families.
The self-guided learning package ‘Exploring Celebrations in Children’s Services’ may support critical reflection when writing such a policy.
Emphasise the learning
Celebrating cultural events engages children in holiday activities as fully-fledged participants, assuming that their families believe in the tradition or ritual’s purpose and meaning. Learning about that festival or cultural event means teaching children about what the celebration means to different people and about the many ways families who honour that event celebrate it (NAEYC, 2019). This develops the understanding that we can enjoy learning about each other’s beliefs and traditions while still holding to our own family’s beliefs and traditions.
It is important however to respect differences of many kinds; emphasising the exotic aspects of celebrations does not achieve this, because treating aspects of cultures as curious or unusual can send the message that some celebrations can be considered ‘normal’ and others ‘different’.
Identify what and how to celebrate
Raising World Children (2020) and Stonehouse (2018) agree that when planning celebrations start with children’s interests and then tap into your educator’s cultural backgrounds. Events in the community can be the focus of celebrations such as the changing of the seasons, footy grand finals, and local community-associated events and festivities through the local council or cultural organisation.
When reflecting on celebrations, you may find it more valuable to create your own celebrations with the families, children and educators. Stonehouse (2018) suggests that these celebrations might include some of the following ideas: the achievement of learning to swim, welcoming a new child to the service, an educator getting married or graduating, a new baby born, or the return of a family after an absence as well as to focus on milestones in children’s and educators lives and the life of the ECEC service. Remember to document celebrations so that everyone can recall and relive them.
Embrace Diversity and Inclusion
It is crucial to know families’ views, respect them, and avoid either a child participating in something the family objects to, or creating a situation in which a child is singled out or left out. If a celebration is held and families do not wish their children to participate appropriate alternatives should be chosen.
Be mindful of children in out-of-home care and trauma
The Australian Childhood Foundation (2020) reminds us that for some children, Christmas has not been a happy time, and can bring back difficult memories. They may be spending their first Christmas away from their families, and even if their past family environment was toxic, it is often a concern for those children that the family they are not spending Christmas with will be sad without them. They may state that they will be sad without their family. Any traditions and customs that these children have that provide security to them should be accommodated to keep routine as normal as possible.
Times of celebration often remind us of biases we may be carrying for other cultures unawares. It is a reminder that we need to always be responsive and that there are always new things to learn about other cultures and about ourselves.
Professional Development for you
Child Australia can facilitate Cultural Responsiveness learning at your service for ELC and OSHC. Click here to view the workshops.
The Australian Human Rights Commission also provides a toolkit for early childhood educators on cultural diversity called ‘Building belonging’.
Remember the NQS and frameworks
- Educators acknowledge the histories, cultures, languages, traditions, religions, spiritual beliefs, child rearing practices and lifestyle choices of families (EYLF V2.0 p.16, MTOP V2.0 p.15).
- Educators engage in critical reflection, challenge practices that contribute to inequities or discrimination and make curriculum decisions that promote genuine participation and inclusion (EYLF V2.0 p.17, MTOP V2.0 p.16).
- NQS Quality area 6, Collaborative partnerships with families and communities reinforce the importance of these considerations (Guide to NQF, 2023, p.263).
This piece was prepared by the team at Child Australia, and first appeared on their blog. Access the original here.
Australian Childhood Foundation: https://professionals.childhood.org.au/prosody/2020/11/christmas-isnt-always-fun-for-kids-in-care/
Celebrations, holidays and special occasions, by Anne Stonehouse: www.acecqa.gov.au/sites/default/files/2021-01/CelebrationsHolidaysAndSpecialOccasions.PDF
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