By Amanda Johnson
As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, it can be easy to be lulled into hibernation. I get it. It’s cold and wet and it’s no fun to play outside in those conditions. Winter can be especially difficult when you’re stuck indoors with young children.
But did you know that there’s actually a ton of fun celebrations happening during the coldest time of the year? Sure, you may have heard of a few of them (Santa Claus, anyone?), but there is a lot more going on in the world than you can imagine. Wanna get in on the fun? Check out the following winter holidays and festive, easy ways to celebrate them with your preschooler.
For eight days in November or December, Jewish people celebrate Hanukkah, a day honoring the Maccabee’s victory over King Antiochus. Each night during the celebration a special candleholder called a menorah is lit in remembrance of an ancient miracle in which one day’s worth of oil burned for eight days. To celebrate, children play games, sing songs and exchange gifts. Latkes, a special type of potato pancake, are often served.
Activity: Make a colorful menorah using Popsicle sticks.
Photo: Creative Jewish Mom
St Lucia Day
St. Lucia Day is celebrated on December 13 in Scandinavian countries, particularly Sweden. The festival of lights marks the beginning to the Christmas season and is meant to bring hope and light into the darkest time of the year. On this special day the eldest daughter wears a traditional white gown with a red sash and a lighted wreath on her head and serves her family and visitors treats such as saffron bread and ginger biscuits.
Activity: Make a St Lucia Day crown. Cut a piece of green construction paper to fit your child’s head. Trace candles onto white heavy weight paper. Have the children color the flames. Cut them out and glue onto the crown piece. Use a stapler to connect the headpiece together.
Three Kings Day
At the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas comes a day called the Epiphany, or Three Kings Day. This holiday is celebrated as the day the three wise men first saw baby Jesus and brought him gifts. On this day in Spain, many children get their Christmas presents. In Puerto Rico, before children go to sleep on January 5, they leave a box with hay under their beds so the kings will leave good presents. In France, they bake a special king cake. Sometimes there is a coin, jewel, or little toy inside baked inside.
Activity: Make a king cake with your kids and hide a toy inside. It’s like a game discovering which piece has the toy!
Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas in the United States brings together many customs from other countries and cultures. Around the world, family members help to decorate the tree and home with bright lights, wreaths, candles, and ornaments. We’re most familiar with the tradition that on Christmas Eve, Santa comes from the North Pole in a sleigh to deliver gifts. Around the world, Santa arrives in different fashion: in Hawaii it is said he arrives by boat; in Australia, Santa arrives on water skis; and in Ghana, he comes out of the jungle.
Activity: Help trim the tree by making red and green paper garlands. Cut strips of red and green construction paper. Make a circle with a strip of paper by gluing the ends together. Loop the next strip through the circle and glue together. Keep going for a festive garland!
Kwanzaa, which means ‘first fruits’, is celebrated December 26 through January 1. It is a holiday to commemorate African heritage, during which participants gather with family and friends to exchange gifts, light a kinara (a special candle holder) and decorate their homes with fruits and vegetables. The candles in the kinara symbolize the seven basic values of African American family life: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith.
Activity: put together a fruit basket with your preschooler. Fruit represents the harvest and is one of the several symbols of the holiday.
Presently, New Year’s is the most widely celebrated holiday. It marks the end of the old year and the beginning of the new on January 1st. The day is often observed with fireworks at the stroke of midnight as the new year starts in each time zone. Traditions include making New Year’s resolutions, calling friends and family and generally making lots of noise.
Activity: Break out the bells and noise makers and and teach your kiddos this song:
Ring The Bells (Tune: Row Row Your Boat)
Courtesy: Child Care Lounge
Ring ring ring the bells
Ring them loud and clear
Let's tell everyone around
That the New Year is here!!
Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It falls on different dates each year, between January 21 and February 20. Visits to friends and family take place during this celebration. The color gold is said to bring wealth, and the color red is considered especially lucky. To celebrate the Chinese New Year, people carry lanterns and join in a huge parade led by a silk dragon, the Chinese symbol of strength.
Activity: Make a Human Dragon Courtesy: Child Care Lounge
Have children line up in a row putting their hands on the persons shoulder in front of them. The first person is the dragon’s head and the last person is the tail. The head tries to catch the tail without the kids coming un-hooked. Let the children take turns being the head.