Marking Holidays With Children
How do we impart a sense of meaning to our children when it comes to observing holidays?
Children are inherently drawn to celebrations. They serve as a momentous break from routine and a vehicle for transcending the dull and mundane in exchange for a fleeting visit to a world of pageantry and festivity. While children may not absorb all of the finer points of the epistemological nature of such holidays and celebrations, if it feels festive and mirthful, they are likely happy participants. Most children haven't met a festive holiday they didn’t like.
As parents, grandparents, and caretakers, we have the opportunity to show children how their own experience brings meaning to holidays. Taking such a considerate, and somewhat introspective, approach to holiday celebrations helps us to move beyond the rigid definition of what we assume such celebrations and holidays should address, and brings us into a more personal relationship with what is being celebrated. And, afterall, this is how children experience just about everything.
There are several dozen holidays and religious celebrations that fill our annual calendar. Some lesser-known celebrations, like the Baha’I celebration of World Religion Day in January come and go without making much noticeable impact on day-to-day life in America, whereas other holidays, like Christmas, effectively bring the entire nation to a standstill. As parents and guardians, we bring a natural bias to our dealings with such holidays, depending on our religious beliefs and/or traditions, and that reflects greatly on our children and the children that fall under our influence. With so many holidays dotting our calendar, with nearly every week marking yet another reason to observe or celebrate, we might consider embracing this opportunity to, not just expose our children to the diverse array of celebratory days, but to cultivate an awareness and appreciation for the deep and meaningful traditions that resonate so personally with so many.
People engage in traditional observances as a way to reinforce an existing knowledge passed from generation to generation. They light the tree, make the offering, and reflect on shared history and deeds. Whether we engage in these holidays and celebrations out of belief or simply custom, we try making them dynamic and considerate of our evolving experiences, as well as our children’s. Holidays, spanning from Easter Sunday (commemorating the resurrection of Jesus Christ) to Nirvana Day (a celebration of the death of Buddha) provide children with an occasion, not to dwell on death, but reflect on the enduring principles of an evolving humanity. Such holidays and celebrations are markers of life itself and reveal to children and adults alike that we are all part of a greater continuum.