The great Christmas debate: how can we celebrate inclusively?

Expressing joy, sharing and giving, these are evergreen qualities yet Christmas can look and feel different in different settings. This blog first posted by KidsMatter is a timeless reflection on the end of the year: all that it brings us and all that we bring to it.

In Australia the end of the calendar year marks the educational year’s end, bringing many moments to review, reminisce, celebrate and reflect upon the year (or years) that have gone by. How do Christmas and other celebrations fit into this within your community?

For some it might feel as if the end of year becomes all about Christmas. This feeling could be viewed as a positive or negative within the community. The question is not only whether families celebrate Christmas or not—the disparity between how families celebrate Christmas is also varied. Not all Christmases look and feel the same.

It’s valuable to learn about Christmas, just like it’s valuable to learn about Ramadan, Hanukkah, Chinese Lunar New Year, St Patricks Day, Diwali or other festivals.

Family traditions around these celebrations contribute to children’s sense of self, identity and belonging.  To ensure we support this development for all children we need to respond to diversity with respect and embrace the importance of these elements in a child’s life.

On the other hand, the end of year does not have to be all about Christmas or other religious and cultural events either.

Strategies for the end of the educational year

What is the end of year really about for your early learning service? Is it really just about Christmas? Or is Christmas a vehicle commonly used to create opportunities to connect, belong, share, acknowledge achievements, farewell and ultimately show we care?

You might have a ceremony marking children’s transition to school and the end of an era in their lives. What about spending 15 minutes on the children’s final day, where their educator or a close friend could present them with their portfolio or workbook?

Yes, this kind of celebration could be seen as a ‘Graduation’. I use that term with caution—just like Christmas, not all ‘Graduations’ are the same, and how we portray this needs to be given careful thought and consideration.

If you are heading down the ‘Graduation’ path you might want to consider:

  • What is the purpose of the event and who is benefiting most from it?
  • What is the reason for doing this?
  • Are we ‘being with’ the children in this or are we leading them in directions that are not relevant or necessary for them to enjoy their final weeks as pre-schoolers?

Meeting different families’ needs

The arrival and departure of every person alters your community’s characteristics. The value placed on different celebrations, events and experiences will change with it.

Having calendar dates, policies and traditions firmly set in place could restrict the ability of your service to be flexible and responsive to the ever-changing community’s interests and needs.

To ensure relationships are enhanced through celebration:

  • Assume nothing and seek input regularly from multiple avenues.
  • Invite children and families to share stories and experiences.
  • Encourage and celebrate the diversity in what is sometimes assumed to be the same for everyone.
  • Find and acknowledge the similarities between things initially presenting as vastly different.
  • Avoid excluding or ‘othering’ people from celebrations because economic and financial requirements restrict participation or the purpose of the event is not relevant to families.

Other non-Christmas celebrations

One strategy that does not have to exclude ‘non-graduating’ children and families is the end of year party. These can be held during a session time or as a weekend or evening gathering—a time where children can share their early childhood education and care (ECEC) service with their family or their family with their ECEC service.

Some services utilise this time for children to be involved in a performance; others use fundraising money to purchase ‘entertainment’—singers or magicians; some create a themed picnic or disco, while others use it as a time for families to engage in activities and experiences that their child enjoys most. There are so many options to consider and adapt to your context and the needs and interests of the community’s current children and families.

We hope that whatever you choose to do to celebrate the end of the year, it’s something that brings joy and reflection to all the children, families and staff in your service and creates good memories to draw on in the year to come.

What’s right for your service at the end of the year?


This article was originally published on the KidsMatter Early Childhood website, now Be You.

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KidsMatter Early Childhood

KidsMatter is a mental health and wellbeing initiative for children. KidsMatter Early Childhood works with early childhood education and care services to support the mental health and wellbeing of young children, their families and early childhood educators using a promotion, prevention and early intervention framework. Visit the website by clicking here.

2 thoughts on “The great Christmas debate: how can we celebrate inclusively?”

    Lisa says:

    Thanks for this article. I love the focus on relationship and how that should influence decision making. We have recently looked at children’s agency in the context of our end of year events and they are now heavily influenced by what children want. It has been an empowering process for us, and for children and families.

    Stephanie Jackiewicz says:

    I work in a Catholic organisation and so celebrating Christmas is very important for the children and families in our services.
    We all belong in the Catholic community, however, the celebrations may look different for each family. The one thing we have in common is the Christ event, which is the true meaning of Christmas.
    In our services Christmas is a very special time when we all come together to celebrate. It is filled with joy, singing, sharing and celebrating. It is also a time to reflect on what we have and that others may have less than us. It is a time to share our good fortune with others and many services donate to needy families at this time.
    It is the choice of each individual how they choose to celebrate the miracle of Christ.

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