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Friday, December 28, 2012

Embracing the Light in Winter Holidays

This December we were able to embrace three Winter Holidays that the children of the school celebrate; Christmas, Hanukkah, and Winter Solstice.  Coming from a Multicultural and Art Education background, I believe teaching different cultural celebrations help children learn to understand and embrace each others unique traditions.
During the Hanukkah celebration we discussed that it is a holiday celebrated by Jewish people honoring the miracle of their being enough oil to keep the lights burning during a time when they were not allowed to celebrate their holidays and traditions.  It gave the people hope, and helped them re-dedicate themselves to their beliefs and traditions.  The word Hanukkah means "dedication."  Simplifying this concept for the children, we talked about it being a holiday to celebrate the miracle of people all over the world being able to believe and celebrate their holidays and traditions, and that even though we may not celebrate each others holidays, it is nice for everyone to be able to celebrate their own holidays.
As part of our celebration we played Dreidel, and instead of Gelt (gold chocolate coins) we played for glass gemmies.

The Dreidel is a four-sided top, with a word on each side giving each player instructions on what to do. The words are:
Nun - you get none
Hei - the player gets half the pot
Gimel - the player wins all of the pot
Shin - the player must put 2 in

Our craft for the day was to make The Star of David, which we did with markers and adding water droplets to make the colors run.

We had a special treat for snack that day, one of our students and his mother made Hanukkah cookies in the shape of Dreidels and The Star of David.  Unfortunately I missed the photo opportunity, but it was fun watching the children spin their cookie Driedels on the table.

As with Hanukkah, Christmas is a celebration of miracles and light. 
It is beautiful how many of the holidays celebrated around the world have a similar message of hope, love, dedication, joy and light.
We began our holiday preparations by making a garland to put around our tree as a gift to her for being cut down and allowing us to place our lights on her limbs and give us joy.

The children strung cranberries and popcorn (or at least attempted to string popcorn, it was a little difficult so they ate it as a snack).

I took all their individual stands of berries and tied them together into one garland.

They then worked together to place it on our tree and give thanks.

Our pretty garland on the tree.
As we embraced the holiday of Christmas one of the things that often came up in our circle conversations was talk of getting gifts.  This is special for the children, so each shared what they wanted to receive, but then we talked about what we were grateful for already having received in our lives.  Many children mentioned Mommies, Papas, Daddies, siblings, pets, etc.
We also talked about what we could give that was not a toy type of gift, such as saying "I love you", giving kisses and hugs, helping out. 
There will be more posts to come on what the children made as their gifts to their parents and loved ones, but how special is their real gift, simply them being in our lives and making us feel the magic if these holidays again.

Winter Solstice
We revisited the concept of light again as we talked about Winter Solstice at school.  During circle time we talked about how it is the shortest day and the longest night. That during the Solstice we honor the coming of longer days and we acknowledge the importance of light in our lives; that is keeps us warm, that it helps our plants to grow, that it helps us to see, etc.
During Solstice, much like Hanukkah, their is a re-dedication to our path in life, whatever that path may be.  Explaining this to little ones, I said it is a time to once again be grateful for what we have and to look forward to more days of sunshine and joy.

Our project for the day was to paint lanterns.  The children used water color paints, and then took eye droppers with water and spread the paint over the lanterns.  Anytime we use water and eye droppers is pure fun and joy for the kids, they love it!

When I started Art and Soul Preschool, one of the things that I wanted the most was to create an environment where all were welcomed and that we learned and celebrated all of our unique differences as well as similarities.  That we also learned about the world outside of our little school, and embrace it in our small way.  Too bad there was not enough time to learn about the many other winter holidays happening around the world, but fortunately we were able to embrace the ones celebrated by the children at school.

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