Written by Directress Denise Pawlukiewicz
Our school community is made up of diverse cultures, ethnicities and traditions. With that in mind, our approach to holiday celebrations is very simple. We prepare our room in advance of the holiday, talk to the children about the event, and then celebrate in a manner appropriate for a toddler. In acknowledgment of the fact that not all families share the same holidays and traditions, we talk about the different ways that families may celebrate at home.
Our holiday celebrations are connected to the seasons of the year, and so our room is decorated with an emphasis on the season in which the holiday is celebrated, as well as nods to the actual holiday that we will be talking about.
For Halloween, the first holiday of the school year, the room is decorated with pumpkins and colorful Fall leaves. We have leaf, pumpkin and jack-o-lantern stickers, orange play dough with a pumpkin cookie cutter, and scarecrow and jack-o-lantern puzzles. The generic nesting dolls are replaced with Halloween-themed nesting dolls, and the colors in the room reflect Autumn, with orange paper for drawing, cutting and stickers.
Halloween is generally not a big deal to the toddler unless they have older siblings who share excitement about the upcoming day. When we discuss Halloween during meeting time, we emphasize that witches and ghosts are not real. We read a book about a visit to a farm to pick apples and pumpkins, which ends with the pumpkin being cleaned and carved into a happy-face jack-o-lantern. Some children in the book put on costumes to trick-or-treat, and the mother hands out those red and shiny apples for treats, while others hand out candy.
After Halloween is over, the jack-o-lantern decorations are stored away, but the pumpkins, Autumn leaves, and scarecrow puzzle remain for the next holiday celebration – Thanksgiving. The pumpkin and leaf stickers remain, and are joined by turkeys and Cornucopias. Nesting dolls with a Thanksgiving theme are on the shelves, and we have a large gourd for vegetable scrubbing. Brown paper replaces the orange for drawing, cutting and stickers. We emphasize the celebration of family and gratitude on this day and talk about different foods that may be prepared for the occasion.
The last holiday celebration of the year, Christmas, also ushers in the next Season – Winter. The Fall decorations are replaced by snow-themed items that include snowmen, pine trees covered in snow, pictures of children in cold-weather outfits, and animals in the snow. The colors in the room are changed from oranges and browns to reds and greens, signaling the change in seasons. Christmas decorations will be seen in abundance outside of the classroom, but we have only a few within the classroom. We read a special book titled Dream Snow by Eric Carle about a farmer who gives his beloved animals simple presents on Christmas morning.