'Tis the season to be understanding

Celebrate diversity during the holidays

Opinion

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By China Hill

Columnist

Remind your children that we live in a country with others who will experience the next several weeks differently than they may. Our country, communities and schools are more diverse, and it is only appropriate to teach your child how to be more tolerant and inclusive in their conversations with others about the holidays. To help, share with your child different reasons to celebrate the season. Below are just four holidays that you may place in your child's repertoire of understanding.

Hanukkah

Hanukkah is a holiday that celebrates the Jewish faith. This eight-day celebration, sometimes referred to as the Festival of Lights, is celebrated during the month of December. Each night, Jewish families light a candle on what they call a menorah, which symbolizes the number of days Ancient Jews were able to keep an oil lamp burning in their holy temple once they seized it back from the Syrian army. During Hanukkah, children may play the dreidel game, where participants spin a small object to seize money or candy. In addition to lighting the menorah and reflecting on their religious history, Jewish families eat special dinners and may also distribute money or gifts.

To help your child better understand Hanukkah, have them peruse the children's section of your local library for books about the holiday. Next have your child write down unfamiliar terms related to Hanukkah, such as dreidel and menorah, on a sheet of construction paper. Then have them draw a picture to represent each word.

Bodhi Day

Bodhi Day is celebrated on Dec. 8 in various Buddhist communities throughout the world. Bodhi refers to the words "enlightenment" or "awakening," which is exactly what to happened Prince Siddhartha Guatama, now known as the Buddha, after eight days of meditating under a tree in order to find the reason for human suffering. To celebrate, Buddhist may bring ficus trees in their homes and decorate them with multicolored lights to symbolize the Buddha's enlightenment. Those who celebrate Bodhi Day may also mediate for longer periods of time and share meals with family and friends.

To share the significance of Bodhi Day with children, discuss the Buddha's search for enlightenment and what may have led him to it. There is a very short and easy-to-understand explanation of this at About.com. Since the spiritual figure achieved enlightenment through meditation, lead your child in a guided meditation to demonstrate the practice of the Buddha and to teach your child a calming strategy they may use well after Bodhi Day. You can find three simple meditations for kids at the Chopra Center.

Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is an African-African holiday that celebrates values reflected within African cultures across the world. Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Black Studies Professor Dr. Maulana Karenga in order to unify Africans-Americans during the Black Power Movement. Kwanzaa is celebrated December 26 through January 1 and draws African-Americans to focus on principles that are meant to unify and empower Africans across the globe. Unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith are reflected upon throughout the holiday, with a term being recognized each day. Unlike the previously mentioned holidays, Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday, but a social one, meant to emphasize, honor, and perpetuate the wonderful characteristics of the African culture. Similar to Hanukkah, those celebrating Kwanzaa light one of candles on the 7-branch candelabra, or kinara, and focus on a particular Kwanzaa principle.

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