Holidays in the Schools?

Posted January 26, 2015

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by Amy Lemieux, Director

I have always been opposed to celebrating holidays in schools for many reasons. I attended an elementary school where about 20% of the students were Jewish, yet we did Secret Santas every year, Santa came to our classroom, and we sang Christmas songs. Despite throwing in one dreidel song, it always felt wrong, though I was too young to articulate why.
Once I became an elementary teacher, my aversion to holidays in the schools intensified. I saw the students who felt left out because it wasn’t “their” holiday, the ones who couldn’t afford to buy an elaborate Halloween costume or give everyone in the class a goody bag full of candy to go with a mass-produced valentine. I resented the chaos and poor behavior each holiday created and felt powerless to prevent it, as holidays were celebrated school-wide. As an educator who regularly noted how far behind U.S. students were and how large the racial achievement gap was, taking many hours or even full days away from learning to celebrate holidays felt unproductive and trivial. Happily, my school’s new principal felt like I did and as quickly as she could, she changed our school’s approach to the holidays.
Why, then, do we celebrate holidays at All Seasons?
Celebrating the holidays at Inver Glen and All Seasons has changed my attitude entirely because we do it so differently! Here, celebrating feels natural and authentic because it is; it happens within the context of a community. With each celebration, we are able to tell the children, “These are things the grandmas and grandpas did when they were little.” The children dye eggs with the grandmas and grandpas and then the seniors hide the eggs for the children to find. We sing old songs the seniors grew up singing – holiday songs and many others. Our Halloween parade has a real audience. Our Mardi Gras parade, complete with floats designed on tricycles and real zydeco instruments, is only complete because we are doing it for someone else and spread such joy up and down the hallways as we pass out beads. Next month we will spend several days hand-making old fashioned valentines for the grandmas and grandpas who live in the memory care units. The children will carefully and painstakingly write the names of the seniors on the valentines and deliver them in person. Celebrating the holidays here has been a source of genuine pride and joy for everyone.

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