Understanding (and Celebrating) The Holiday Season Responsibly and Respectfully

By Dr. Marquita Hockaday


For several individuals, the month of December is sometimes considered “the most wonderful time of the year.” Families and friends come together to celebrate and rejoice, spending time together when they are apart working and learning during the rest of the year. With that being said, schools and workplaces sometimes tend to struggle with understanding how they can recognize, embrace, and acknowledge the various holidays that are celebrated during this time of year. Thus, it is important to first note this holiday season is not about one specific celebration, but instead we should come to understand all of the holidays observed in December, including Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Las Posadas, and Boxing Day (to name a few).


One way to accomplish the above task is to use James Banks’ Four Approaches to Multicultural Reform. These four approaches can be integrated into schools and workplaces to assist with an individual not only recognizing and celebrating various holidays, but also gaining knowledge and understanding of different cultures. Further, these approaches allow others to bring their own knowledge and expertise to the forefront.


This post will provide a brief description of each approach and an example of how schools or workplaces could use the approach to respectfully and responsibly acknowledge different celebrations this holiday season.


Integrating James Banks’ Four Approaches to Multicultural Reform This Holiday Season


Approach # 1: Contributions Approach


This is the easiest of the approaches and has the least amount of involvement and research. For this approach, individuals read books, watch movies, and participate in activities to gain a better understanding of different holidays. For instance, a teacher can read Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story to their students and then have them complete an activity related to the theme of the book. Additionally, a workplace might encourage their team members to read and/or watch several books and films related to Hanukkah to help them better understand the rituals and then provide a teambuilding activity after the fact. A list of some suggested Hanukkah films can be found here.


Approach # 2: Additive Approach


This approach requires more involvement, including adding content, themes, and perspectives directly into curriculum or material without changing the structure. For example, this would mean thinking about the emphasis placed on Christmas (the use of Christmas carols and Christmas paraphernalia in holiday commercials) from individuals who celebrate other holidays. In schools and workplaces, individuals can have students and team members read articles about other cultures around the world and how they celebrate other holidays (such as Boxing Day) and what these celebrations look like. They can compare and contrast these observations to what our holiday season looks like here in America.


Approach # 3: Transformation Approach


The transformation approach actually changes the structure of the materials being presented to students or individuals in the workplace. They are challenged to view problems, issues, concepts, and themes from different perspectives and several cultural points of view. Thus, for example, students and team members would be tasked to think about Hanukkah as, of course, a celebration, but also to understand that the celebration is a commemoration of how the Jewish people were able to reclaim Jerusalem and the Maccabees were victorious against the Syrian Army. The goal with this approach is to have individuals see the larger picture and question issues and problems. By doing so, they will gain an understanding of various cultures and why they engage in celebrations. Hopefully, this will lead to a larger appreciation of the holiday.


Approach # 4: Social Action Approach


The final approach, social action, asks individuals to take what they have learned from the transformation approach and engage in some kind of action that leads to social change. They are encouraged to understand and question social issues and then do something about the understanding they have gained. For instance, if students and individuals in the workplace were to think about the origin of Hanukkah and consider the social action approach, they might be tasked by their instructors and leaders to think of other groups who are often oppressed and come up with an action plan to help provide this group with equitable and just treatment.


The aforementioned are not the only ways to create an inclusive and culturally responsive school and workplace environment this (and in future) holiday season(s). However, integrating Banks’ Four Approaches to Multicultural Reform might be an appropriate, responsible, and respectful place to start.


Happy holidays from Shaffer Evaluation Group!

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