By: Courtney Newman
Christmas celebrations, activities, and decorations dominate December (and even November!), but what about all the other holidays? Several winter holidays tend to be lost in the Christmastime shadows, and many people are even unaware of them entirely. These holidays are important to certain people groups, and therefore absolutely worth learning about. While many homeschoolers stay on the lookout for educational moments in all the Christmas festivities, you can enrich your winter homeschool social studies even more by learning about these holidays.
Here are five winter celebrations — other than Christmas! — to read about and appreciation this holiday season!
Hanukkah is an eight-day celebration each November or December for Jewish people. Each day, Jewish families light a candleholder called a menorah. Also known as The Festival of Lights, the Hanukkah story is a remembrance of an ancient miracle when one day’s worth of oil burned for eight days in the temple. To celebrate, Jewish families will eat potato pancakes called latkes, sing songs together, and spin a top called a dreidel.
- Hanukkah for Kids Unit Study
- Play a Hanukkah word game
- Free printable dreidel boxes
- 17 Lesson Plans & Activities for Kids to Learn About Hanukkah
- 23 Hanukkah Crafts & Activities for the Whole Family
Kwanzaa lasts for seven days, with each day dedicated to a specific principle or theme. The Kwanzaa meaning is “First Fruits” and is a celebration of African heritage, community, and culture. It is based on African harvest festivals, and focuses on family life, unity, and ancestry. Kwanzaa starts on December 26th, with a central symbol being a special candelabra called the kinara, which holds one black, three green, and three red candles. The candles are lit in order until all seven are burned on the final day.
- Kwanzaa Thematic Unit Study
- Play a Kwanzaa Word Game
- Kwanzaa Activities Holiday Unit
- Learn About the Kwanzaa Holiday
- Kwanzaa Crafts and Recipes
St. Lucia Day
St. Lucis Day is popular with Catholic families as it celebrates St. Lucia, or Saint Lucy. However, families don’t have to be Catholic to celebrate this day and recognize its importance. In Sweden, many girls dress up as “Lucia brides” and wake their families by singing songs, bringing them coffee, and twisted saffron buns called “Lucia cats.”
- FREE St. Lucia Day Unit Study
- St. Lucia Day Activities & Free Printables
- St. Lucia Day Celebrations, Crafts, & Printables
- DIY Felt St. Lucia Candle Crown
- St. Lucia’s Day Traditions, Crafts, and a Recipe!
Mardi Gras is celebrated throughout the world and is an official holiday in Louisiana. Mardi Gras is popular for Christians because Lent is a solemn reflection, and therefore the Tuesday before Lent is for celebration. In New Orleans, people wear costumes to celebrate and enjoy colorful parades. Mardi Gras is traditionally celebrated in February or March, 47 days before Easter.
- Mardi Gras Lesson Plan
- 26 Mardi Gras Activities for Kids
- The History of Mardi Gras
- Mardi Gras Crafts, Activities, and More for Kids
- Top 15 Books to Learn More about Mardi Gras
St. Nicholas Day
St. Nicholas Day celebrates Saint Nicholas of Myra, the man who inspired the tale of Santa Claus and Father Christmas. Saint Nicholas donated his money to the poor, especially to children in need. He was known as an extremely compassionate man, and therefore this holiday is a memorial to him on the anniversary of his death, December 6th, 343 A.D.
- St. Nicholas Day Unit Study
- 10 Ways to Celebrate St. Nicholas Day
- St. Nicholas Day Ideas, Printables, & More!
- How to Teach Your Kids the Truth About St. Nicholas — Unit Study
- Ideas & Freebies for St. Nicholas Day
Christmas is wonderful, but it often overshadows these other equally wonderful holidays throughout winter. Homeschooling gives us a great opportunity for learning about other cultures in our social studies, so why not take advantage of the chance to study these winter holidays? Further, if you’re looking to relax your holiday homeschooling schedule but you’d rather the schoolwork didn’t stop entirely, studying one of these holidays at a time could be a great option!
What winter holidays do you celebrate? Share them in the comments below!