Isaac and I read a Kwanzaa book last night, My First Kwanzaa by Deborah M. Newton Chocolate. In his concert last week, Isaac and his classmates sang a Kwanzaa song, along with songs from various other cultures and holidays. As we read the book last night, Isaac recognized many of the African words and sang the song that he had learned in music class.
I won't pretend to really understand Kwanzaa, but I respect the fact that the people who celebrate it do so in order to feel connected to their ancestors. I teach the basics of the holiday to many of my students each year, along with other holiday customs from other traditions. When I do this, I focus on what all of the celebrations have in common -- the importance of family, giving, faith. We also talk about how each celebration is unique and why it is important to understand each other's traditions.
In the school concert, children from different backgrounds shared what holiday they celebrated with the audience, and before each song a brief introduction was read by one of the first graders. I appreciate that Isaac attends school with kids from other cultures. I hope that he learns from them and can teach them. We know people whose families, though they are Christian, have celebrated Hanukkah with friends. I would love for Isaac to be able to do that sometime, as well as have the opportunity to see what a Kwanzaa celebration is like.
There is a lot more to understanding other cultures than learning about holidays and festivals. But it is a place to start and this time of year seems like as good a time as any.