Tree-trimming, lighting menorah candles, sitting down for meals with family: this time of year traditions are limitless. Across the state, country and world families and friends are celebrating the holidays in their own way.

This month many IPS students have been learning about different holidays and traditions celebrated around the world during this time.

Maureen Surface started off this month teaching about the word “tradition” to her Eleanor Skillen School 34 second graders. Students learned the definition and how it relates to families during winter holiday season.

Surface then taught the students about the Feast of St. Nicholas that is celebrated in Norway. They compared and contrasted Norway’s celebrations with ours in the United States. In Norway, children leave shoes out with hay and carrots for “Sinterklaas’s” – Norway’s Santa Claus – white horse. The items are then replaced with marzipan, fruit or chocolate. Surface and her students decorated “wooden shoes” to leave for Sinterklaas to conclude their discussion.

“We put hay and carrots in the shoes for Sinterklaas’ white horse and he gave us candy canes and a note,” said Addison W.

Surface enjoys teaching about different holidays because she loves seeing the connections students make between the holidays celebrated around the world and the ones the students celebrate at home.

“I love talking about how America’s traditions come from our melting pot,” said Surface. “How each of these countries’ traditions have touched our lives – leaving out shoes for St. Nick and how candles weave a thread through so many countries’ traditions – Santa Lucia wearing a wreath of greenery with lit candles on her head on December 13, Las Posadas – eating Mexican Wedding Cookies and carrying candles in their travels- and candles on Christmas trees long ago.”

English as a Second Language (ESL) Coordinator Jessica Feeser agrees with Surface.

“IPS is home to students from over 65 nations across the globe! Learning about celebrations, cultures, languages and traditions from around the world fosters understanding and respect for all people,” said Feeser.

In the three weeks leading up to winter break, the second graders at Meredith Nicholson School 96 learned about holidays and traditions in a cross-curricular social studies and music unit. Students learned about Kwanza, Hanukkah and Christmas. Second graders learned how families around the world celebrate these winter holidays and the important symbols and traditions associated with each. During music class, students learned songs and dances from each holiday. On December 15th students performed the songs for their parents.

Students also shared their own holiday traditions and brought artifacts from home to show their classes.

“I shared my Christmas tradition,” said Yesenia M. “My mom makes bracelets for everyone in my family. I brought one to show my class.”

James Whitcomb Riley School 43 Media Specialist Beth Willner Zachary has been reading books with her students on the different holiday celebrations. She has put a special emphasis on Kwanzaa and its seven principles – unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith — this year.

“I’ve enjoyed sharing Kwanzaa traditions and the importance of the seven principles,” said Willner Zachary. “The seven principles of Kwanzaa are especially relevant to current national events in light of positive, peaceful protests seeking a more just world.”

Rousseau McClellan School 91 has had different speakers come in to talk to students about holiday traditions. The students learned about different Swedish holidays, Hanukkah and more! They also got to enjoy tasty treats like gingerbread cookies and potato latkes.

Winter holidays aren’t the only ones being taught in our classrooms. ESL teacher Vivien Victor taught her students about the Hindu holiday Diwali. She prepared traditional Diwali treats and even did a sari demonstration. Students at Broad Ripple are learning about weddings around the world this week, and don’t forget all the schools that celebrated Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) this year!

We’re proud to serve so many diverse students and families. Their traditions and celebrations provide richness and depth to our district. From our hearts to yours, Happy Holidays!