More Than Tamales

The holidays are full of opportunities to connect more deeply with the families and children we serve. Each family brings their own unique rhythms to this time of year. In this post, one family shares the many ways they celebrate with their diverse and rich traditions and provides educators a window to see how families can be a part of holiday celebrations.

More Than Tamales

From November to January our days are filled with celebrations, traditions, parties, and programs. As educators we often invite families to enjoy-and sometimes tolerate- these holiday festivities, but how often do we really invite them in? Do we really take full advantage of this season as an opportunity to create space for families and the richness they have to offer in our programs?   


Each family celebrates holidays differently. Even if all of your families celebrate Christmas, it’s guaranteed that they each have unique rhythms and traditions.  For Everly’s family (pictured below) their traditions include special meals. This is the second year that Everly has helped her grandma Norma mix the masa for their family’s tamales. Everly’s family culture is rich and diverse. From her mom Biri’s side she inherits Mexican culture and celebrations. Biri’s husband Bryce is in the U.S. Navy, which also has an impact on when and where their family celebrates. Biri shares, “...being a multicultural family has been so wonderful because we get to mix our families traditions so we get to enjoy the best of both worlds. Being a military family is also great, we have so much support from so many people, even people who we don’t know. But as you know, being in the military comes with its sacrifices such as Bryce not being able to celebrate some of the big holidays because he has to be away or at work and that’s where our families traditions and the military’s support system come in to make sure that we do enjoy the holidays even if Bryce is unable to be with us.” 


Everly participates every year in a variety of holiday and Christmas traditions. Her mom Biri says, “It means a lot to me to have my children participate in my family’s traditions because it’s something that I enjoyed so much growing up as a kid… I hope they will carry on these traditions with their children someday.”  


“Navigating mine and Bryce’s families’ traditions over the years has been fun. His family mostly celebrates on Christmas Day whereas my family focuses more on Christmas Eve. Bryce and I have enjoyed being able to mix our families traditions and even started our own with our 2 kids.” -Biri Ward 

Think about how much you know about each child you care for and teach and how or what they celebrate at home. Do you know the unique ways that their family celebrates or if and when they celebrate? Do you know if they prefer not to celebrate holidays? When we welcome families into our programs we can enhance the community that exists within our classrooms. We can communicate to each child and their family the value they hold by incorporating the traditions and customs they practice at home while also creating a robust home to school connection. In reference to community in the classroom, the NAEYC Developmentally Appropriate Practice Position Statement says, “Stereotypical thinking and messages are countered with opportunities to engage in more sophisticated and accurate thinking.” (17). For educators during the holidays, this means avoiding the default of our own and commercially based traditions and instead asking ourselves, “How can we create a more authentic environment and meaningful learning experiences this holiday season?”


Need ideas on how to reach out to families or support your classroom community? Reach out to your Regional Facilitator!

A special thank you to Biri and Bryce Ward for sharing their family’s experiences and traditions for this WYECPLC Blog post.