Helping Kids Understand Cultural Differences

Helping Kids Understand Cultural Differences

We live in a community that is very diverse in every sense of the word (economically, religious-wise, etc.). Our children are involved with every different kinds of people. We are Jewish and our children are being raised in a Jewish religious education. Along the way, each of them have come to us and asked why do we go and visit our friends at Christmas time and have Christmas dinner with them when our Hebrew schoolteacher says we don't celebrate Christmas? I had a hard time figuring out what to say to them because I see the beauty in everything around me and I want my children to see that too.

So I came up with a concept which I would like to share with you. I tend to answer that question with another question. And the question that I always ask is, "What do you do when your friends have a birthday? Do you go and celebrate their birthday with them?" And my children will always say, "Well, yes of course we do". And I say, "But why? It's not your birthday". They say, "Well, we're sharing our friend's birthday." They conclude that they can share a friend's birthday, the cake, the decorations, the party etc., and come away with a good warm and fuzzy feeling from that birthday.

So, to me holidays are the same thing. When we share Christmas dinner with our friends, or go and help them trim their tree, we are sharing their holiday. It doesn't become our holiday. We understand that they have a deeper significance to it, but that doesn't preclude us from enjoying their lights, their dinner, their goodies, bringing them a Christmas gift. In return, they will come and visit us when it's Hanukkah time. We do the same thing when it's Easter and Passover. We invite friends to our Passover Sadder and sometimes they are quite intrigued by the whole thing.

I would like my children to understand that all the holidays that we celebrate seem to be connected with stories that come from our own personal heritages. We don't want our children to ignore their heritage, or forget their heritage. We want them to understand that there are many differences among the people and among the stories, but there are also lots of similarities. I think this has made my children very open-minded toward people. We try to blend our stories and our lessons of the past, with the good times of the present, which is now, and I'm hopeful that we're making a path for the future and I think my children are doing that.