December is full of festive celebrations. It’s easy to get caught up in the traditions you celebrate and not realize there are so many others going on at the same time! To add some fun and diversity to your season, consider exploring these multicultural holidays in December with your kids. Plus, they make great Winter break activities to do alongside your kids.
Multicultural Holidays in December
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There are so many multicultural holidays in December. In fact, this massive post isn’t even an all inclusive list! If you know of a holiday we missed, be sure to tell us about it in the comments below.
What is Hanukkah?
Hanukkah is a Jewish holiday that traditionally starts on the 25th of Kislev and ends on the 2nd of Tevet, for a total of eight days. Generally, this December celebration falls in November and December. The holiday commemorates the victory of the Maccabean (Hasmonean) over the Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes and the rededication of the temple.
All eight days of Hanukkah are celebrated with a candle-lighting ceremony, traditionally at sunset. This symbolizes the miracle of the oil using a menorah and candles instead of oil.
A common food eaten during this time are latkes. This is a potato pancake usually served with sour cream or apple sauce.
What is Christmas?
Christmas is the 25th of December. It’s a Christian religious holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ, the son of God. Throughout December, people decorate their homes with lights and decorated evergreen trees.
Christmas day is celebrated by exchanging gifts, eating a big meal with family, singing Christmas carols, and often attending a church service.
What is Yule/Winter Solstice?
The Winter Solstice or Yule is the oldest Winter holiday in existence. It is a celebration of the shortest day of the year and the light coming back to us (or the days getting longer again). Traditionally, the Winter Solstice is celebrated by lighting the Yule log and lanterns, singing carols, giving gifts, and exchanging cards with family and friends. Some people also celebrate by eating a special meal.
What is Kwanzaa?
Kwanzaa is an African American holiday that celebrates family, community, and culture. It runs from 26th December to the first of January. It is a non-religious holiday. During this time, people decorate their homes with colorful lights, candles, and African-themed art such as paintings & sculptures.
On Kwanzaa, there are seven principles to follow which represent the African values of Umoja (unity), Kujichagulia (self-determination), Ujima (collective work and responsibility), Ujamaa (cooperative economics), Nia (Purpose), Kuumba (creativity), and Imani (faith).
What is New Year’s Eve?
New Year’s Eve is a time for celebrating and looking forward to the New Year. During this time, people often get together with their friends and family. It is also a time where there are lots of celebrations like concerts, parties, and fireworks displays.
New Year’s Eve traditions vary around the world, from eating twelve grapes at midnight to running around the block with a suitcase in hand. However, most people count down to midnight and then take the time to celebrate the new beginning and set intentions for the year ahead.
What is Boxing Day?
Boxing Day is a celebration that takes place the day after Christmas. It’s named after the tradition of giving boxes of gifts or money to servants or the poor. These days, Boxing Day is often celebrated by exchanging gifts with family and friends or going on a shopping spree. Some people also like to watch sports such as boxing or cricket matches on TV or eating a big feast of Christmas leftovers.
What is Krampusnacht?
Krampusnacht is a holiday that celebrates Krampus, an evil creature who punishes naughty children. This is the only multicultural holiday in December that doesn’t celebrate the light. In fact, Krampusnacht is quite the opposite, it represents the dark. On the evening of December 5th, Krampus makes sure that the naughty kids get their punishment while the nice kids get their gifts. The tradition became popular in Germany but is celebrated throughout Europe and in parts of North America.
What is Santa Lucia/St. Lucia’s Day?
Santa Lucia is the saint of light. She is usually celebrated on December 13th by giving gifts, singing songs, and bringing light into your house with candles or electric lights. It’s also a tradition to wear a white dress with a red sash. Santa Lucia is celebrated mainly in Sweeden, Norway, and areas of Finland.
How to Explore Multicultural Holidays in December With Your Kids
Having the kids home for two-plus weeks during December is great…until it isn’t. If you are looking for some fun Winter Break activities for your kids, exploring these multicultural holidays in December will keep you busy.
Below you will find books, activities and crafts to explore multicultural holidays in December alongside your kids.
Explore Hanukkah with Kids
Read about Hanukkah:
Hanukkah at Valley Forge– This story retells the tale of the first Hanukkah but in the context of a soldier telling it to General Washington as a story of inspiration.
Queen of the Hanukkah Dosas– This story tells of a multi-cultural Jewish/Indian family celebrating Hanukkah with some Indian food mixed in. One of the most fun but also most difficult parts of being a multicultural family is learning to incorporate everyone’s traditions.
Jeremy’s Dreidel– Jeremy is forming a Dreidel for his father but this dreidel has something extra special. You’ll have to read the story to find out what the secret is :).
If you need books in Spanish, here are some great bilingual books about Hanukkah.
Make Hanukkah crafts and foods:
Latkes– this website has so many different variations of Latkes you can find one for any palate.
Dreidels– If you aren’t quite as skilled with clay as Jeremy, these cereal box painted dreidels may be more your speed.
Luminaries– These Hanukkah luminaries need nothing more than a paper bag, some markers, and electric candles. The perfect, easy craft to add a little extra light and joy.
Menorahs– Depending on your crafting ability and the age of your kids, this article has tons of different menorah-making options to choose from.
Decorate– Traditionally Hanukkah decorations are silver and blue. If you want to make your home sparkle with Hanukkah joy, this list of affordable DIYs are great Winter Break activities for kids that won’t break the bank.
Online Dreidel– This online dreidel game is a quiet activity your kids can do on their own, in case you need a quick break during the day.
Funny Hanukkah games– However, if you need to burn off some energy and sneak in some laughs, this list has a ton of games that you can incorporate into your Hanukkah exploration.
Explore Christmas with Kids
Since I live in the US, my perspective of what Christmas looks like will be from the North American perspective. However, Christmas is celebrated differently all over the world.
Classic Christmas Books in the US:
The Night Before Christmas– This is a classic story that describes a family trying to sleep the night before Christmas when suddenly sounds of Santa reverberate through the roof! The story captures a rare glimpse of Santa as he leaves gifts and heads off to the next home.
The Grinch Who Stole Christmas– Everyone loves Christmas-but the Grinch. He was determined to steal Christmas so that he wouldn’t have to deal with all the laughter and joy, only to realize that Christmas goes deeper than gifts and feasts.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer– Legend has it that one Christmas night it was too foggy for Santa to drive his sleigh. Luckily, there was a unique reindeer at the North Pole with a glowing nose who was able to lead the sleigh and help Santa bring gifts to the world amidst the fog.
Books About Christmas Around the World:
Christmas Around the World– This book explores what kids do to celebrate Christmas in twelve different locations around the world. From candle-light crowns to decorated trees, everyone’s celebration is unique.
A World of Cookies for Santa– This book explores how families around the world celebrate Christmas by looking at what they leave out for Santa. It is a fun creative way to explore different Christmas traditions.
And of course, for my fellow Spanish-speaking familias, here are some great cuentos de Navidad for you.
Christmas Treats and Crafts for Kids:
Gingerbread Houses– We are lazy and generally just use a kit but if you’ve got some spare candy and graham crackers around, you’ve got all you need to make a DIY gingerbread house.
Christmas Cookies– Bake some sugar cookies, cover them with frosting and sprinkles, and enjoy the sugar high for hours to come. Plus, you’ll make some great memories along the way.
Christmas Ornaments– Salt dough ornaments are super easy and fun to make. We’ve given them to the grandparents and teachers in the past as gifts. However, if salt dough isn’t your thing, there are tons of other DIY Christmas ornaments you can make with kids.
Have a dance party- play Christmas carols and sing and dance along.
Explore Winter Solstice/Yule with Kids
Books about Winter Solstice for Kids:
The Shortest Day: Celebrating the Winter Solstice– This book gives the history of how the Winter Solstice celebration began and how it was celebrated by different cultures over time.
Yule: A Celebration of Light and Warmth– This book tells the history of many Yuletide traditions and celebrates the universality of this season. No matter where you are or what you celebrate, love, joy, and peace tend to make their way into the festivities.
Grandmother Spider Brings the Sun: A Cherokee Story– This is a traditional Cherokee story that tells the legend of how the light was brought back to the world.
Crafts to Explore Winter Solstice with Kids:
Yule Log– If you are feeling super ambitious, you could make a real Yule Log with your kiddos, or stick with the paper version.
For your science lover, these salt crystal paper snowflakes are sure to be hit.
Since the celebration is about the return of the light, winter solstice lanterns, sun catchers, and luminaries are a great way to celebrate.
Declutter– This one may not sound super playful, but taking the time to declutter and prepare for the new year is a way to celebrate Yule. Tell your kids you are making room for more light in your closets and toy chest and see who can come up with the most items to donate.
Go outside and take a walk in nature. Enjoy the beauty of the world around us and take in those beautiful rays of sunshine.
Explore Kwanzaa with Kids
Unfortunately, there aren’t a ton of books about Kwanzaa (that I could find) but there are so many crafts and activities. Instead of dedicating just one day to Kwanzaa, you could do all seven and dive into the different values and traditions.
Books About Kwanzaa for Kids
The Story of Kwanzaa– This book delivers just what the title promises, the story of how Kwanzaa came to be and what it celebrates. You will even find some activities you can do together with your kids within its pages.
Lil’ Rabbits Kwanzaa– This is a cute book for preschool-aged kids. Little Rabbit is upset because his Kwanzaa isn’t going so well. His grandma is sick so they won’t be able to celebrate like normal. He decides to get help from his friends to get grandma a gift.
Kevin’s Kwanzaa– This book shows the different ways people celebrate Kwanzaa and takes readers through the seven days of the celebration.
Crafts to Explore Kwanzaa with Kids
Make a Kinara– A Kinara looks very similar to the Menorah used to celebrate Hanukkah. You could make one using a handprint or out of paper tubes or even a paper plate. Similarly to Hanukkah, a candle is lit each day while the family focuses on one of the principles of Kwanzaa.
Kwanzaa necklace– This is a super simple craft for preschoolers. You can dye/paint pasta the colors of Kwanzaa (red symbolizes the noble blood uniting people of African ancestry, green symbolizes Africa’s rich land, and black for the people). Then, you allow the child to string them onto yarn or a piece of string, and voila, you have a necklace.
Unity Cup– This project isn’t infant/toddler friendly (or COVID friendly if we are being honest) but it is a beautiful idea. You decorate a cup or goblet with colorful beads to celebrate the unity of everyone being together.
Have a talent show– Day six of Kwanzaa focuses on creativity. Get some people together, or just your family, and put on a talent show.
Have a dance party– If creative talent isn’t exactly abounding in your family, put on some African music and dance around your living room.
Explore New Year’s Eve with Kids
All around the world people celebrate New Year but we all do it a little bit differently. Here are some great books and activities to celebrate a multicultural New Year.
Books About New Year’s Eve for Kids
Shanté Keys and the Black Eyed Peas– Have you ever heard you should eat black-eyed pea soup on New Year’s? Shanté’s grandmother forgot to get the peas so Shanté goes out in search of them to keep the tradition, and good luck, alive.
Happy New Year Everywhere– This book explores New Year’s traditions in twenty different countries. It is a great book to show that although many of us are celebrating the same holiday, we don’t all do it the same way.
Squirrels New Year’s Resolution– If you plan to set a New Year’s Resolution, this book is a cute way to explain the concept to your kiddos.
New Year’s Eve Crafts and Activities for Kids
These DIY New Year’s Eve glasses will save you some money and be a fun, easy project to make together.
Somehow, photo props always bring out the best, and silliest, of everyone. Try out some DIY photo props to add some laughter to your celebration.
There are truly enough crafts and activities to celebrate New Year’s Eve with kids to keep you up until midnight ;).
Try a new tradition. Try out a tradition from around the world. Add something you haven’t done before to your celebration.
Pop balloons. Write the hour on each balloon and pop it on the hour to celebrate the clock ticking down to midnight.
Be silly. Play fun challenges together, make a photo booth with silly props or dress up in goofy hats to ring in the New Year. The most important part, of any celebration, is to have fun together.
Explore Boxing Day with Kids
Although Boxing Day is celebrated in various places around the world, I could only find one book about Boxing Day for kids, What does Santa do on Boxing Day? This fun book explores how Santa spends the day after Christmas.
If you wanted to read more about the day with your kids, this short summary of what Boxing Day is and how it came to be may help.
It was also a bit difficult to find many crafts or activities focused on Boxing Day. However, this list gives some great family bonding ideas for the day after Christmas. I’ve never celebrated boxing day myself but it sounds like it is more of a day to decompress with your family after the hustle and bustle of Christmas.
Explore Krampusnacht with Kids
Books about Krampusnacht for Kids
Goodnight Krampus– This book doesn’t explore the holiday but is a cute, silly goodnight story just the same. Poor Santa already has plenty to do on Christmas Eve but little Krampus is just too excited to sleep. Will Santa be able to convince him to go to bed before heading out for the night?
Little Krampus and the Magical Sleigh Ride– It appears Krampus is determined to make Santa’s job more difficult. In this story, he hitched a ride in the sleigh, even though his father told him not to. Will he get in trouble and be on the naughty list for life?
Crafts and Activities to Explore Krampusnacht with Kids
Considering Krampus is a Christmas devil, it probably won’t surprise you that there aren’t a ton of kid-friendly crafts and activities flooding the internet. You could throw a Krampus party and make Krampus-themed foods and fun. Or you could dress up in your Halloween costumes, spend a day playing silly pranks on one another, watching scary movies, basically celebrate Halloween in December.
Explore St. Lucia’s Day with Kids
Books about St. Lucia’s Day for Kids
Lucia Morning in Sweeden– This book tells the story of three children preparing for St. Lucia Day. As a bonus, it also includes recipes, songs, and a summary of the legend.
Kirsten’s Surprise– This one is a little long for a preschool storytime but perfect for older, independent readers. Kirsten just moved to the US from Sweeden and is excited to teach her cousins about the St. Lucia Day tradition. However, a big snowstorm heads her way and things get a little more complicated than she’d imagined.
Crafts and Activities to Explore St. Lucia’s Day with Kids
Make a St. Lucia crown out of felt or paper.
You could make St. Lucia dolls or ornaments with older kids.
Make a St. Lucia bread braid or just throw some cinnamon rolls in the oven.
There are also tons of St. Lucia printables if you are looking for print and go Winter break activities.
Great Books about Multicultural Holidays in December and Beyond
Since the last few multicultural holidays on this list were a bit lacking in literature, I wanted to make up for it by sharing some of my favorite books about multiple winter holidays around the world:
Let’s Celebrate!: Special Days Around the World– This book is a great addition to any library because it explores 13 special holidays around the world from a child’s perspective. It is so important to show our children that their world isn’t the only world and this book is a great way to start.
Sparkles of Joy: A Children’s Book that Celebrates Diversity and Inclusion– I love this book, and this author, because it not only shows a beautifully diverse group of kids celebrating together but also illustrates the common thread in multicultural Winter holidays- we are all joined together by the light.
Celebrations Around the World– This beautifully illustrated book takes kids on an adventure around the globe to explore some of the most popular holidays worldwide.
How Kids Celebrate Holidays Around the World– This book also introduces kids to different cultures, traditions, and holidays around the world. It is a great way to broaden your kid’s cultural horizons while showing them all that we have in common- we all love a good party!
Whew! That was a lot. If you are like me and feel slightly overwhelmed by all this information, let me send you my easy, peasy one-page calendar with all the winter break activities I’ll be doing with my boys.
We hope you enjoyed this opportunity to explore some multicultural holidays in December. If the idea of spending time with your family, learning about different cultures, and exploring these unique winter break activities interests you, be sure to download our free calendar and have the best Winter Break ever!