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Introduce children to traditions from other cultures

When I was a kid, I loved to hear stories about Christmas traditions around the world. It was always fun to imagine how children in other cultures celebrated their winter holidays — the foods they eat, songs they sing and the decorations they make and hang.


In Holland, children leave their shoes out on Christmas Eve to be filled with presents by St. Nicholas or Sinterklaas. Children will also often leave carrots and hay for Sinterklaas’ horse. Another Dutch tradition says that Sinterklaas lives in Madrid, Spain, and every year he chooses a different harbor to arrive in Holland, so as many children as possible get a chance to see him. Every town in Holland has a few Sinterklaas helpers who help give the presents out.

In Australia, Christmas falls in the middle of summer and it is very hot. Tradition says that when Santa arrives in Australia he gives his reindeer a rest and employs six kangaroos to shuttle him around instead. On the day following Christmas, Australians celebrate Boxing Day by going to the beach and having barbecues with friends.

In Mexico, children break piñatas filled with sweets during posada parties. Leading up to Christmas, children participate in posada processions in which they re-enact the story of Mary and Joseph searching for a room in an inn.


This is a great time of year to introduce children to traditions from other cultures. Holiday stories and songs are always engaging and children are often fascinated to learn about traditions that are different from their own. The West Linn Public Library has an excellent collection of books about Christmas traditions, winter holidays and folklore from around the world.

Here are a few to get you started.

“Boris and Stella and the Perfect Gift” by Dara Goldman

Boris and Stella are in love but do not have much money, so Stella sells something very important to her in order to buy Boris a Hanukkah gift, and Boris does likewise to buy Stella a Christmas present.

“While the Bear Sleeps” retold by Caitlin Matthews

A young girl travels through time with a bear as her guide in this glowing anthology of winter customs, including the nativity, Christmas in Mexico City, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. She discovers the origins of winter tales and traditions from the first snowfall to the return of spring.


“My First Kwanzaa”

by Karen Katz

A young girl describes how she and her family celebrate the seven days of Kwanzaa.

“Bringing in the New Year”

by Grace Lin

A Chinese-American family prepares for and celebrates the lunar New Year. End notes discuss the customs and traditions of Chinese New Year.

Contract Publishing

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