Teaching Religious Holidays In The Montessori Classroom
December is an important month for two major religious groups in Canada. Between Christmas and Chanukah, Christians and Jews are the main focus of the year-end holiday season. To celebrate these holidays, you’ll notice we’ve set up decorations on our Christmas tree and Menorah decorations in our classrooms.
The month of December has religious significance for many Canadians and it seems like the perfect opportunity to highlight the Montessori approach to all religious holidays.
A worldly approach
Alex Chiu, the author of the blog Montessori Musings, aptly said, “The Montessori approach to celebrating special days is a gift to children as it expands their minds, their hearts and their worlds.”
This quote accurately encapsulates the approach we take to religious holidays at the Montessori School of Wellington.
At our school, we try to foster a sense of worldliness and understanding in children that will help them learn about their own faith, traditions and histories — and also about the faith, traditions and histories of their peers.
Using Montessori material and objects from various religious holidays, our teachers engage the children in meaningful conversations about the reasons and meanings behind the various religious celebrations.
Understanding the messaging
Holidays like Christmas and Chanukah are discussed in terms of both the religious and societal meaning of the holidays.
For example, neither holiday is about celebrating the receiving of material objects.
In the religious context, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Christ and Chanukah is about the festival of light and the rededication of the Holy Temple.
From a familial and societal perspective, Christmas and Chanukah are about giving gifts to loved ones and the less fortunate and spending quality time with family and friends.
Maria Montessori is famous for saying, “Establishing lasting peace is the work of education.” Peace comes from dialogue and understanding; two values that are integral to every Montessori classroom.
Participating in the holidays
Much of our learning comes from doing that which we study. It’s one thing to learn the power of gift-giving, it’s another thing to participate in the act.
It’s for this reason that, in the past, we’ve taken our children over to Norfolk Manor to deliver goodies that they have baked and to sing Christmas carols. This experience has given the children the opportunity to see the joy that their carols and baking bring to residents and staff and they always have a lot of fun performing as a class and as individuals.
As F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote:
“That is part of the beauty of all literature. You discover that your longings are universal longings, that you’re not lonely and isolated from anyone. You belong.”
Regardless of what faith you and your family proscribe to, or what holidays you celebrate, children who are aware of — and better understand — the worldviews of the people they live amongst will grow up to see the universalism in all the messages of different faiths. If we can see that universalism, then we can establish the lasting peace Montessori so often spoke about.
If you have any questions about our religious curriculum, or the Montessori method more broadly, please feel free to reach out!