Inclusive Ways to Celebrate the Holidays!

We LOVE the holiday season on the ClubX Blog! BGCA’s Youth Trends team is bringing the festive cheer with inclusive ways to celebrate all the traditions that may be happening in the lives of your Club members.

The holidays are a time when people come together and celebrate traditions. While Christmas tends to be the dominate winter holiday in American culture, December and January are months full of holidays across various cultures and religions. Teaching your members about how different cultures and religions celebrate these holidays during these months, as well as year-round, can build empathy, respect, and expand their worldview.  In today’s post, we will discuss inclusive ways to teach members about Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Three Kings Day as well as some fun ways to celebrate at your Club!

Remember: There are also many families who do not celebrate these holidays or traditions, or do not participate in the religious aspects of them, so make sure there are alternative activities for these youth and the option not to participate.


Happy Hanukkah (or Chanukah/Hanukah/Chanukkah/Hanuka…)! Did you know that there are 16 different spellings for this holiday? However you spell it, Hanukkah is a fun Jewish holiday to celebrate with your members.

What is Hanukkah and why is it celebrated? 

Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. Every year, the celebration of Hanukkah honorthe Jewish people who, over 2000 years ago, fought back against the Greeks who were trying to force the people of Israel to accept Greek culture and beliefs instead of their own. When the small army of Jews, led by Judah Maccabee, defeated the mighty Greek army, they reclaimed their culture and the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. When they lit the Temple’s menorah, they found that they only had enough oil for one day. However, the oil lasted for eight days – creating the Hanukkah Miracle.  

For a quick overview of the history behind Hanukkah and its traditions, watch this video from Sesame Street:

Hanukkah celebrations revolve around the lighting of a nine-branched menorah. On each of the eight nights of Hanukkah, another candle is added to the menorah and lit after sundown while families recite blessings. The ninth candle is called the shamash (“helper”) and is used to light the other candles.  

Since the Hanukkah Miracle involved oil lasting for eight days, traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil. Some popular dishes for Hanukkah include potato pancakes (called latkes) and jelly-filled donuts called sufganiyot) 

Other traditions include playing with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels and exchanging gifts or gelt (gifts of money) with friends and family.  

When is Hanukkah? 

 Hanukkah starts on the 25th day of the Jewish calendar month of Kislev, and lasts for 8 days and nights. In 2020, Hanukkah will be celebrated from sundown on Sunday December 10th to sundown on Monday December 18thSince the dates of Hanukkah are determined by the Jewish calendar, it changes every year – so be sure to check the dates every holiday season! 

 Fun, inclusive ways to celebrate Hanukkah at your Club! 

  • Have a dreidel competition. Click here for simple rules for the fun Hanukkah game. You can get a printable dreidel here. This is also a great way to learn some letters in the Hebrew alphabet! 
  • Display a menorah. Buy an electric menorah (to avoid any fire hazards) or have members make their own cardboard menorahs as a craft project. “Light” a new candle each day of the holiday to count down the eight nights. 
  • Try traditional foods. Try making latkes with your members, or bring in jelly-filled donuts as a sweet treat! 
  • Create a holiday-themed bulletin board. Work with your youth to create a holiday-themed bulletin board or poster to display at the Club. Members can decorate using symbols or crafts related to a variety of winter holidays, not just Hanukkah! 


“Merry Christmas!” “Boldog Karácsony!” “¡Feliz Navidad!” “Sheng Dan Kuai Le!” Christmas is observed by more than 160 countries around the world! There are so many different ways that families celebrate Christmas. 

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What is Christmas and why is it celebrated? 

Christmas is an annual festival honoring the birth of Christ. The gift of Christ is celebrated through a “season of giving which often involves acts of gratitude, service to others and the exchange of gifts. Gifts are usually placed under a Christmas tree that are opened on Christmas day.  

Did You Know? 

The Christmas tree was first brought to the United States in the 1800’s, where for centuries pine, spruce and fir trees were a part of Winter celebrations around the world and seen as good luck. Christmas trees grow in all 50 states and Hawaii. Guinness World Records has this fun list of Christmas-tree related records, including the world’s largest Rube Goldberg machine to light a tree! This would make a fun intro video to a Rube Goldberg machine activity.

Millions of families also celebrate the delivery of gifts by Santa Claus (or Saint Nicholas) during the night before Christmas on Christmas Eve. There is so much excitement to see what gifts are awaiting for them on Christmas Day! 

When is Christmas? 

 Christmas is observed on December 25th in the United States.  

 Fun, inclusive ways to celebrate Christmas at your Club! 

  • Make a holiday gratitude tree. Make a gratitude tree where your members can add a note sharing someone or something that they are grateful for. Display it in a central location in your Club where your entire Club community can add their notes. Click here for ideas on creating a gratitude tree.
  • Share family traditions. Encourage your members to share their family traditions of what they do during Christmas through music, pictures, food, storytelling or something else creative. That way your members can learn what Christmas looks like for different families and see them displayed. For members who don’t celebrate encourage them to share special traditions that they have with their family all year long. Join in the fun as well! 
  • Emphasize the spirit of giving.  Christmas is often called “the season of giving”. Organize a charity event where your Club can volunteer at an organization that your members choose. After the event lead members in a reflection activity where they can draw or write what participating in the event meant to them and how it felt helping others. 
  • Create your own Club traditions. Start your own yearly tradition with your members that you do at your Club during this time of year. Include youth in the brainstorming and voting of ideas. That way every youth can give their input into your own special Club traditions to celebrate!


Habari Gani? How are you? What’s the news? Kwanzaa is a holiday which celebrates family, community and culture.  

What is Kwanzaa and why is it celebrated? 

 Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor and chairman of Black Studies at California State University, Long Beach. Dr. Karenga created the holiday to help African-Americans connect to their African heritage and create a sense of unity. The name Kwanzaa comes from the Swahili phrase “matunda ya kwanza” meaning first fruits.  

Dating back to ancient Egypt, many African countries celebrated the harvest of the first fruitin December and January. Based on the ideals of the first-fruits harvest, Kwanzaa’s Nguzo Saba, or the Seven Principles, were born:

  • Umoja (oo-MOH-ja)Unity
  • Kujichagulia (koojee-cha-goo-LEE-yah) – Self-Determination
  • Ujima (oo-JEE-mah) – Collective Work and Responsibility
  • Ujamaa (oo-JAH-ma) – Cooperative Economics
  • Nia (nee-AH) – Purpose, 
  • Kuumba (koo-OOM-bah) – Creativity
  • Imani (ee-MAH-nee) – Faith

Kwanzaa celebrations usually include the following: 

  •  Mkeka (The Mat) – It symbolizes experiences and foundations. 
  • Kikombe cha Umoja (The Unity Cup) – Represents family and community.  
  • Mazao (The Crops) – Fruit and vegetables from the harvest.  
  • Kinara (The Candleholder) – It represents the days, and principles of Kwanzaa, similar to the Menorah of Hanukkah. 
  • Mishumaa Saba (The Seven Candles) – are placed in the kinara. The candles are tri-colored and placed from left to right; 3 green, 1 black and 3 red.  
  • Muhindi (The Corn) – There is one ear of corn for each child in the family. If there are no children in the family, then one ear is used to represent the children in the community 
  • Zawadi (Gifts) – Gifts given to children during Kwanzaa are normally educational and cultural representations of African heritage. 

 When is Kwanzaa? 

 Kwanzaa is a weeklong celebration taking place December 26th – January 1st.

 Fun, inclusive ways to celebrate Kwanzaa at your Club! 

  • Create a Mkeka replica. Have members weave their own mat using paper and creativity. Each member can create a custom Mkeka to display their own unique style. 
  • Act out the what does Nguzo Saba means to you. Ask members to select one of the seven Kwanzaa Principles to draw or act out.  Give them a moment to think and then perform. Other members then then try to guess which principle was selected. 
  • Checkout Kwanzaa books from the library. If members want to know more about Kwanzaa, here are 15 book suggestions to get them started. 

Three Kings Day

Three Kings Day, is also known as “El Dia de los Reyes” in Spanish and “Epiphany” or “The Feast of Epiphany” in other countries. It is a tradition celebrated in over 34 countries including SpainMexico, and many Latinx communities across the United States.


 What is Three Kings Day and why is it celebrated? 

Three Kings Day is a cultural and religious celebration celebrated on the 12th day of Christmas honoring the Three Wise Men (or Kings) who visited the newborn Jesus. They traveled from different parts of the world and met him on his 12th day of life bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. The holiday has many traditions, including gift exchanges, parades, bread baking and other festivities. 

three kings.jpgIn some families, small gifts are left inside children’s shoes, which are left outside the door. Children show a gesture of good will by placing a box filled with straw, grass or hay under their beds. The hay is supposed to be used to feed the king’s horses while the rest of their owners deliver gifts. Children wake up the next morning to find candies, sweets or toys in their box…or even a lump of coal!

To learn more about Three Kings Day and hear why it was so special for a young Lin-Manuel Miranda, check out this video. 

When is Three Kings Day? 

 Festivities begin on December 25th and end on January 6th for the Three Kings Day Celebration which is considered the 12th day of Christmas.  

 Fun, inclusive ways to celebrate Three Kings Celebration at your Club! 

  • Host a Rosca de Reyes (Three Kings Bread) Nailed It! Competition. Rosca de Reyes is the traditional holiday bread for Three Kings’ Day. It is baked round as a symbol of a King’s crown with a doll inside representing newborn Jesus. Whoever finds the toy must then host a party for everyone on Día de la Candelaria, or the Day of the Candles, Feb. 2. Host a Nailed It! Competition and have teams compete to see who recreates the best bread with arts and crafts (or real food ingredients !), with each team choosing what to put inside. Click here for a recipe.
  • Organize Three Kings Arts and Crafts Activities. Do you have toilet paper rolls, paint, pens and aluminum foil? For your younger members especially they can create their own Three Kings with minimal supplies. Click here for three easy crafts.
  • Conduct a Three Kings Day Global Research Project. Three Kings Day has different customs and traditions around the globe. For example, in Greece and Bulgaria they celebrate by jumping into icy waters. Have your members pick a country or region in the US who celebrates the day, learn about their traditions and creatively share back what they learned.

However you choose to celebrate the holidays, being inclusive of all the different ways people honor their culture and traditions increases the fun for everyone.

How do you celebrate inclusive holidays? What traditions do you follow at your Club? Comment below, on the BCGA Youth Development Facebook, or email to share!

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