Administrators shoulder the responsibility of sharing with parents school policy regarding special occasions such as holidays. They must also take the lead with their teaching staff in discussing and resolving issues related to holiday celebrations. The following suggestions may help administrators deal with some of the issues that surface related to holidays.
- Educate your staff about issues related to holiday celebrations. Teachers sometimes assume that everyone celebrates certain holidays in particular ways. They may be unaware that families differ as to how they celebrate, or even if they celebrate, holidays. Teachers may also be unaware of legal issues involving the separation of church and state in tax-supported programs.
- Communicate clearly school policy and ground rules regarding holiday celebrations to both staff and parents. Often problems can be averted if teachers and parents clearly understand the school's policy ahead of time. Parents won't nurture unmet expectations, and teachers won't be embarrassed by having to cancel activities that violate school policy.
- Stress the positive rather than the negative. Talk about what your school does do rather than dwelling on what it doesn't do. For example, if Halloween costumes are not permitted, inform the parents of other special activities that teachers may plan, such as field trips, cooking activities, or family parties.
- Give suggestions to your staff for alternative activities. For example, one year at the Arlitt Center several parents voiced concerns over the safety of letting their children trick-or-treat on Halloween. While they felt it was not safe in their neighborhoods, they also worried that their children would be disappointed. With staff and teacher input, the school planned a harvest party as an alternative to trick-or-treat for interested families.
- Consider eliminating specific holiday celebrations and substituting more general celebrations. For example, instead of a Christmas party, plan a winter party. One school had a pajama party in the evening. The children drank hot chocolate, made quilts with their families, and listened to a musician. Another school planned an international feast in lieu of Thanksgiving. Each family brought a special dish to share. Children sang songs and parents shared stories from their cultures.