Winter Religious Festivals: What does Christmas mean to you?

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By Sue Cowleyeducational author and trainer

Original article published 24 November 2008

Has your class ever stopped to wonder what Christmas means to them? Encourage thinking skills by exploring this, and other, winter festivals

Illustrated crescent Moon

Christmas means different things to different people. For those from the Christian faith, it is very much a religious celebration. For those from other faiths, it has little or no religious significance. And for many, the modern-day Christmas festival has become an event more about spending time with family and giving and receiving presents than the Nativity story.

Many of the traditions and symbols that we associate with Christmas, such as holly and mistletoe, actually have their roots in our Pagan past, or in cultural influences from around the world. The Winter Solstice (also known as Yule), the shortest day of the year, falls on 21 December. It’s interesting to note how many religious festivals that take place around this time use symbols of light, such as candles and fireworks. Even though children from different faiths might not celebrate Christmas as a religious festival, some families still view it as part of life in the UK. They might get involved in secular celebrations at this time, for instance by giving gifts to family and friends or eating a turkey on Christmas day.


  1. Talking about Christmas
  2. Christmas and other faiths

1. Talking about Christmas

Using questions to prompt thinking skills, such as those below, is a good way to approach the topic of Christmas in your classroom. Talk generally about this time of year, and what it means to children from different backgrounds. That way, you will allow all children to consider their responses to, and beliefs about, this holiday season.

Philosophical questions

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