We all know about winter holidays like Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, as well as Easter and other holidays when schools close. But the year is filled with days of remembrance and celebration. Schools today are increasingly diverse, in both their student bodies and staff. You can use your digital signage to reach out and include everyone, as well as educate your audience about new and interesting holidays they might not know about.
Use these special days as opportunities to educate and entertain your students, and get them interested in the world around them. Take a look at your student body and see what their backgrounds are. If some kids come from a Hawaiian background, for example, find out some Hawaiian celebrations to share with the whole school. Or get the students involved and have them co-create digital signage messages and class- or school-wide programs that tie in to the holiday. And don’t forget your staff – they may also have some very interesting things to share.
Anything that increases the students’ awareness of the world around them, and the people they share the school with, is worthwhile. The more they learn about one another’s backgrounds, the more open and tolerant they will become. Just make sure to give equal time – if you have a large number of Hindu students but only call out one Hindu holiday, they will certainly notice and wonder why. Spread out the attention and make sure that the proportion of holidays matches the proportions present in your school.
And you can do far more than simply make a digital signage message to put up on screens. Students can get involved in creating educational campaigns. They can create webpages or presentations with more information about the holidays; organize class celebrations that involve show-and-tell, traditional food or entertainments (like music and dance); read related books or stories, and more.
Here are some commonly observed holidays that you can explore on your digital signs and in the classroom:
- New Year’s Day – Perfect for introducing the topic of calendars, and how some cultures use lunar calendars instead, or other alternate methods of marking time (like the Mayan Calendar Round) or Orthodox New Year on January 14.
- Three Kings Day and Orthodox Christmas – A religiously-oriented school may already be marking Epiphany (Three Kings Day), but publicly-funded schools can also use this as an opportunity to compare and contrast different versions of stories. And how many people know that Orthodox Christians have a different day for Christmas, or that this is where the Twelve Days of Christmas come from?
- Martin Luther King Day – Raise awareness of the Civil Rights Movement and racial equality. You can include laws and amendments for older students. This also ties in to National Freedom Day, which marks Abraham Lincoln’s signing of the 13th Amendment on February 1, which abolished slavery.
- Chinese New Year – Happens all over Asia, not just in China. Changes each year because of the lunar calendar, and allows discussion of astrological signs and systems. There are many important holidays that drift throughout the solar year, like the Muslim observance of the month-long daytime fast that is Ramadan, which is broken by the Feast of Eid al-Fitr.
- Groundhog Day – A fun way to open up conversations about the weather, meteorology and even animal mascots.
- Tu Bishvat – A Jewish festival marked by eating fruit, especially new seasonal fruit. Get students thinking about growing cycles, local sourcing of food and healthy eating habits.
- Valentine’s Day – Students can think about relationships, love, marriage and families, gender equality, and community as they make valentines for one another.
- Presidents’ Day – A perfect holiday to reinforce civics lessons, with students reflecting on the accomplishments and legacies of two most celebrated American presidents – George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.
- Maha Shivaratri – A Hindu celebration of the god Shiva, dedicated to “overcoming darkness and ignorance” and focusing on honesty, restraint and forgiveness.
- Mardi Gras – Students can learn about public celebrations, including how to behave responsibly and share public space.
- Read Across America Day – March 2 is a nationwide push to encourage reading for pleasure, held annually on the birthday of Dr. Seuss.
- Holi – A Hindu spring festival, known as the Festival of Colors.
- Purim – A Jewish holiday marked by exchanging gifts, donating to charities, and eating together.
- Daylight Savings Time – A reminder that the clocks change can be leveraged into exploring why they do, how different countries do it on different days, and how some places don’t do it at all.
- Patrick’s Day – The usual suspects – wearing green, shamrocks, leprechauns – can be supplemented with a look at the contribution of Irish immigrants to American and world culture.
- Isra and Mi’raj – A Muslim holiday marking Muhammad’s night journey to heaven on the horse Buraq.
- Earth Day – Celebrated in 193 countries on April 22, its focus is on the climate and environmental responsibility.
- National Library Workers Day – An observance to celebrate the work done by librarians across the country. A good chance to not only thank them, but encourage students to read.
- Arbor Day – Planting and caring for trees is the focus of this holiday that varies from state to state, but is marked nationally on the last Friday in April.
- Cinco de Mayo – A Mexican holiday that celebrate the defeat of the French Army at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. A great chance for students of Mexican heritage to talk about their culture, and help non-Latino students understand that each Latin American culture is different.
- Mother’s Day – A chance for students to share stories and celebrate their own mothers, and each other’s.
- Memorial Day – A chance to reflect on the sacrifices made by members of the Armed Forces.
- Flag Day – A chance to discover the origins of the flag, and for students to share the flags of their own countries and cultures.
- Father’s Day – A chance for students to share stories and celebrate their own fathers, and each other’s.
- Independence Day – Marking the birth of the United States, and a chance to celebrate civics, history, and all the different cultures that make up the country.
- Raksha Bandhan – A Hindu holiday celebrating the love and duty between brothers and sisters, including people who feel like siblings but are not actual blood relatives.
- Krishna Janmashtami – A Hindu celebration of the birth and youth of Krishna.
- Labor Day – A chance to give thanks to all the workers of the country.
- Muharram and Rosh Hashana – the Muslim and Jewish New Year, respectively.
- Navratri – A nine-day Hindu festival that features plays and dances celebrating the goddess Durga.
- Child Health Day – An opportunity to make students more health conscious and talk about nutrition and healthy lifestyles.
- Columbus Day – Often a celebration of the contribution of Italian immigrants to the country.
- Diwali – The Hindu Festival of Lights.
- Halloween – Change the focus from scary stories to exploring giving and receiving, and limit costumes to DIY to ease family budgets.
November and December
- Thanksgiving – Each year on the fourth Thursday in November. Use this as an opportunity to explore family, what students are thankful for, and American history instead of feasting and football.
- Kwanzaa – A secular festival observed by many African Americans from December 26 to January 1 as a celebration of their cultural heritage and traditional values.
- Hanukkah – Observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar, which may occur at any time from late November to late December in the Gregorian calendar. It is also known as the Festival of Lights and the Feast of Dedication.
- Christmas – Most schools are out for a long break, but you can build up to the holiday by learning about Christmas legends and traditions around the world.
And there are lots of other holidays (some of them quite quirky) that you might consider taking note of – Talk Like a Pirate Day, National Popcorn Day, National Cupcake Day, National Opposite Day, Tell a Fairy Tale Day, Sandwich Day. The list is almost endless, with a new one for every day of the year. You can find some of them here: https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/fun/ and https://www.daysoftheyear.com/.
Carefully curating some of these can really create a sense of fun in the school, as well as provide opportunities to educate. Plus, a simple message marking something like National Cupcake Day (and having healthy and gluten-free cupcakes available in the lunch room) will certainly draw the students’ attention to your screens, so they will notice your other messages on more serious topics – like test deadlines and school safety.
Holidays are a chance to celebrate something important to us, and your digital signage can be a year-round festival that informs your students, and encourages them to think beyond their own cultures. The more they know, the more they grow.