Being Sensitive about Religious Holiday Coverage

It's important to spotlight all holidays in the yearbook.
Flickr CC user: Tommy and Georgie
It’s important to spotlight all holidays in the yearbook.
Flickr CC user: Tommy and Georgie

 

One of the cool things about being a public school kid was getting to learn about all the different religions of the world. December was a particularly fun month because we got to make potato pancake latkes for Hanukkah, gingerbread houses for Christmas, have a karamu feast for Kwanzaa, and chow down on cookies for my birthday (and somehow I was at my skinniest back then)!

My best friend, however, went to a private religious school down the street where they only discussed the real meaning of Christmas, leaving out all the fun, fluffy stuff that makes the holidays, well, the holidays. She would come over to my house after school and eat all my leftover treats with relish, wishing she could go to public school. Eventually, her wish was granted, and she loved getting into the magic of the season with the other kids.

No matter what type of school you attend, it’s important to be sensitive about other people’s religious traditions when it comes to holidays. If you’re planning to showcase different holiday-themed events in the yearbook, you want to make sure no one feels excluded.

Before you even begin to lay out your holiday-themed pages, speak with a school official first. Some schools have strict policies when it comes to highlighting anything with a religious undertone to it, so make sure you have permission before proceeding. Guidelines also vary widely depending on if your school is in the public or private sector.

Once you get the go-ahead from the higher-ups, it’s time to get planning. Holidays don’t go on hiatus just because school might not be in session. It is up to the yearbook staff to decide whether they want to highlight all the holidays throughout the year (think Memorial Day and 4th of July) or just focus on the ones that fall during the school year. Once you decide how many holidays you want to cover and which ones (will Arbor Day make the cut?), it’s time to hand out assignments.

One option for dealing with this is to highlight different seasons without putting as much emphasis on the individual holidays. For example, you can do a spread on the Honor Society’s toy drive that has a more general holiday theme and one that everyone can participate in.

If you choose to highlight each holiday individually, it’s important to do some research. Assign a holiday to each student and have them find out the origins and other fun facts about the important day. Why do people buy Christmas trees? What is Passover all about? Who invented the Easter Bunny? Incorporating these facts into the piece will give it more depth.

You can also interview a variety of students and ask them about their family’s holiday traditions. Feature their answers in the spread or incorporate some of their ideas and thoughts into the overall page. (For example, if someone shares their mom’s latke recipe, or if someone explains a traditional game the family plays on Christmas morning put it in the yearbook).

Just remember, whatever way you decide to approach covering holidays, it’s important to keep the interest of the students at the front of your mind. As a yearbook team, it’s your job to educate people while preserving their memories. Giving each holiday the respect they all deserve will make students of all cultures and backgrounds very happy.

Does your school cover holidays in the yearbook? How do they handle religious holidays? Leave your comments in the box below.

 

 

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