Honoring Feelings During the Holidays

Students share holiday traditions and experiences, and acknowledge the range of emotions that accompany the season.

Kwanzaa Celebration
Kwanzaa Celebration.  Reginald James

To the Teacher

Before engaging in this activity, if possible, survey students to find out which holidays they celebrate in their communities. You can use this information to further personalize the lesson.


Share with students that today, as we enter one of the busiest holiday seasons of the year, we’ll take some time together to share our holiday traditions and experiences, and acknowledge the range of emotions that accompany the season.


Circle Activity

Community Agreements

Form a circle. (If you are new to the circle process, see this Introduction to Circles.)

Share suggested community agreements or norms for the circle, or arrive at them together within the circle. Some to consider might be:

  • Speak and listen from the heart
  • Lessons leave, personal stories stay (honor confidentiality)
  • Honor the right to pass (participants can choose not to speak when the talking piece comes to them)
  • Consider the impact of what we are saying and care for each other

Share Reflections

Share this quote with students:

“The joy of brightening other lives, bearing each other’s burdens, easing each other’s loads and supplanting empty hearts and lives with generous gifts becomes for us the magic of the holidays.”   – W. C. Jones

Using a talking piece or speaking order, invite each person in the circle (including yourself) to respond to this prompt:

  • What connections do you have with the quote? Did anything about it resonate for you? For example: Who brightens your life? Whose life do you brighten, and how? Whose burdens would you like to ease? What gifts of generosity have filled your heart?

Holiday Traditions in Our Lives

Again using a talking piece or speaking order, invite each person in the circle (including yourself) to respond in turn to some or all of these prompts:

  • What is your favorite holiday? Why?
  • During the holiday season, which traditions from your family and/or culture do you value and hold onto?
  • Which traditions, if any, no longer suit you (or never did suit you)? Have you outgrown them? Do they no longer fit into your life?
  • What would make this holiday season easier/better for you? What can you do that is within your control? What might others do to  make it easier or better for you?
  • Have you started any new traditions – or are there new traditions you would like to start? For instance, new traditions to honor family members and/or friends who are no longer with you?



As a closing, share the following quote:

“This holiday season give yourself the gift of self-love and self-acceptance. Your season will bloom into ultimate bliss.”― Amy Leigh Mercree

Additionally, or as an alternate closing, invite students to share a word or phrase about how they’re feeling at the close of the circle.


Extension Activities

  • What do  you bring? Ask students to consider the idea that “Everyone is needed for what they bring.” Invite them to think about a particular friend or family member. What does that person bring to holiday gatherings or to the holiday season (physically, emotionally, etc.)? Then consider: What is your role? What do you bring?
  • Holiday Favorites: Invite students to share about a favorite song, TV special, movie, food, etc. that they enjoy during a holiday they celebrate.  
  • Holiday Display: Consider a way to honor each holiday that is celebrated and represented  in your classroom community. Perhaps you can create a holidays wall, or a classroom-created photo album or souvenir book.
  • Holiday Resources: Create a classroom list of learning resources based on the holidays that are celebrated by all within the class.
  • Holiday Playlist: Create a classroom holiday playlist where each student contributes a song. Play one selection daily during a transition or other appropriate time.

Resources for Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is cultural, non-religious holiday that is observed from December 26 through January 1. It is a celebration of African roots, observed by people of all faith backgrounds. For more information, see:

Video: What is Kwanzaa?

Kwanzaa History from Oprah Daily

Kwanzaa Traditions