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How We Are Connected – Interfaith Books For the Winter Solstice
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Interfaith Winter Solstice Books For Inclusive Kiddos
Recommended for ages 2-8
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Every religion (and every human) has a relationship with light.
We’ve been using interfaith stories to understand, respect, and find what we have in common with people of faith around the world. The easiest way I’ve found to do this is to examine how each faith understands their connection with the earth, and the regular events that occur as a byproduct of spinning through space – seasons, solstices, stuff like that.
For kids learning about faith from secular family, we use pay attention to common themes and practices across all religions. Light / sun / fire is a standard go-to around the world, particularly in those darkest months of the winter solstice.
When we discuss faith – I stress to the Earthquakes that there is no particular perspective as fact. It’s hard to swallow for us as atheist/agnostics – but I stress to my kids that there can be cold, hard, scientific facts, cosmologies that directly contradict them, and we have to accept both as a person’s truth.
Want to start conversations on interfaith understanding and acceptance with your kids? Here’s an example of how we used winter holidays and the stories below.
Why do many cultures around the world observe annual winter holidays?
- In our family culture and our community, which celebrations of light do we celebrate?
- What time of the year does this occur?
- What is different about holidays we celebrate in spring, summer, autumn vs. ones we celebrate in winter?
(Leave space for kids to realize that nature-based holidays are marked by a seasonal transition, while social holidays mark a political transition in power.)
- Which cultural light celebrations are solar (sun) based? Which are lunar (moon) based?
- Why are so many winter holidays based on the sun or the moon?
(Leave space for the kiddos to recognize that not much is happening on the ground while plants are dormant and animals are hibernating.)
Discussions on hope in hard times
- In mid-winter around the solstice, the days are dark and cold, and food stores may be running low. Why is important for communities to maintain hope during this time?
- How does having less of something (scarcity) remind us to appreciate it more?
Empathy & connection: Moving from ‘us/them’ an inclusive global ‘us’
- How does cultural fluency – understanding the similarities and differences between cultural norms, help us be better self-advocates and accomplices?
- How are our own family/community celebrations of light similar to those of other cultures?
- Why is it important to learn about traditions other than the ones we celebrate?
- Are our family holidays acknowledged by the wider community and our institutions (ex: schools)?
- How does/would it feel when our most meaningful cultural holidays are invisible or ignored by our community? By those in power?
- Why is it particularly important that we learn the faith and cultural traditions observed by people from targeted groups?
- What can we say or do about a friend’s cultural holiday that shows respect and care for them?
Decolonizing our winter celebrations
- What ideas and values are important to us as a family?
- Why do we celebrate the winter holidays we do? Did we inherit them, or create them ourselves?
- How do the traditions and rituals we make time for align with our family values?
- How can we adjust our holiday rituals to align better with our values?
Beginner Books On Holding Space for Conflicting Beliefs
Observing winter solstice holidays reaffirm social identity and belonging.
While winter is scary and wants to kill us dead – we could run out of food! We could freeze to death! The air hurts our faces! We could get eaten by a starving predator with nothing left to lose!
So through all that scary stuff outside – winter festivals reassure us that we will continue to care for each other. This is our opportunity to commit to hope, we will hold on through the hard months until things get easier. While autumn holidays kick us in gear and remind us to prepare for what’s coming, winter celebrations foster resilience and strengthen community connections.
First Light, First Life
Best for ages 6+
First Light, First Life connection religious practices from around the world in creation stories that center on the sun. This works well even for us science geeks, since life on earth unarguably DOES hinge on the sun providing us with energy. The reason I kick off with this one is that it holds contrasting and parallel ideologies as equal, from Indigenous cultures all around the world.
This is surface-level stuff, with a maker trying to pull together our commonalities and respect our differences in harmony, without judgement. But also with a fair amount of typical errors (like mis-attributing one Indigenous American nation’s beliefs as a global pan-native thing.)
So, as with all compilation-style books like this, use this didactic, nonfiction book as a jumping off point, rather than a go-to textbook.
Celebrations of Light: A Year of Holidays Around the World
Another, rather gorgeously illustrated compilation ALSO lacking a story,* Celebrations of Light includes Gregorian New Year’s, the Lunar New Year (implies it’s only celebrated in Taiwan and China, which is untrue), Lanterns & the month of Ramadan, Lichtmesdag, Buddha’s Birthday, Bon Matsuri, Diwali, Loy Krathong, Hanukkah, Luciadagen, Christmas & Las Posadas, Kwanzaa, and Candelmas.
*(Is it too much to ask to engage kids instead of just dumping facts on their heads?)
The Way To Start A Day
Recommended for ages 4.5+
Kids grow up, stages end, and good and bad things will happen.
But how awesome is it that we get to be here now, welcoming a new day and the opportunity it brings?
How awesome is it that no matter what yesterday was like, we get to remember the good stuff and wake up for another chance to try again?
The Way To Start A Day is mindful guide on gratitude practices to greet a new day around the world, with an emphasis on nations within the Southwest plains of Turtle Island. While it’s not specific to the territory currently called the US, the illustrations intertwine Indigenous people from around the planet – and points out the connection between the rising of the sun and how we approach each new day. I really liked this one.
Greet The Dawn
Recommended for ages 6+
When God Made Light
Recommended for ages 5.5+
When God Made Light is the most blatantly religious of the collection, as it’s written for ex-fundamentalist Christians, and maintains the presumption that creation is intentionally designed by an intelligent god.
As atheist/agnostics, our family approaches this in a complicated way. Some folks believe in a conscious god. We don’t. Who is right? Both! Cause it’s important to start those little brains young on realizing that there is no objective truth when it comes to belief.
Raised in an abusive fundamentalist Christian home, Turner created this progressive Christian series as an exercise in trauma mastery – to dismantle the more toxic aspects of fundamentalism, while also holding onto the good stuff that Jesus said before Christianity got all political – you an unconditionally valuable part of the universe.
The book is supposed to be for preschoolers, but like the others, there’s no story, and the flowery language goes right over the Earthquakes heads: “Now, when God made light, God made all different kinds. Some sparkles, some flares, but all light shines. It flashes in bolts when lightning is crashing or bursts through the sky when a comet is dashing.”
So I’d save it for older kids – both so they have a chance to think critically about intelligent design without us that assumption down their throats as fact – but also because the language is just tought to parse, particularly for literal thinkers.
Baby Loves Thermodynamics**
Recommended for ages 3+
This one is out of print, but not worth the price tag of a rare book – so grab it at the library if yours has a copy.
A candle gets passed to different neighbors – from a woman celebrating US thanksgiving, to a Havdalah candle for Shabbat, to a St Lucia crown, to a kinara candle for Kwanzaa. It’s really a story so much as families realizing they don’t have the candle they need and building community by asking for help from neighbors.
It’s very sweet and makes a good intro book if you have it around – but won’t provide any background on what all these traditions are and why folks celebrate them.
Flash and Gleam
Covering a few of the cultural world holidays that celebrate light – this expands beyond winter, but is a helpful nonfiction book to get kids started on discussing the similarities between practices across the planet.
Lights of Winter: Winter Celebrations Around the World
Includes short introductions to a few winter light-based celebrations excluded from common winter holiday books, including Solstice, Yule, Christmas, Kwanza, Hanukkah, Teng Chieh, Diwali, Soyal, Las Posadas, Zagmuk, and Saturnalia.
Some videos to help with guided discussions
How Coyote & Eagle stole the sun & moon
You might also like
Celebrations of light:
Relevant book collections:
- Kids books about courageous generosity
- Books For Littles Winter Favorites
- Transformative Kids Stories To Kick Off Your New Years
- Cozy Kid’s Books To Warm Up Your Winter
- Decolonizing Thanksgiving Is An Oxymoron – Kids Books Dismantling The Myth of a ‘First Thanksgiving’
- Kids Books About Radical Interdependence: The Kindness of Giving, Taking, and Asking
- Interfaith Friendship Stories
Stay Curious, Stand Brave, and Greet the Sun
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