Information Possibly Outdated
The information presented on this page was originally released on November 5, 2001. It may not be outdated, but please search our site for more current information. If you plan to quote or reference this information in a publication, please check with the Extension specialist or author before proceeding.
Tolerance may be 2001's 'hottest' gift
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Toy manufacturers' goal each year is to produce the most popular item, but tolerance may be this holiday season's hottest gift.
Holiday shoppers have enthusiastically purchased Cabbage Patch and Tickle Me Elmo dolls and Sony Playstations in recent years, but this may be the year Americans turn to more traditional expressions of the season.
"Crises have a way of focusing our attention on the things and people who are most precious to us. This year, most people seem more interested in the simple joys of life and holiday traditions," said Louise Davis, child and family development specialist with Mississippi State University's Extension Service. "This holiday season will be a perfect time for families to make an effort to reconsider their heritage and traditions as well as study different cultures and how they celebrate the holidays."
In some cases, the Sept. 11 tragedies have influenced people to look outside their faith and try to understand other religions. Christians and Jews are studying Islam, and Muslims are listening to Christian and Jewish leaders explain their faiths.
"Understanding different religions and cultural celebrations is the first step to tolerating differences and living together in a community," Davis said. "We need to help children develop positive self-concepts and be proud of who they are; but we don't want them to feel superior to other groups, either."
Davis said the holidays yield several good opportunities for people to study several different cultures through their holiday traditions. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and Ramadan are major celebrations taking place between now and the first part of January. Adults likely will have to study about the different cultures before trying to teach children about other traditions.
The month of Ramadan begins around Nov. 17, the week of Hanukkah begins at sunset on Dec. 9, Christmas is Dec. 25, and Kwanzaa takes place from Dec. 26 until Jan. 1.
"Teachers and child-care workers should make an effort to know parents' wishes for their child's environment," Davis said. "You wouldn't want to impose a tradition on a child, but you may be able to teach them about many holiday traditions. Parents need to be informed and in some cases, consulted about what their children will learn."
An additional group to consider is families who don't have any religious preference.
"Usually, even families who don't have a religious affiliation will take part in secular holiday activities. Still, teachers should be sensitive and help children learn about all groups and learn to respectfully tolerate differences," Davis said.
For more information, contact: Dr. Louise Davis, (662) 325-3083