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Winter Break Celebration



Readers know that my own childhood inspired "I Don't Celebrate Anything." I have also had a review that stated that there are more holidays than just Christmas, Hannukah and Kwanza, which is true.  However, I wanted to start Annie's story with the celebrations during the Winter season. As a teacher, I know the effort put into the winter holidays, which ends with a two-week vacation. This particular holiday time and vacation, I believe, has the biggest impact on a child.

Initially, I assumed the impact was primarily dur to the cultural and religious differences in holidays and celebrations. However, readers have shared with me that Annie's story resonates with them for different reasons. A child who feels safer at school where they are fed and feel love. A child who connects Christmas with their parents drinking, fighting and the police being called. A child whose family is facing financial hardships, unable to afford a Christmas tree and will only receive a small handmade gift that is subject to be ridiculed by peers. Or the child who just lost a parent and is just trying to process their loss, and the idea of being happy and celebrating is too much.


For me, the story was meant to capture the experience of a child yearning to fit in and be part of the group but consistently being told they are different. This feeling of being an outsider, isn't limited to one day, but extends for weeks, from Christmas stories during story time to Santa Claus crafts in art class and carol signing in music class.  Add in the omnipresence of Christmas decorations, music and commercials EVERYWHERE well before December can add to the feeling about being different and left out.


What I've learned through introducing Annie the Porcupine is that it's not merely about not celebrating; rather, that not everyone celebrates in the same way. Assumptions about uniform Christmas traditions across all families is inaccurate. Not ever family puts up stockings, has an elf on the shelf, or believes in Santa. Older children may comprehend these differences more easily, but for younger ones who perceive their world as the only reality, it can be challenging.

My perspective has changed about this time  of year. I think it is a good time to reflect on family and traditions. Not necessarily centered around a specific holiday but rather activities your family enjoys doing together. For Annie the Porcupine it is a road trip to Grammy and Pappy, a snowball fight and hot cocoa by a bonfire. For me, I cherish the time spent with my family, especially as they grow older and start their own families. What traditions do you hold dear, keeping you eagerly anticipating this time of year?

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