We are now in the midst of the holiday season. How does a public library (or school library) handle the holidays? Or, how should a public library handle the holidays?
This time of year is a potential minefield. What can we as community agents do to be inclusive, celebratory, and not make anyone feel marginalized? Should we attempt to embrace all holidays? Do we ignore overtly religious references? I’m going to share my library’s practice for both winter holiday seasonal programming and decorating. I’d love to hear what other libraries do for the winter holidays and for you to share your perspectives on the entire season.
To put the sheer number of celebrations into context, here is a sampling of some December holidays:
Dec 6 St. Nicholas Day (Christian)
Dec 8 Bodhi Day ( Buddhist)
Dec 13 Eid Milad ul-Nabi (Muslim)
Dec 13 St. Lucia Day (Christian)
Dec 16-24 – Las Posadas (Christian)
Dec 21-25 Pancha Ganapati (Hindi)
Dec 21 Solstice (Pagan)
Dec 23 Festivus (Secular)
Dec 24 Christmas Eve (Christian)
Dec 24-Jan 1 Hanukkah (Jewish)
Dec 25 Christmas (Christian)
Dec 26-Jan 1 Kwanzaa (secular)
Dec 31 New Years Eve (secular)
That’s a lot of celebrating.
Some questions to consider include: does Santa or Mrs. Claus make an appearance? What about a tree, menorah or other accouterments of the season? Ideally, there seem to be two main directions a library can take: go with a general winter décor, or go all-in and embrace all holidays equally.
At my library, the decorations are “wintry” but not holiday specific; with lots of snowflakes, evergreens, snowmen, and forest animals. Currently we have a giving tree set up in our entrance lobby. We partner with a local charity to collect gifts for local families. For those not familiar with giving trees, each paper ornament has written on it a wish list item for the families. Patrons select an ornament and bring back the gifts to the library for delivery.
Some libraries in my area still have Santa or Mrs. Claus make an appearance at special storytimes. These libraries report that the programs always fill up quickly and are wait-listed.
The closest my library comes to having the head elf show is at a very popular pet photo with Santa program we coordinate at a local dog daycare. We also participate in the village’s annual Holiday Rock on the Fox event which features the lighting of the village tree, a candy cane hunt, and welcomes Santa into town. These are both off-site collaborative programs.
Seasonal programs we hold at the library includes a performance by a high school madrigal choir, and a DIY evergreen door swag. Some festive youth programs we are holding in December include a gingerbread house program, a snowman program, and a Harry Potter Yule Ball after hours lock-in.
How does your library handle the winter holidays? Do you decorate, have a tree, menorah or other symbols of the season? Does Santa visit? We’d be interested to hear how different libraries treat the winter holiday season.