The multicultural holiday calendar highlights the importance of respecting different cultures and taking them into account in schools and early childhood education

14.9.2023 6.46Updated: 22.9.2023 10.16

As per tradition, the multicultural holiday calendar has now been published for the ninth time, for the school year 2023–2024. The number and share of multilingual children of basic education age in the age group is growing in Espoo. Already about a quarter of the pupils in basic education in Espoo and more than one-tenth of the students in general upper secondary schools are multilingual. The calendar is delivered to the city’s daycare centres, schools, general upper secondary schools and youth centres.

The multicultural holiday calendar increases children’s and young people’s awareness of different religions and cultures and supports schools in multiculturalism. Espoo is a multicultural city, and the calendar highlights the importance of respecting different cultures and taking them into account.

Different cultures as part of Espoo’s instruction and early childhood education

Espoo comprehensive school pupils speak as many as 141 different languages as their mother tongue, with the schools providing mother tongue education in 41 different languages. Instruction is arranged in eight religion and ethics subjects: Evangelical-Lutheran, Orthodox, Catholic, Jewish and Krishna religion as well as Islam, Buddhism and ethics studies. The instruction also covers religions and ethical views outside the chosen subject.

Cultural instructors work in basic education and general upper secondary schools to support pupils and students as well as families and school staff.

In basic education, cultural instruction is available in Arabic, Kurdish (Sorani), Dari/Farsi, Somali, Thai, Chinese, Albanian, Russian, Estonian and Ukrainian. Espoo schools are multicultural communities with pupils from different backgrounds. The multicultural holiday calendar helps schools take note of the holidays of all cultures represented by pupils. In addition to supporting the planning work of schools and principals, the calendar is used for teaching purposes. It can be used to learn about different holidays, traditions and related stories, both individual and common ones, in Finland and elsewhere.

Cultural instructors in general upper secondary education help students and guardians with questions relating to general upper secondary school studies in Finnish, Arabic, Somali, Russian and, if possible, also in Chinese. The cultural instructor’s competence emphasises multidisciplinary cooperation and interaction with the students and the entire school staff, with a culturally sensitive work approach. During this school year, various cultural events have been organised in Espoo’s general upper secondary schools, and traditional holidays have been celebrated with the students.

“By knowing and understanding multicultural holidays, young people develop their awareness of the world and grow to appreciate the diversity of the people of the world. It also helps to reduce misunderstandings and discrimination against students with an immigrant background,” says Shan Zhu, Project Planner of the ‘Ohjauksella onnistumisiin’ (Success through instruction) project, who serves general upper secondary school students, their families and school staff in Chinese, Finnish, French and English. Read more about the cultural instructors

The holiday calendar awakens children’s and young people’s interest in different cultures

The multicultural holiday calendar is utilised by schools in, for example, instruction in religion and ethics subjects and multicultural education. The school’s management can also use the calendar in planning the school year, since holidays that affect daily life at the school are easily found in one place.

At schools and daycare centres, children and young people like to find holidays familiar to them in the calendar, which strengthens their identity.

Children grow up in a diverse world where different languages, cultures and worldviews are constantly interacting. In daily life in early childhood education, this means that the group can have children from many different backgrounds.

“The family of your friend at daycare may speak a language different from the one you speak at home, celebrate different holidays or eat different foods. In early childhood education, diversity is considered a natural part of everyday life and is talked about as a positive thing that enriches the community. This way, children learn to understand and appreciate each other’s customs and culture,” says Jaana Särmälä, Early Childhood Education Specialist at Espoo’s Finnish-language Early Childhood Education.

The multicultural holiday calendar offers an opportunity to explore the holidays and celebrations of different cultures and religions. In early childhood education, children are encouraged to share their experiences and traditions, so they can also learn about each other’s cultures by asking and listening. This fosters empathy, cultural sensitivity and openness to different perspectives.

“The aim is to create an inclusive atmosphere in which every child in early childhood education feels accepted and part of the community. It is also important for everyone to learn to understand differences, put themselves in someone else’s shoes and look at things from different angles,” Särmälä says.

Explore the multicultural holiday calendar

The multicultural holiday calendar is compiled in cooperation with teachers of religion and ethics subjects. The holidays of different religions and national holidays are depicted on the calendar using symbols.

Every year, we receive queries about the calendar across municipal boundaries. Posters are sent to the city’s daycare centres, schools, general upper secondary schools and youth centres to be put up in common spaces and classrooms. The calendar is also available online.

The calendar for the school year 2023–2024 is available in Finnish and Swedish at the end of this news item.

  • Basic Education
  • Growth and Learning
  • Early Childhood Education