Holiday themed events are tricky at libraries. Debates arise ALL the time about inclusive/exclusive programming. Here are numerous articles capturing pros and cons for celebrating the holidays. My library director is a proud atheist and will not hesitate to make sure the holidays are inclusive. My personal opinion is that this all depends on your community. Before I talk about that, I'll briefly talk about my relationship with Santa.
My mom was an orphan at a very young age. She found out (the sad way by receiving no presents) due to her mother's death that year THAT THERE IS NO SANTA! Even more specifically, a black Santa. She was forever traumatized by that. She promised herself that her children will not find out the hard way that Santa doesn't exist. She raised us to NOT believe in Santa not because of religious purposes, but the fear of her and my father dying. I remember getting in trouble in kindergarten because the teacher asked me what Santa was bringing me for Christmas.
Me: Santa is not bringing me anything, he's not real.
Classmate: SANTA IS REAL.
Me: (facial expressions are serious and abruptly stands up) HE'S NOT REAL. HE'S YOUR MOM AND DAD!
*Teacher having a panic attack*
Teacher: JESSICA! GO to the principal's office.
Me: HE's not real! Tell them. (points at teacher)
Classmate: (shouting) He is REAL!
Me: (turning to the class) You're all stupid if you believe in Santa.
Needless to say, My mom was mortified. She told me in the car "It's great, Jessica, that you are smarter than the other kids, however, you cannot talk about Santa not being real." She later told me as a grown-up she completely forgot to tell me to keep in a secret. I just remember my young self just happy that I was smarter than the masses. My mom (to this day) still writes jokingly that our presents are from Santa. If were mall shopping, and would see Santa, we would get our picture with Santa.
Our library only does one holiday program in partnership with the community. When the city's holiday parade happens, we do conjunction programming to provide an opportunity for parents to take their children out from the cold warm up with hot chocolate, sing, hear stories, and make crafts. We hope to encourage some people unfamiliar with the library to step in and visit this warm and welcoming space.
We have more than one library in our city and they do not do any holiday programming. If community members do not want to celebrate they do have access to visit other branches. Furthermore, our holiday program does not last the whole day, which is specified, so again patrons who do not celebrate can still have access to the library. We partner to promote other cultural opportunities like the symphony's holiday concert and the Grand Rapids Ballet that hold holiday programming happening that same day.
Past Mrs. Claus Storytime
That's me! I won't begin to tell you how many people get all weird about Mrs. Claus being black. The BEST THING---is when Santa Claus stops in and kids get this confused look on their face and start asking their parents "is that okay." HILARIOUS. What isn't hilarious, is watching parents with children pass by me with their kid or out right ask me if I have seen Mrs. Claus. We won't even talk about that issue. My then-boyfriend (now husband) would get infuriated on behalf of people. It was cute (him---not the people).
I can't find the pictures detailing this tidbit, but the book featured above is my favorite to use for this holiday event. I sang this song and had a high number of Spanish speakers in the audience. The first thing I got was a little girl running up to me excitedly speaking Spanish asking if she could read the book. I wish I could find that picture! She was so excited to sing along with her brother as they turned the pages and spoke excitedly about the pictures in the story.
11.19 Pictures!!! (Misha found them because he's the best!)
I understand the arguments against programming and I do think your programming has to be intentional if you are going to celebrate the holidays in programming. I have found that there's something magical about non-library regulars who become patrons because you did a story time and they see themselves represented during the holidays. I think another great thing about having holiday programming is the issue of money. A parent thanked us because she couldn't afford Santa pictures for her kids, and she was glad she had an opportunity to get pictures for free. Again, I really think all programming is based upon your community. If you are intentional about what works for your community, then it will be successful.