Tag Archives: multicultural holidays

Christmas Around the World

"Merry Christmas" in many languagesguest post by Edmond Gubbins

Teaching in a small, rural, primary school rooted in the Catholic ethos in Ireland, Christmas is a central tradition celebrated by the students. Each year in December, the children perform a Christmas pageant, attended by their families and fellow schoolmates. However, my colleagues and I decided that, this year, we would divert from telling the traditional story of the birth of Jesus Christ and the Nativity and move instead toward teaching a more inclusive Christmas story, one that authentically captures the experiences of children from a range of diverse backgrounds. It is from this theme: “Christmas Around the World” that my journey into fostering an appreciation for the diversity of Christmas customs among my students originated.

Fostering an Appreciation for Diversity

As a teacher of 2nd and 3rd class students (ages 8-10), the children I teach have grown up hearing about the customs and stories familiar to them and their families during Christmas time. I wanted to push their understanding of this holiday and help them realize that the celebration of important feasts and festivals are dependent on a variety of factors, including (but not limited to) their nationality, belief systems, family values and personal identity. We have done much work this school year already on the concept of identity and how our identity shares features that are common to other people, distinct from other people and unique to ourselves. Arising from this conceptual understanding, it made sense to take our Christmas show in a similar direction and investigate some of the traditions in December through a multicultural lens. What better way to do it than through the medium of drama, where the children can truly step into the shoes of another and see Christmas traditions from a multitude of perspectives?

“Our show will help you see that Christmas isn’t the same for you and me!”

My students and I have learned much from this project. As we looked at how Christmas is celebrated in Poland through a retelling of Marek and Alice’s Christmas in class one day, discussion naturally followed about how the holiday is marked in other countries. There are some fantastic resources online that we used in devising the script for the show. Writing a script for over 30 excited children, making sure that every child has their time to shine on stage, while also allowing them to learn about cultures different from their own was no easy task, let me tell you! However, now that rehearsals have started, I can tell already that it is a project that has been worthwhile for my own knowledge but also for the children’s attitudes of acceptance and appreciation of diversity.

So what does Christmas look like around the world?

Our pageant looks at some of the customs, foods and songs associated with Christmas in a host of countries. For example, in certain parts of Russia, many people do not eat on Christmas Eve until the first star has appeared in the night sky. Families then eat 12 courses of food to represent the 12 disciples of Jesus. My children were fascinated to learn about the tradition of eating kutia, a porridge-like meal, during the Christmas feast. All the family eats from the same bowl to symbolise unity. Some families even hold the custom of throwing a spoonful of kutia up onto the ceiling and, if it sticks, they hope to enjoy good luck for the year ahead.

The traditional Christmas songs or carols that the children have been learning since they started primary school quite often originated in another country and from another language. For example, the song “O Christmas Tree” was originally in German and called “O Tannenbaum.” Other songs, such as “O Holy Night” (originally a French song), “Deck the Halls” (from Wales) and “The Little Drummer Boy” (from Czech Republic) are much loved by both children and adults alike. Part of our show sees the children singing the well-known song “Silent Night” in 3 languages – English, Irish, and German, the language it was originally sung in. The lyrics, with a phonetic pronunciation are here if you’d like try it yourself:

"Silent Night" lyrics in German

Ho, Ho, Who?

Of course, one of the most exciting parts of Christmas for children is the receiving of presents. In Ireland, Santa Claus (or Daidí na Nollag in the Irish language) travels around the country on his sleigh, delivering presents to all the boys and girls who have been good. Children usually go to visit Santa in the weeks leading up to Christmas to let Santa know what they would like him to deliver to them.

Our show has a scene where Santas from other countries are being interviewed about how they deliver presents to children where they come from. In the Netherlands, Santa is called Sinterklaas. He usually travels on a white horse, wearing a tall hat with a jewelled staff in hand as he travels through the night. His companion Grumpus is said to rattle his chains at children who are naughty!

In France, Père Noël wears a long red cloak to keep warm. Children leave their shoes out by the fireplace on Christmas Eve night in the hope that they will be filled full of presents when they wake on Christmas morning.

In Russia, Ded Moroz or “Father Frost” is assisted by Snegurochka (meaning “Snow Maiden”) on Christmas Eve night. You’d better watch out though because he has been known to kidnap naughty children!

In Italy, the tradition of the jolly man wearing red is quite different! La Befana is a witch who travels around on her broomstick every year to deliver gifts to children. Sometimes, she may even sweep the floors of the houses she visits with her broomstick to sweep away any bad luck. Both the children and I had never heard of this particular tradition and many were eager to play this part in the show.

Piquing the children’s natural interest in the figure of Santa Claus provided a rich stimulus for discussion about traditions that their own families celebrated. Some children in my class contacted relatives in other countries in places as far from Ireland as Australia to hear about how they eat their Christmas dinner on the beach!

Before the Curtain Goes Up

What has been gained from looking at Christmas from an international lens? Undoubtedly, the children’s knowledge has broadened in myriad ways through our exploration of the theme “Christmas Around the World.” In investigating the traditions, foods and songs of other countries, the children have been enabled to hold a mirror up to their own traditions and see similarities and differences between their culture and the cultural identities of other boys and girls around the world. Through music, dance, and drama, the children are very tangibly realising that the holiday of Christmas may be celebrated differently around the world, but that does not make it any less special. Our show hasn’t even been performed yet, but I hope the children will remember it and what it has taught them for many years to come.

Edmond Gubbins is a 2nd and 3rd class elementary teacher from County Limerick in Ireland. Owing to his extensive work with Language Lizard during the completion of his Master’s in Education at West Chester University in Pennsylvania, he has a keen interest in multiculturalism and fostering an appreciation for diversity in his students.

Holidays & Food: Celebrate with a Discount on Bilingual Children’s Books

bilingual childrens books food themed discount holidays

Think of any holiday celebrated in any part of the world, and there is sure to be at least one traditional dish associated with it. Thanksgiving turkey, curry on Boxing Day, or rice cakes for Chinese New Year… Food is the cornerstone of any celebration.

In an article that explores the relationship between food and culture, writer Amy S. Choi says, “Food feeds the soul. To the extent that we all eat food, and we all have souls, food is the single great unifier across cultures.” She says that to understand a culture’s food is to know the story of their identity, survival, status, pleasure and community.

Another article on parents.com delves into the oftentimes surprising history behind many traditional holiday dishes, like Christmas fruit cake and Hanukkah latkes. Did you know sweets are eaten during Diwali to symbolize the defeat of evil and the triumph of goodness and light?

To get your classroom and family talking about their favorite holiday dishes, Language Lizard is offering a 10% discount on these fun, food-themed bilingual children’s books:

Yum Let's Eat! Bilingual children's bookYum! Let’s Eat! – Meet children from around the world and explore their foods and eating traditions. This story explores the rich diversity of children’s lives and develops a worldwide perspective.

Grandma's Saturday Soup - bilingual children's bookGrandma’s Saturday Soup – Every day something reminds Mimi of Grandma’s special Saturday Soup and the tales her grandma tells. Delightful descriptions of Jamaica, accompanied by vivid illustrations, will make us all wish that we had a grandma like this!

Buri and the Morrow - bilingual children's bookBuri and the Marrow – In this famous Bengali story, an old woman travels through the forest to meet her daughter. On her way she meets a fox, a tiger and a lion, and she must come up with a plan to outwit them.

Alice and Marek's Christmas - bilingual children's bookAlice & Marek’s Christmas – It’s Christmas Eve and everyone is getting ready. This story explores the different ways people celebrate  around the world. There are recipes and activities in this beautifully illustrated book that takes us to the heart of Christmas in Poland.

Deepak's Diwali - bilingual children's bookDeepak’s Diwali –  This warm contemporary story is interwoven with beautifully illustrated images from Hindu mythology. The book is packed with recipes and activities for the whole family to enjoy.

Samira's Eid - bilingual children's bookSamira’s Eid – The first sighting of the new moon starts a day of celebration for Samira and her family. The Ramadan fast is over and now it is time for prayers and presents. A surprise visitor brings a mysterious present and has an unusual story to tell. Great for teaching children about Islamic holidays and culture.

Li's Chinese New Year - bilingual children's bookLi’s Chinese New Year – It’s nearly the New Year and Li can’t figure out what animal he’s going to be in the special school assembly. Will he be a fierce tiger or a strong ox? Find each of the 12 zodiac animals on your way through the story, and discover facts and activities relating to the festival at the back of the book.

The Giant Turnip - bilingual children's bookThe Giant Turnip – This traditional story is set in an inner-city school where the children have grown an enormous turnip! How can they pull it out? They all try together but the turnip will not budge. Who will save the day?

limasredhotchilliLima’s Red Hot Chilli – Take one hungry little girl, six different tempting foods and one shiny, delicious red hot chilli. One big bite results in a spectacular display of fireworks. Mom, Dad, Aunt and Grandad all come to help, but Lima’s mouth is still too hot. Who can rescue her?

Just enter code FOOD15 during checkout to receive 10% off these fun, holiday food-themed titles, now through December 31, 2015.

5 Kid Crafts that Add Multicultural Traditions to Your Thanksgiving

little hands making heart over earth drawing

Bring cultural diversity and international flavor to your Thanksgiving with these five easy kid crafts. The best part? They can all be made with materials you probably already have. Plus, they involve minimal mess and are simple enough for most kids to complete on their own. (You can also check out our previous posts for ways to celebrate a bilingual Thanksgiving, at home or in the classroom.)

Thanksgiving: Here and Around the World

The first Thanksgiving was an occasion for people to gather together and celebrate a good harvest. Most cultures around the world have harvest celebrations, though not always in November. (Abraham Lincoln was actually the first US president to propose an official Thanksgiving holiday in our country. You can read more about Thanksgiving history here.) Harvest celebrations coincide with a country’s seasons and the kind of crop they are harvesting.

Thanksgiving Crafts Inspired By Multicultural Traditions

1. India: Pongal – Kolam Chalk Drawings

Kolam phot By Benedict (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons Photo by Benedict via Wikimedia Commons

Kolam photo By Vishnu.116 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsPhoto by Vishnu.116 via Wikimedia Commons

Pongal, the harvest festival of Southern India, is celebrated in January or February. It celebrates the successful harvest of rice, sugar cane and tumeric. Kolam drawings are traditionally symmetrical and placed in front of doors. These drawings are believed to bring happiness and prosperity. For this activity, you just need some colored chalk and clear weather outside.

2. Israel: Sukkot – CD SuncatcherSukkot CD suncatcher diversity craft

The festival of Sukkot, celebrated in September or October, is a time to remember the culture’s agricultural roots. The holiday centers around a special kind of dwelling called a “sukkah,” which has a roof of organic material, like palm leaves. The inside of the sukkah is strung with bright, shiny decorations. Make this craft with old, scratched CDs, and anything shiny and colorful you have on hand.

3. Vietnam: Mid-Autumn Festival – Lanternsmid-autumn festival lantern diversity craftmid-autumn festival lantern cultural diversity

The Mid-Autumn Festival on August 15th celebrates a successful harvest and also honors children. Kids get special lanterns and take part in a parade. Our lanterns are made from paper and tape, and can inspire your own kids’ parade at home!

4. Portugal: Madeira Flower Festival – Headbands and Hatsmadeira hat multicultural craftmadeira hat instructions international craft

The Madeira Flower Festival takes place in the Spring, when flowers are abloom. The festival features a parade with floats and flowers everywhere, especially worn on clothing. Kids can make flowers out of any material you have: gift wrap, kleenex, colored paper, paper towels, or scraps of fabric. The flowers can be secured with pipe cleaner, tape, yarn, or rubber bands onto headbands, hats, belts or any article of clothing. If the weather is nice, the kids can have a parade, in true Flower Festival spirit.

5. United Kingdom: Harvest Festival – Corn Husk DollsUK Harvest Doll multicultural craftharvest doll instructions diversity craft

The UK’s Harvest Festival happens in September or October, and includes singing and decorating churches with baskets of food. One traditional harvest time craft is making corn husk dolls. Since I didn’t have corn husks on hand, I used scraps of fabric. Once completed, kids can make hair from yarn and clothes from felt.

Give these crafts a try this Thanksgiving, and add some multicultural traditions to your celebration. That’s one more wonderful thing to be thankful for!

This blog post is linked with the monthly Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop. Be sure to check out other bloggers’ tips, teaching strategies, and resources!

Creative Kids Culture Blog Hop

 

Celebrating Halloween Around the World

Kids love Halloween: the costumes, the candy, the parties! The excitement and holiday spirit surrounding Halloween provide an ideal opportunity to inject some multicultural education into the mix. We know that American children don costumes, carve pumpkins and go trick or treating, but where did this holiday start and what do other countries do to celebrate?

Also called Allhalloween, All Hallows’ Eve, or All Saints’ Eve, Halloween is observed in various countries every year on October 31, the eve of the Western Christian feast of All Hallows’ Day. Devoted to deceased souls including martyrs, saints (hallows), and faithful departed worshippers, the festival starts with a three-day religious observance and ends with evening prayer. Many scholars believe that the celebration of “All Hallows’ Eve” developed from Celtic harvest festivals, whereas others contend that it originated independently of Samhain (the Gaelic festival marking the end of the harvest season). Early traditions included carving jack-o’-lanterns out of turnips or winter squash, and wearing costumes to ward off evil spirits.

In the 19th century, mass transatlantic immigration popularized Halloween in the United States and Canada. Gradually, commemorating Halloween expanded to places including South America, Australia, New Zealand and continental Europe.

How people celebrate Halloween differs from country to country. In Scotland and Ireland, children dress up traditional costumes, host parties, light bonfires, and enjoy fireworks. In Brittany, France, lighting candles in skulls in graveyards is a popular tradition. In some countries, people attend church services and light candles on the graves of the dead. In other parts of the world, these solemn traditions are less popular and people are more focused on wearing costumes, attending parties, and “trick or treating.”

When preparing for Halloween parties, teach students about the origins of the holiday and some of the unique traditions in other countries. You also can use it as an opportunity to teach about related holidays, such as Mexico’s El Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead), a three day celebration that begins on October 31st. Consider having some of your students talk about any similar holidays in their home country or asking older students to do research on how Halloween is celebrated in another part of the world.

Make the fun multicultural!

For additional suggestions on celebrating global traditions in Autumn with your children and students, please see our earlier blog post: Traditions Around the World: Celebrate Autumn.

For more information on how Halloween is celebrated in other countries, you can visit the following sites:

–       www.novareinna.com/festive/world.html

–       www.pumpkinpatchesandmore.org/halloweenglobal.php

Share how you celebrate Halloween by commenting below.

(photo credit: hin255)

10 Tips on Celebrating Cultural Diversity in the Classroom this Winter Season

Santa Lucia celebration

As the days shorten and the weather turns cold and crisp, families are warming up with their winter holiday celebrations. Candles, lights, sweets and gifts highlight this time of year in many cultures around the world.

Although celebrating specific religious traditions is not permitted in most classrooms in America, there is no reason for teachers to avoid winter holidays all together. In fact, teaching about winter traditions can be a wonderful way to help bilingual children, in particular, feel even more comfortable and included in the classroom setting. The overall focus should be on helping students appreciate both the diversity and similarities of our global traditions.

Here are 10 suggestions for how teachers can help students appreciate winter holidays from around the world:
Continue reading 10 Tips on Celebrating Cultural Diversity in the Classroom this Winter Season

Multicultural Calendar – Diversity Calendar 2012

With the holiday season approaching, we wanted to let you know about a wonderful Multicultural Calendar that we recently discovered.

This calendar would make a great gift for educators, families and organizations who celebrate diversity and teach children about other cultures and holidays.  In fact, we liked it so much that Language Lizard has decided to give a few away!

Developed by artist Sheena Singh, this beautiful calendar includes hundreds of multicultural, multi-faith and diversity related holidays and observances.  It provides accurate dates with explanations for each of the world’s twelve major religions and the cultural festivals of most ethnic groups in North America, including Aboriginal People, Bahai, Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Islam, Jain, Jewish, Shinto, Sikh and more.  It also includes cultural festivals of over 140 countries.   Continue reading Multicultural Calendar – Diversity Calendar 2012