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Teaching Holidays! - October 2001
Holidays are fun, and are easy to teach! Or are they?
In Japan you have loads of holidays! Nearly every month there is a national holiday (like "Sea Day", or "Adults Day"), or a less official holiday like "Girl's Day" or "Tanabata". However, as a foreigner living in Japan, most of these seem to be very "light" festivals, excuses for kids to have fun making crafts (or adults to get very drunk?).
In the West things are a little bit different, most events are based on religion so I'm going to start with a word of caution! Teaching the kids how to make Jack O'lanterns or Christmas Cards isn't really teaching them about the real meaning of the holidays! Things are a lot more complicated, and lots of people feel very strongly about their own festivals, so remember to teach the kids respect! Whilst introducing crafts, photos and videos to the class it is not possible to introduce the whole "experience", but we can at least introduce a little "taste" of culture to the kids!
In English schools children also learn about Hindu and Muslim celebrations and the Chinese New Year. Why? Because many members of the class actually celebrate them! When I was at Elementary School 2 of my best friends were of Chinese and Indian origin, and learning the stories and history behind some of their festivals at school really made me understand more of the things that I first thought "strange" when I visited their houses. So this is the key -- teaching about holidays and festivals lets the kids understand some of the differences they'll see in other countries and will hopefully teach them to respect that different people believe in different things!
One thing you'll probably notice about ALTs is that they aren't very representative of the cultural mix of their respective countries (try counting just how many of them have blue eyes!!). So try asking in your local area if any non-Western people would like to come and talk at your school, hopefully this will teach the kids that "non-Japanese" doesn't mean "white person"!
Elsewhere in this month's kids com there are lots of articles about Hallowe'en. But in England we don't really celebrate Hallowe'en that much, one of the reasons is that it is mainly an American holiday, and maybe one other reason is that it is so close to Guy Fawkes Night on November 5th!
This is the main day in the year when we have fireworks! I see Japanese ones in Summer and it makes me think of Winter! Why do we have fireworks in November? One of the reason maybe that it is daylight until around 10:30 in the evening in English Summers!
Many JETs' countries have special days, such as Canada Day, or Australia Day (where, not surprisingly Australians have a BBQ!). America has July 4th and Thanksgiving. In England we don't have a national day, but April 23rd is St George's Day which can be quite interesting to teach. I have a question for you, what does the English flag look like?
Answer: It is a white background with a red cross through it! But I bet you were thinking of the red, white and blue Union Flag, yeah? Well, that is the flag of the United Kingdom, not England! It is made up of the flags of St George (for England), St Andrew for Scotland (a blue flag with a diagonal white cross, St Andrew is easy to remember because of the golf course!), and the flag of St Patrick (for Ireland, which at the time of making the Union Flag was part of the UK). So next time you see England play in a football match, look out for the real English flag!
But of course holidays are often a time for fun and enjoyment and at one of my schools I told my teachers about the special holiday in Australia called "Koala Day". I told them that this is the only day in the year when you are allowed to eat Koalas. They were so interested that when "Koala Day" came round, I told my teachers that an Australian ALT in town had brought back some Koala the day before. I cooked up the meat in a gorgeous white wine and cream sauce. The teachers loved it, and the Head Teacher was saying how it tasted just like he thought.
Of course, it wasn't until later that they found out the truth, this "Koala Day" was on April 1st.....
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