Celebrations and Schools

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1 Celebrations and Schools How does one celebrate festivals? Why do we celebrate festivals? Is the way two families celebrate diwali or eid the same? What do the young minds we work with understand about these celebrations? With the festive season around the corner, we, as educators, can capture the beauty of the festivals and build experiences that will go a long way towards children learning about religious festivals, special foods, songs and loads of other information. All this can be centred on themes in the school. The music teachers can think of songs, the art department could plan art and craft work, language teachers could have written work, essays, poems and even stories, social sciences can organise visits to places of worship and an in-depth study of symbols and other religious practices, Holy Books can be a matter of discussion. The general atmosphere in the school also becomes festive when students are allowed on special days to come in appropriate clothes. Maybe assembly time can have a small play or dramatised version of some aspect of the festival. The historical perspective and the origins of celebrations can be of interest to older students. In the classroom interest also increases dramatically when students are encouraged to bring a sample of special food or sweets and share it with each other. Of course, as with all good things, one needs a healthy dose of planning sprinkled liberally with coordination!! Using a variety of written and visual sources children could learn and understand some ways in which religious belief informs religious practice today. It offers them an opportunity to examine and reflect on issues of faith. They evaluate the relationship between religious beliefs and practice in society today. This is a major step towards understanding citizenship. Some questions which could guide your inquiry with the students: Why isn't Diwali celebrated on the same date each year? What is the story of King Rama? What is the story of the demon Narakaasura? Explain the ways in which people s beliefs affect their way of life? Make a mind map of significant features of a religion. Find 3 things, which are common to all religions. Use a graphic organiser to do this. How are beliefs shown in festivals? Why is prayer important? Where was the birth of Christ? Who were the 3 wise men? Why does the midnight mass take place? Would you like to learn some Christmas carols?

2 What is the significance of fasting for 40 days for the Muslims? How is the festival celebrated in a typical Muslim family? What customs are associated with Diwali? What is the significance? Why do Jews light candles on Hanukkah? What are the commonalities in the celebrations? Can you think of some new holidays, which you may as a school like to celebrate? The following are some of the major religious and cultural celebrations coming up: Diwali: This colourful Festival of Lights, celebrated by Hindus and Sikhs, commemorates the ancient story of Prince Rama and Sita's homecoming after the defeat of Ravana (the demon king). The word Diwali means "rows of lighted lamps" and the celebration is often referred to as the Festival of Lights because of the common practice of lighting small oil lamps (called diyas) and placing them in and around the home. Eid ul Fitr - a public holiday in Islamic countries, this celebration marks the end of Ramadan (the spiritual month of fasting). Eid is a favourite among Muslim children, as they receive lots of presents! Birthday of Guru Nanak Dev - on 30 November Sikhs celebrate the birth of Guru Nanak Dev, founder of Sikhism. Hanukkah - this Jewish Festival of Lights happens over eight days in December, and recalls Jews' struggle for religious freedom. Families light one candle on the menorah (special candelabra) for each night of the celebration. Christmas Day - on 25 December, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by going to church, sharing a meal and giving presents. Eid ul Adha - this four to five-day Islamic festival marks the end of Hajj (the holy pilgrimage to Mecca), and is celebrated by Muslims the world over. We have put together a set of activities keeping in mind the festive season. The focus in this issue has been on Diwali. However, this can be changed and any other festival can also be used to achieve the same impact on thought and attitudes.

3 Adapted from : OBJECTIVES: - Students will recognize that countries and religions have celebrations unique to their culture and beliefs. - Students will recognize that certain values, themes, and symbols may be shared and reinforced through festivals - Students will demonstrate their understanding of the themes and symbols that are associated with the different festivals. - Students will participate in a service project centered on spreading good luck and fortune in their community. -Students will demonstrate their understanding of fasting and abstinence. Time Allotment: Approximately 2 to 3 class periods plus time for service project. Some strategies that can be used: A. Brainstorm. Have students think about how people in other areas of the world might celebrate their holidays. What may be the reasons for celebrations? Did people in times long ago have such celebrations? Find out what the students know of festivals of religions other than their own. B. Mini-lecture. Explain that people all over the world have special times when they celebrate themes and events that are important to them. Discuss how in India one of the major holidays is Diwali, or the Hindu New Year. Briefly talk about Hinduism and tell students that Diwali is celebrated in late October or early November. Share information about this holiday. Check for understanding by asking review questions and using review material when the need arises. Have students write a paragraph or draw something they felt was important about Diwali. Note: This could be substituted by any other festival, like Christmas / Id

4 C. Concept Development. One of the many ideas that may be new to students is the concept of polytheism verse monotheism, or the presence of many gods verses the presence of only one god. Present the main Deities found in the Hinduism. Show pictures of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. Make sure to show a picture of Lakshmi. Focus on the Goddess Lakshmi and what she represents, Luck and Fortune. Ask students to discuss what they think it means to be fortunate. The teacher may ask a question like, "What make a person fortunate?" This would be a good time to establish that not everyone is as fortunate as those who have much. Ask students to write a short paragraph explaining what they think it means to be "Lucky" or "Fortunate." Or Review with students that Muslims fast and abstain from certain activities during the month of Ramadan. Define fasting (to go without food and sometimes water) and abstinence (refraining voluntarily from something). Give examples of abstaining from certain activities (abstaining from using drugs or alcohol). Stress to students that if something, such as a television privilege, is taken away by someone else, this is not abstinence because it was not done voluntarily by the person it affects. Ask students to write up what they feel would really feel they would like to give up if they had to do this. D. Research. Have students research other groups, individuals, or times that involve (or involved) fasting and abstinence. Have students summarize the information on a piece of paper including WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHY, HOW, and WHEN. Some suggested topics include: Lent, Yom Kippur, Buddhist monks, Jainism, Hindu followers, Mahatma Gandhi, and those in the health and fitness arena. E. Hands-on. The Goddess Lakshmi is very fond of flowers. Show the students pictures of many different kinds of colorful flowers. Some examples may be: roses, zinnias, dahlias, marigold, and lotus, Any flower will do. This would be a great time to integrate a little science into the Diwali lesson. Discussing the different parts of a flower with the class, would allow the children to learn more

5 about flowers. Then to make the presence of Lakshmi more likely to visit the class, have students each create a beautiful flower. You can use paints, crayons, and construction paper. There are many different ways to make a beautiful flower. When the Flowers are complete decorate the room with them to invite good luck into the classroom. F. Physical Education. Review how Hindus try to scare away the goddess of bad luck at the end of the Diwali celebration. Ask student to think of some ways to scare away "bad luck." This should be a fun time and the teacher should be prepared to experience a lot of noise. Allow students to stomp their feet, yell, bang pots and pans, and basically make noise, lots of noise. It might be fun to have the class march through the school to scare away bad luck and misfortune for everyone. G. Service Project. After completing the good luck march, ask the students if they think that making a lot of noise is a very good way of getting rid of bad luck. During the discussion on the topics of Luck and Fortune, hopefully the idea of poverty will surface. Point out the face that there are a lot of people who are not lucky or fortunate. This is prime opportunity to look at some people who are not fortunate by the class' standards. There are many service opportunities in every local community. Events such as can food drives, selling T-shirts designed by the class, or any number of other projects can be used to raise money and food for the needy. Ask the class what they want to do to help spread good luck and fortune in their community. H. Integration. Diwali is often referred to as a festival of light. These lights are used to entice the Goddess Lakshmi to visit those who set out these lights. There are so many different projects a class could do centered only on light. Again this is an opportunity to integrate the symbols of this Hindu celebration with the subject of science. The class could discuss anything from why moths are attracted to light to what exactly is light made up of. Teachers could explain how light travels, show students how a spectrum reacts to light, and they could also

6 talk about reflection of light in mirrors. These are just a few ideas about how to integrate science with the study of this Hindu holiday. I. Conclusion. At the conclusion of this unit, give a summary of Diwali / Ramadan/ whatever festival you have done. Tell students it is a time to renew and remember one's faith. Also the common feature of all festivals is doing something for people less fortunate than your-self.

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