For centuries, we have been farming the land and celebrating our bounty. In years past, the bounty foretold the future. When the yield was scarce, hunger was imminent; however, a plentiful harvest meant that food would be abundant throughout the winter months, and beyond.
On Thanksgiving Day, America still celebrates the bountiful harvest held between the Pilgrims and Indians in 1621. However, America is not alone in its fall festivities; fall is celebrated all around the globe. Although each tradition is unique, whether a country holds a fall festival to acknowledge loved ones lost, to give thanks for a plentiful bounty or as a means to improve the overall mood of the community, they are all united in that the festivals center around bringing communities together. To keep learning fun, art and social studies teachers can incorporate aspects of these festivals into their lesson plans.
1. China’s Harvest Moon Festival
Every year China holds the Harvest Moon Festival. This festival celebrates the large, bright moon that occurs during the eighth lunar month. The festival began to rejoice in a bountiful harvest; however, activities today include dragon and lion dances as well as eating moon cakes. Chinese communities believe that the full moon is good for romance and fertility; therefore, the festival is also considered the ideal time for courtship. The Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan also celebrate this Mid-Autumn Festival.
2. Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)
While many cultures mourn death, Mexico holds a two-day festival to pray for and celebrate the lives of loved ones they have lost. For the Day of the Dead Festival, colorful altars are created and the favorite foods and drinks of the departed are consumed.
3. Bacolod City, Philippines’ Masskara Festival
The Masskara Festival is a relatively new celebration; the festival was created in 1980 out of the need to find joy after the loss of 700 lives. The 700 lives were lost during the MV Don Juan maritime tragedy. Following the tragedy, the “City of Smiles” chose to put on a happy face. Today, that tradition continues in Bacolod City with colorful and bright masks, costumes and headdresses.
4. Nepal’s Festival of Dashain
Nepalese people celebrate the victory of good over evil during the Festival of Dashain. This Hindu festival lasts for 15 days and, for the most part, centers around food. In addition, the only time that religious observers are allowed to enter the Taleju Temple is during this annual festival.
Activity: Have students use white paper and markers to create a 15-day calendar that coincides with the annual Festival of Dashain. Once they have created their calendars, have them draw or write about the foods they would like to consume on each day of the festival (Grades 1-4).