It's the Day of the Dead! It's time to celebrate!
This past week my student and I focused on learning about the Mexican holiday Dias de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead. Do you know about this holiday?
About fourteen years ago my grandfather passed away. I was devastated. He was such an important person in my life and it was hard for me to accept that he wasn't going to be here anymore. That year, I was teaching ESL classes to 6th graders in Houston. One of my students had asked me if I was going to celebrate Dias de los Muertos in honor of my grandfather. I had no idea what she was talking about! I had never heard of this holiday! She told me that on November 1st and 2nd, her family got together to celebrate the lives of their loved ones who had passed away. It wasn't a scary or sad holiday, it was a time to party and celebrate the lives of the dead when they were with us!
After a little more research, I was blown away with the richness of this holiday. It had so much history! There is proof that the Aztecs celebrated something similar around 3,500 years ago.
I know it can be difficult to share other cultures in the public school system. You will always have a few parents who are resistant when you teach their child something that they don't know a lot about. And I usually have one or two students who, at the beginning, refuse to listen to anything I have to say about this holiday because they think I'm talking about devil worshiping. However, after movies such as "The Book of Life" and "Coco," I've seen less and less resistance to learning about this marvelous tradition.
It's so important for your students to learn about other cultures that are different than their own. Also, it's even more important to acknowledge traditions that some of your students have who may be too shy to share! Once my students started to really get into my lessons on The Day of the Dead, I had two of my students share that they celebrate this holiday at their house. My students were so excited to hear them explain how they light candles, build an altar, and eat the favorite foods of their deceased family members. They had a lot of pride in themselves that they could share their culture without being made fun of.
Here is the book I always read to my students when discussing this holiday. Living in Texas, the significance of the Monarch Butterfly is important because they pass right through us on their way to Mexico! Wait, are you mixing science with reading again? If you would like to share this book with your students, just click on the book and it will lead you to Barnes and Noble! We have to support the bookstores!!
How does your class celebrate other cultures?
Laura Gokey is the owner of The Learning Tree and is working towards her PhD in Curriculum and Instruction from Regent University. She currently lives in Livingston, TX with her husband of fourteen years and her two children.