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Kids World

Topics of interest to teachers of English as a second or foreign language to young learners.

October 25, 2005

Autumn Holidays

My favorite season, autumn, has finally arrived. I love this time of the year not only because November is my birthday month but also because Fukuoka hosts the Kyushu Sumo Basho every November; since I am an avid sumo fan, I try to go at least two times each basho.

American or Canadian Thanksgiving is very similar to the Japanese New Year, a time of feasting and relaxing with family.

halloween.gif For all of us, whether we are teachers or parents, autumn is the advent of Western holidays, which triggers a three-month roller coaster of fun activities or events to share with children. It all starts with Halloween, then progresses to Thanksgiving, and then as autumn changes to winter, ends with Christmas.

If teachers cannot organize a holiday event for their students, they can at least share with them information and sentiment about the holidays. One of my colleagues in Fukushima holds an annual pot-luck Thanksgiving barbecue at his home. Students and their families are all invited. It has become a cherished tradition there. At our school, although we have a staff Thanksgiving party, we do not hold one for the students. Therefore, during the third week of November, we tell the students about how the pilgrims originally went to America and how the Indians taught them how to plant and harvest crops. We show the classes pictures of how it must have looked years ago and what a typical Thanksgiving dinner looks like today. We tell the children that an American or Canadian Thanksgiving is very similar to the Japanese New Year, a time of feasting and relaxing with family.

In December, we decorate the school and practice Christmas songs and talk about culture points, such as the custom of sending Christmas cards, Christmas caroling, and how to write "TO...FROM..." on Christmas presents so people will know who the presents are from when they open them on Christmas Day. The students are always surprised to learn that Christmas cakes are a Japanese custom, not a Western one. We also try to impart the sentiment that Christmas is the time of year when we should do something nice for someone else and expect nothing in return. We always have a Christmas party at a local venue, and we visit a "Rojin Home" to sing Christmas carols.

You, with your own classes at your home or at your school, can decide what activities best suit your needs and resources. But it is clear that October, November and December are great months to share tidbits about culture points and Western traditions with your students. You can make good use of holiday decorations, picture books, magazine pictures, CDs, videos, DVDs, stickers and seasonal workbook activities, to name a few. And the great thing is that when you have a reservoir of these materials, they can be used yearly over and over again.

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