Cross-cultural Celebrations of Light

"Cultural celebrations of light have occurred across the world and throughout time."

Contributed by:
Kathryn Darrow
Grade: 3
Manchester Elem. Middle School
Manchester, VT

Celebrations of Light Around the World
Journey North teacher Kathryn Darrow has been lucky enough to travel far and wide. And during these travels, she has observed about many unique and interesting celebrations focused on light. Kathryn has shared some of these celebrations with her students, who in turn have learned more about the celebrations through research projects and by actually holding some of the unique celebrations in the classroom.

As your students observe the changing photoperiods at the secret locations around the globe, you might want to think about engaging them in a little "global education" by having them explore some the celebrations of light that take place around the world. It's a great opportunity for cross-cultural learning!

Here is some helpful background information from Kathryn about the various festivals, and how her students celebrated one of them right at her school:


"I've been participating in Journey South/North for many years now. A twin interest of mine has always been global education and, combined with my experiences abroad, teaching about other cultures was natural. The pattern I began to see was the major religious/cultural celebrations centered on light--both creating artificial light in the darkness and celebrating the return of natural sunlight. Perhaps these observations originally were to ward off the fear of increasing darkness but they certainly also reinforced the concept of a community coming together joyfully.

"These are the representative celebrations that I have chosen in chronological order. Some are determined by the lunar calendar while others have a definite date.

Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur
Chinese Moon Festival
Diwali (Indian New Year, Festival of Lights)
Halloween/El Dia de los Muertos (The Day of the Dead)
All Saints' Day
Ramadan, Eid-ul-Fitr
Groundhog Day/Candlemas
Chinese New Year
Nou Ruz (Persian New Year)

"While some of these festivals have lights as a part of their celebration, others are determined by the moon or signify the beginning of a new year, a rebirth, and, I hope, represent a fair balance of traditions. I'm sure there are others that I haven't found or which might be similar to others, like a Tet Trung Thu in Vietnam similar to the Chinese Moon Festival or Feast of Lights in Myanmar similar to Diwali. I also recognize there may be other other cultural festivals you may want to study, depending on the interests of the class or our curriculum. The ones I listed above are some that stress common symbolism and central concept.

"Students in my class celebrated the Chinese Moon Festival in class. Students had heard a book about the Moon Festival, made Chinese paper cut butterflies from a folktale I read them and ate Moon Cakes made by a mom/chef.

"You and your students may want to observe and celebrate other celebrations in your class. "


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