Lunar New Year 2019: Year of the Pig

by Teresa Narey

Introduction and Background:

February 5, 2019 marks the first day of the Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year.  The holiday begins on the night of the first new moon of the year and continues for the next several days, as the moon gets fuller.  For this reason, the holiday can occur in January or February, depending on the year and phase of the moon.  During this time, people celebrate with family by decorating their homes, eating special foods, and attending festivals.  They also do lots of cleaning, as this time of year marks the arrival of spring, and springtime is known for renewal.

The Lunar New Year is China’s most important holiday. The celebration started a long time ago when it is said that a monster named Nian (pronounced “NEE-ahn”) attacked Chinese villages.  People scared Nian away with loud noises, fire, the color red, and lanterns.  The defeat of Nian became a reason to celebrate the Lunar New Year. According to the Chinese calendar, each year is represented by an animal: ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, ram, monkey, rooster, dog, pig, or rat.  These animals comprise the Chinese zodiac and have unique traits attributed to them.  Some believe that people embody the same traits as the animals that symbolize the years in which they were born. This year is the Year of the Pig or Zhū (pronounced “joo”), an animal that symbolizes wealth. People born during the Year of the Pig are believed to be logical and kind, among other things. Continue reading

Understanding Difference

by Teresa Narey

Child development researchers have found that children become aware of difference from an age much earlier than we anticipate. Some studies have found that children as young as three months old prefer the company of individuals from their own ethnic group, and according to Penn State University’s Better Kid Care, children start to notice gender and racial differences at the age of two. With this in mind, it is no surprise that current early childhood education research aims to support providers in addressing difference in their work with young children. Though difference is a term used to describe something as unique, it in fact applies to everything.  When we approach teaching difference with this idea in mind, the concept seems less intimidating and far more accessible.  Teaching children about difference doesn’t necessarily mean calling attention to children’s race, gender, ethnicity, or family composition.  It simply means taking a closer look at the everyday things that surround us.

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Vibrant and Sweet: Celebrating Diwali

by Teresa Narey

Introduction and Background

A quick Internet search for Diwali (pronounced dee-VAH-lee) yields many results that compare this Indian holiday to Christmas. While the bright colors and flowers associated with India’s most cherished festival may not immediately draw up images of a snowy Christmas, its emphasis on sweets, gift-giving, and spirituality will certainly resonate with you.

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Not Halloween: An Introduction to Dia de los Muertos

by Teresa Narey

Introduction and Background:

In the U.S., the end of October is traditionally marked by the celebration of Halloween. In greater America, however, another holiday emphasizing fun, food, and costumes calls attention to the passing of time. Dia de los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is celebrated in Mexico and throughout Latin America on November 1 and 2, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day, respectively (click here for help pronouncing Spanish words). On the surface, Dia de los Muertos and Halloween appear to have much in common, but a closer look at customs tells us otherwise.

The purpose of Dia de los Muertos is to honor the memories of deceased loved ones by having parties, displaying their favorite items in ofrendas (altars), and participating in activities they once enjoyed. Celebrations highlight the idea that our ancestors are still with us in spirit. Acknowledging Dia de los Muertos in your setting provides children with a multicultural experience that extends autumn’s greatest lesson—the circle of life.

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