In my family, we like to celebrate. Birthdays are a huge deal, everyone comes home for Christmas, and each Thanksgiving we strive to outdo last year’s feast. We also celebrate less important holidays. Every Miranda must have chocolate on Valentine’s Day, there’s corned beef and cabbage on St. Patrick’s Day (even though there’s not a drop of Irish blood in us), and we even go as far to make sure we have Mexican food on Our Lady of Guadalupe Day. It seems ridiculous to some people but to me it’s a nice reason to bring a focus to the lesser recognized special occasions. After all, these holidays started because someone thought they were important.
My mom always made sure she dressed in Christmas sweaters during the holidays, had a pumpkin on her t-shirt for Halloween, and was decked out in red, white, and blue for the 4th of July. In recent years, my mom has also dressed to show her support of causes. For instance, her school participates in Denim Day and National Wear Red Day to draw attention to breast cancer and heart disease. Thanks to these motivating events, dressing for the occasion actually helps support those battling diseases affecting so many people.
Like many Catholic high schools, mine had a mission week to help those in need. Each year, we choose a charity that would benefit from different “days” throughout the mission week. We had Pajama Day, Red Dress Day, and Denim Day to name a few. Since I went to a school with uniforms, giving money to dress in something other than a plaid, pleated uniform was something that nearly every student was willing to participate in, even if it involved an extra night of babysitting to pay for it. It may have seemed insignificant at the time, but the concept drew my attention to important causes and charities at a young age.
Celebrating holidays or creating school events for good causes can be a great motivation for your students. Picking vocabulary words for the week that go along with an upcoming holiday can make it fun. Encouraging your class to wear red on World AIDS Day can give students a sense of hope and understanding when learning about the disease. Having a “Pi” eating contest on March 14 (Pi Day 3.14) will hopefully help that constant stick in students’ minds. You could even help your students debunk the legend of Groundhog Day by teaching about why we have seasons. Language Arts, Health, Math, and Science can all be taught under the guise of a celebration!
Learning about holidays and special causes also helps children to be more tolerant of each others’ differences. Chinese New Year (Sunday, February 10, 2013) is a great opportunity to talk about Chinese culture and celebrating Black History Month in February can really shed some light on African American communities and their role in society. Knowing what we celebrate and why we celebrate helps children understand who they are and how they can contribute to society as responsible and caring citizens. Although a Denim Day might seem silly to some, if you have a student in your class who has a parent battling cancer, it could help them from feeling alone if they know their classmates are supporting the cause.
Getting an event started at your school (or workplace) might be an extra task on your already full plate, but think of what it could do in the lives of others. Will you step up and be the contact person for your school’s Daffodil Day? Will you be that band teacher that teaches your students patriotic songs so that you can have a charity concert to raise money for veterans? What will you do to celebrate, advocate and educate?