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make your day dance

Holiday dances? Which holidays?

December 29th, 2009 · 3 Comments · Tags: ··

Holidays in the public schools… now there’s a topic with little agreement!  There are proponents for including all of them… for celebrating the most visible… for distinguishing between education & celebration… for celebrating none… There are legal opinions, personal opinions & curriculums… Many questions, but no prefect answer.

When I was growing up, holiday projects at school heightened my anticipation of Christmas.  We sang carols, performed a Christmas play, created wreaths, Santa Clauses, stockings & Christmas trees…  Christmas imagery overwhelmed, despite a thriving Jewish community in the region. My first teaching job echoed the atmosphere of my childhood, with a single Hanukkah song representing diversity among the carols.

But now, diversity is a defining thread among my students. Many students celebrate Christmas; some also honor Kwanza.  The New Year might be the most universally celebrated holiday among students, but it’s confusing to keep track of when to celebrate it!  Although many probably enjoy the Gregorian New Year (January 1) as an occasion to party, my students’ celebrations — including excitement, candy, gift envelopes, and lion & dragon dancing — stretch from January through February.

The Chinese New Year or Lunar New Year occurs at the new moon of the first lunar month, somewhere between January 21 & February 21 (Feb 14 in 2010).  The Vietnamese New Year, or Tet Nguyen Dan, largely follows the Chinese calendar [except on a few confusing occasions, like the year 2007]; but in Seattle, Tet in Seattle involves a two-day extravaganza on some date near the Chinese New Year — February 6-7 in 2010. Evidently, the Lao New Year, or Bpee Mai, & Cambodian New Year, or Chol Chnom Thmey, occur from April 13 to April 15 as harvest celebrations (think southern hemisphere), but it’s the Lu-Mien New Year to which my students often invite me — it probably occurs on the Saturday before the Chinese New Year, but I never know til I hear from students. I do love the dancing, both traditional & up-t0-date:

Meanwhile, among my Muslim students, their most important holidays seem to fall in September-October & December & are highlighted by excitement [again], extra prayers, fasting & henna-painted hands.

So as a teacher in a public school, I don’t much touch holidays.  I could try to teach about them all, but chances are, I’d miss someone. I could try to teach the ones that go with the seasons (celebrating light in winter, or the abundance of harvest…), but the dates for those change with the hemisphere.  I’ve even had occasion to become cautious about using the word “celebration,” since I’ve had children who had to go sit in the library during anything labeled as such.

If I were a classroom teacher again, I’d go with students reporting to each other about their favorite annual holiday or their reasons for not celebrating. But as a dance educator with limited contact time, I go with festive, in the merry & joyous sense of the word.  Festive includes dances & dance-stories that are unrelated to any particular holiday or belief, but bring smiles to everyone’s face.  We do them the day — or week — before a vacation, as a way to celebrate — whoops! rejoice or observe our happiness — at the upcoming days at home with our families. Everyone’s facial expressions are characterized by an upturning of the corners of the mouth, and no one has to go sit in the library alone.

To anyone who visits this site:
Please be merry & have a Happy New Year, whenever.

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