Multicultural Holidays to Celebrate in October – Ghandi Jayanti, World Mental Health Day, Indigenous People’s Day, and Día de Muertos

So many people seem to be looking for a better way to celebrate the shared world we live in and respect the cultures of people around us. And for as many subscription boxes and creators as there are on the internet and in stores these days, there’s really nothing like this subscription out there. This month we will explore the three cultural celebrations from around the world – Ghandi Jayanti, Indigenous People’s Day, and Día de Muertos. And because you all asked for it, there is also a small bonus included to give you a different perspective of emotions around the world for World Mental Health Day. But what’s actually included? Let’s check it out.

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Ghandi Jayanti

October 2 is one of few of India’s national holidays to honor the birth of their freedom fighting hero – Mahatma Ghandi. He is revered across the world today as a nonviolent protester and world changer. For this holiday, we are going to look at Ghandi, his nonviolent Hindu upbringing, and the role of yoga in Hinduism and nonviolence. Mahatma Ghandi was a nonviolent activist, political ethicist, lawyer, and freedom fighter against British rule in India. Ghandi Jayanti celebrates his birthday on October 2nd each year and is actually one of three national holidays in India! Ghandi’s life and teachings have been so influential throughout the world, that the United Nations has also named this day The International Day of Nonviolence. Why was he so inspired by nonviolence though? Most people in India, including Ghandi, practice a religion called Hinduism. This is actually the world’s third largest religion. The moral principles attained from this dharma, or way of life, are what drove Ghandi’s actions, although he was very open-minded and embraced the teachings many religions. A large part of Hindu culture is yoga, a deeply spiritual practice of discipline and finding harmony in body, mind, and spirit. Ghandi said, “Ahimsa is the highest duty. Even if we cannot practice it in full, we must try to understand its spirit and refrain as far as is humanly possible from violence.” In Sanskrit, the old scriptural language of Hinduism and yoga, “ahimsa” means nonviolence. In honoring Ghandi’s birthday many people pray, recite poems and songs and more. Another way we can honor him is through consistently emulating his example of striving for ahimsa.

This yoga game is a wonderful introduction for kids to the focus and discipline of yoga in a fun way! They will learn the sanskrit names of each pose and be given things to ponder and positive affirmations to say to themselves and others while they play.

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Indigenous People’s Day

“Indigenous” is another word for “native”, or for something that originates from and is natural in a certain place. Plants can be indigenous to a certain area, like the Saguaro cactus in the Sonoran Desert, or Bamboo in Chinese forests. People can also be indigenous, families having lived in one place long before anyone else ever came to that area.

But when people from Europe started to explore and make a goal to map out and start understanding the entire world, they began to claim that they were discovering new lands that they now owned. The problem was, other people already lived on those lands, but the Europeans just told the indigenous people to either learn the European way, or move elsewhere. Often though, it wasn’t even that civil, and violence or disease broke out.

For almost 100 years, the USA recognized a holiday celebrating the mistaken discovery of America by Christopher Columbus wherein indigenous people were hurt and died left and right, wiping out some entire tribes and cultures. Finally, in 1989, South Dakota was the first state to replace that holiday with a celebration and memorial of indigenous peoples.Many people began to slowly follow South Dakota’s example. Finally, in 2019, the U.S. government made the official change to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day!

This month we will not only celebrate those people indigenous to the North American continent, but will look at symbolism in the culture of indigenous people around the world through their dance.

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Día de Muertos

Día de los Muertos is namely a Mexican holiday spread across Latin America celebrating the union life and death. For many cultures, death can be very sad and even scary, but Mexican culture embraces a light humor and joy in celebrating the lives and memories of those who have died before us.

Remembering the dead and living a life full of loved one’s who’ll remember your influence are important cultural focuses of Dia de Muertos, but there is so much culture at every turn in this special holiday.

Originally it seems that it was celebrated in the summer, but as conquistadors came and Christianity spread, Dia de Muertos was connected with All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day. So it moved to be celebrated at the same time. Even more recently, Dia de Muertos celebrations begin as early as October 31st and go through November 2nd in many places.

Have you ever done family history? Do you know your grandparents favorite food or favorite color? What about your great-grandparens, or even great-great-grandparents?! Dia de Muertos is a wonderful opportunity for children to learn about their ancestors, find out what they have in common with family that came before them and really connect to their heritage. This month you are being provided with a starter kit to build your very own ofrenda!

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Lilah Tov Good Night and Number the Stars

If you haven’t heard of PJ Library, it is a nonprofit that sends free books to Jewish families and friends. One of the books they delivered to younger recipients this year was titled, “Lilah Tov Good Night” by Ben Gunderheiser, and it might be one of the most beautifully simple books I’ve read with my kids in a long time. It’s one I could read and look at every day.

Sometimes less is more, and this book proves that.

I’ve wanted to share about it for a long time, but just wasn’t sure I had the right words for it. Until today, I saw someone post this review on Goodreads:

This rhyming picture book would make a nice bedtime read. Hopefully, kids will be too sleepy to ask questions about the someone threadbare plot.

The family are obviously refugees, but the reader doesn’t know why. In fact, the book starts on a rather idyllic note (at the end of “a long and beautiful day”) and then the parents pack up their kids and leave. I went back to try to look for clues as to why they felt compelled to embark upon a risky journey with a young child and an infant, but I couldn’t see any. (For the purposes of a picture book, this sort of makes sense. But I’m sure there are going to be kids who ask, “Why are they leaving their home?” Parents will have to get creative and come up with their own answers, because there aren’t any here.)

The illustrations are interesting to look at, if a little fanciful. I’m not sure what kind of Jewish refugee journey would be undertaken across the sea in nothing but a rowboat, but that’s what happens here. I guess it’s supposed to be more symbolic than literal.

Overall, this isn’t bad. It has a nice rhythm and would make a good book for winding down at the end of a long and beautiful day.

La coccinella

I immediately realized that this person had never read “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry! If they had, they would know exactly where the inspiration for this artwork (aside from just the fact that it IS historically accurate) came from. I don’t mean for that to sound like I’m shaming them. They just didn’t know. But I had happened to finally read Number the Stars only a year ago, and it put this illustrated book into context for me in a way that from the moment I opened it my heart knew what was coming and I could feel the story the pictures wanted to tell.

What does “lilah tov” mean?

In Hebrew, lilah tov means “good night”. Throughout this book, the little girl sees incredible thing on her journey and wishes them all good night. In the morning, they arrive at a new place where “soon you will be ready for dreams.” And I love that, yes, she goes to sleep after an exhausting journey, but her parents are also telling her that in this new place she can be free and become something bigger.

Number the Stars critique

If you aren’t familiar with the story, “Number the Stars,” there are two important critiques that need to be addressed even as I recommend it:

  1. It takes place in Denmark. During the Holocaust, most of Denmarks Jewish population was saved by the method illustrated in these two books. The people of Denmark rallied around their Jewish friends and neighbors in incredible feats of smuggling them out of the country in haste. Because of this, reading only the story of Danish Jews that survived because of the love and compassion and humanity of their associates makes the Holocaust seem like something less than it was. I mean, this is what the response to Hitler’s Nazi regime SHOULD HAVE looked like, which is why it’s valuable. We SHOULD be every bit as compassionate and willing to sacrifice as those Dane’s were. But, often it’s easier to do what most of the rest of Europe did – and not get in the way of a mass murdering spree. We don’t see at all in this story the horrors that happened to millions of people. There’s certainly a sense of fear and hurriedness to escape, but the reader isn’t told what would happen if the characters were caught in their escape.
  2. The story is told from the point of view of Annemarie Johannson, a Gentile. We hear her perspective as she witnesses the lengths her family goes through to rescue her friend and Jewish neighbors. We don’t really know what the experience is like for the family, and really only see the family at all for just a very small fragment of the story. Again, this is great because we should be willing to rise up to sacrifice for our neighbors and protect social justices. BUT it is so important to ask why we never get any dialogue from the refugee family about how they are being affected. How do they feel? What solutions do they come up with? What is their role in their own survival? How much did they overcome to get to safety? How much did they leave behind? What was the hardest part for them? Did they trust that their neighbors could pull off this mission, or did they just not see any other choice? Did their feelings toward their God change during this escape, how? What happened to their sense of community and culture and belonging? These are questions that can only be answered in a first-person telling of a story.

Critiques laid bear now, my opinion is that for my toddlers, an understanding of these two stories is a beautiful start to antibias. Starting on the side of not what the worst of the world has to offer to us, but what the best of us has to offer to the world, if I can get a little Ronald Raeganish real quick. When social injustice comes, we can come to our neighbors rescue. We can get them to safety. We can also do what it takes to make them safe where they stand. Make it so that they don’t feel the need to flee. To be paranoid. To fight or flight.

Baby and Me Reading

So I challenge you to read “Number the Stars” if you haven’t. You can actually find pdfs of it online for free, or your local library definitely has it. And then get “Lilah Tov Good Night” and see if you can feel the emotional story packed into this very simple rhyme.

Tito Puente

Happy Latino Heritage Month!! September 15th officially kicked off the month of celebrations with the Independence Days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Hence, why the month long celebration starts in the middle of the month. There are so many beautiful traditions and inspirational people we could all celebrate this month. One Latino that I was previously unfamiliar with is Tito Puente. His story and music has had me practicing my cha-cha-cha all week, and I feel like we could all use some more of that this 2020.

Now, usually I use online read-alouds just to preview books before buying/checking out them out for my kids. They can feel so awkward to listen to sometimes it makes me cringe. Where are the silly voices? Where are the loud exclamations! Who taught these people how to make sound affects?! (I am kind of mostly joking, but story time in our house is not a restful event. We like a little “umph” in our stories.)

That being said, we loved the music and rythm in this online read aloud, and then go straight on to the next video suggested (a playlist of his music usually) for a Tito Puente themed dance party. We like it so much that this read aloud made its way into the Multicultural Holidays Subscription, and Latino Heritage Month isn’t over yet!

Who is Tito Puente?

As this children’s story shares, Ernesto Antonio “Tito” Puente is a Navy vet, Juliard grad, and American musician and songwriter. He mixed music styles and genres from Jazz and Latin to create festive and exciting music. He went from being a boy in Spanish Harlem to being a King of many names – El Rey de Mambo, El Rey de los Timbales!

Usually I start to read the novel biography about a person before finding a children’s book I can get my hands on and fall in love with, but this time its the other way around. I was just so excited to share this cute story for Latino Heritage month that I thought I’d share now and I’ll update this post later when I find a great book that matches. If you’re interested in learning more about Latino Heritage Month and some other great book recommendations for the whole family, go get your copy of the Multicultural Holidays Subscription now!