The purpose of this unit is to expose third through sixth graders to holidays and festival celebrations enjoyed by children of other cultures outside of the United States and the foods and items associated with each event. The four cultures that will be explored are the Spanish culture (Mexico), the Italian culture (Italy), the Jewish culture (Israel), and African culture (Ghana).
These four were chosen because I have had actual contact with members from each group. The few experiences shared with me from those different people made me all the more interested in what is important to them.
Knowing the reason for these celebrations may help us understand what things are valued in cultures other than our own. Often holidays in other cultures are based on a religious event or person. Sometimes the celebrations are to commemorate some political or patriotic victory. Still other festivals are directly associated with foods and natural resources. I will cover each of these in this unit.
The foods chosen and used in these celebrations often have a specific reason why they are used and prepared in a special way. Other foods are used because in the country where they are used they are plentiful. Some foods are used in more than one feast but for the same reason. This will be explained even more in the unit.
I have noticed how some children joke and jeer as they observe children of other cultures openly honor their holidays through practices, dress and foods. Of course, some children may not care why the particular event is being celebrated or even know what the celebration is, but I believe the use of this unit may help stimulate an interest, knowledge, and respect for cultural diversity.
This joking, insensitivity, I have found to be true with African-American children. I believe this stems from most of them, or us, not knowing which country our ancestors are from. Africa, being a continent not a country, has many diverse cultures, languages, and practices. It is well known that the practices, customs and history of most people have been preserved and passed down by word of mouth and writings, books. The passing of knowledge is almost a sacred ritual sometimes called oral tradition. The mean and heartless period of open slavery stripped most African-Americans of their culture and heritage. The breaking up of the African families left few, if anyone, to pass down the history, struggles, bloodline, and more important the victories of the people. Family and national pride is lacking. An attempt to restore some of this pride and self-respect is seen in the Festival called Kwanzaa. This celebration will not be covered in this unit because I want to focus on those holidays that originated outside of the United States. Kwanzaa began in the United States in the mid-60's.
The festivals and countries to be covered will be presented in the order based on the seasons, from spring to summer then fall and winter. A skill will be focused on in each lesson that cooperates with Connecticut Mastery Test.
This is the order in which they will appear.
Italian - Cricket Festival (spring) Math/Measurement to the nearest 1/4 inch
Mexico - Fiesta (spring) Food Pyramid - DRP
Ghana - Yam Festival (summer) Game/Following Directions
Israel - Succoth/Sukkot (fall) Nature-identification fruits & flowers
Mexico - The Day of the Holy Kings (winter) Earth Science - Precious Stones
Israel - Purim (winter) Language/Editing
Please note that there are things that some of these holidays have in common. Some of those comparisons will be made in this unit. Foods like beans and maize (corn) are common in many third world countries. Independence, how it was initially taken away from and is finally being regained by two of these countries, is similar. More emphasis is to be placed on the similarities than the differences.
Mexico and Ghana share the experience of losing and regaining their independence. Mexico is an Indian country. The last Indian empire in Mexico - that of the Aztec - fell to Spanish invaders in 1521. For the next 300 years, Mexico was a Spanish colony. The Spanish did as most invaders who take or try take over the land of unsuspecting natives; they took the riches of the land and left the Indians poor and uneducated. But some positive changes were introduced by the Spaniards in farming, government, industry, and
A third group developed during this time called mestizos. They had both Indian and white ancestry, similar to the mulattos who had black and white ancestry. Today, the great majority of Mexicans are mestizos. The country makes a conscientious effort to stress the Indian role in Mexican culture. The Indians are proud of their ancestry and think of the Spaniards as intruders. In 1949, the Indian Cuauhtemoc, the last Aztec emperor, was made the symbol of Mexican nationality. His bravery under torture by the Spanish made him a Mexican hero.
Mexico is rich in many things. It is one of the world's leading silver producers. It also has large deposits of copper lead, salt, and sulfur. Mexico is one of the world's leading producers of coffee, corn, cotton, oranges, and sugar cane. It's no wonder the
Spaniards tried hard to take it from them.
The Mexicans gained independence from Spain in 1821. It was still an uphill struggle for many of the native Indians and it remains that way today.
Ghana is a country in western Africa. Most of the people of Ghana are black Africans. There are small groups of people of Asian and European descent. Like many, if not all, countries not stolen by Europeans it was a target of unsuspecting natives. This country is so rich in gold that it was nicknamed Gold Coast by Portuguese explorers who landed in Ghana in 1471. European merchants came for, of course, slaves and gold. In the late 1800's, the Gold Coast became a British colony.
Gold wasn't the only product Ghana is known for. Cacao seeds, which are used to make chocolate, are the country's most important crop and leading export. Ghana's forests yield valuable tropical hardwoods. The country also has important deposits of Bauxite, diamond and manganese.
Ghana gained its independence in 1957. It took the name Ghana, the name of an ancient African kingdom. Ghana was the first member of the Commonwealth of Nations to be governed by black Africans. Its official name is the Republic of Ghana.