Hoping to switch things up from when we generally have Halloween activities, I looked into other holidays and traditions that were honored during this period. The Day of the Dead stood out to me as it is celebrated where I grew up but it’s a tradition I had no idea about, – or held a misconception on what it was.
There were various factors this year that made this holiday especially relevant. There were sudden and not to sudden passing of friends and loved ones in 2014 and finding ways to honor their memory, celebrate their life, was important. The cookie cutter way of burying them and their memories was no longer cutting it. There were a lot to be learned in the cultural differences in meaning in the word “death” and connotations of symbols such as skulls had on different cultures. Presenting this to kids in Taiwan was no easy feat initially since any mention of death was negative, skulls were scary, and ghosts or passing of those close to us were locked away and to be honored about once a year but more in fear they would come to haunt you rather than in loving memory.
How to present this to kids in Taiwan? I came across images of gorgeously Day of the Dead skulls hand drawn onto potted succulents (thanks to Creative Kismet site) and thought this to be a nice way to get across within “death” and “skulls” would bloom life. This first time I decided to go for marigolds, one of the trademark flowers for the Day of the Dead holidays. We hope to continue utilizing these gorgeous pots in the future. Inspirations for the charms came from the Day of the Dead craft workshop I went to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art thanks to my good friend Laura.
Cultural appropriation seemed to be also equally important so a presentation was created introducing the Day of the Dead and the history, understanding if and how children and their families honored loved ones who have passed, cultural appropriation, and how basic how to care for plants (hint: water, sun, and lots of love). Cultural appropriation is a huge issue in Taiwan where a lack of sensitivity where people can “Heil Hitler” salute Germans, wear Nazi costumes, black face, gender discrimination, are seen as funny. With Taiwan’s indigenous population a minority it was also important that kids know they and their culture, like others, deserve respect as well. This is our culture, not a costume (great series of ads online).
We started understanding the history of Day of the Dead, food eaten, and some of the activities and common symbols that are used. We asked them if there were similar holidays celebrated and if so, how was it celebrated in their culture or home. Kids became more receptive to this “deathness” after they realized the similarities that were not so unsettling after all. So that skulls themselves were not “scary” kids got to selecting the skull charms they wanted and also creating a few from clay. They got to pick the original white clay or we could add a few drops of food coloring to get the greens, blues, and reds we wanted. The bake clay recipe was easy with just wheat flour and water. Wear a glove when you are kneading the food coloring!
Each child got to pick their own clay pot and write the names on the back. We had some white paint that Nippon Paint sponsored for our BUILD A HOME project, mixed this with a bit of water, and then added a white layer to the clay pots.
While the paint dried kids were inside perfecting some of the intricate and elaborate designs that were applied to make skulls so festive and colorful. They were also told that they could incorporate a bit of their own symbols into the final design. With black markers and acrylic paint, they transferred and embellished the clay pots with their art.
Each child selected the marigold flowers they liked so they could be planted and taught the basics of caring and loving for the plants.
We ended the day with a meal together. Dinner of tortillas and fillings was offered, along with a fresh fruit salad topped by blueberry yogurt and maple syrup. The final touch to the middle of fall was pumpkin pie! We will be back to ChingChuan in December with more fun and activities!
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Thank you for joining us:
Grace Hsu, 鄭如棻, 楊智傑, Angela Lin, 蘇嘉琦, 鄭又綺, Mohan Huang, Jonathan Burke.
Thank you Taoshan Elementary School and Father Barry at the Catholic Church for your support in the community!
Call out here: https://wp.me/p326jt-14y
Date/Time 日期 ／時間：
November 1st, 2014 (Saturday) 13:00 – 16:30
地點Location: 清泉少年中心及桃山國小籃球場ChingChuan Youth Cultural Center & TaoShan Elementary School Basketball Court
目的 Purpose: 透過藝術及照護植物的方式介紹不同的文化給大家Introduce a new culture holiday and a different way to look at “life” to everyone through plants and art.
孩子會學Children will learn:
A new culture, Day of the Dead, basic plant care