Monday, December 15, 2014

Kids Experience More During the Holidays When Taught Worldliness

     This may be a first and a last, but I am about to disagree with the dictionary!  In the dictionary, worldliness is defined as "being concerned with this world as contrasted with heaven, and/or a spiritual life." This is of course true, however I believe worldliness is more than this and does indeed include a spiritual component. As both a parent and a teacher, I believe it is important to develop worldliness in children. Currently, I live and teach in a community that is 96.6% white, 1.8% Hispanic, 0.3% African-American, 0.1% Asian,  and 0.7% Native American. There is a high poverty rate in my community so many children never travel far from home. I believe, that as an educator it is my job to get my students ready for the world. Kids do not live in a vacuum. Children need to know about other cultures and religions. There is so much more to the world then what they see in our picturesque, little town. Don't get me wrong. I love my little town. My town is close-knit and caring. We take care of our children. However I believe in taking care of our children, we must teach them about the world. 

      It is the holiday time. The children in my town are very familiar with the Christian holiday of Christmas. Christmas 's humble roots come from the observance of the birth of the baby Jesus born to the virgin Mary and Joseph in a rustic stable, in the town of Bethlehem. A rich story, where angels appear to the shepherds who are tending their flocks of sheep. The angels come singing that a savior has been born in the town of Bethlehem. The shepherds decide to go see the newborn king.
     The Magi, three wise men, saw the star in the sky signifying the birth of the baby Jesus. They followed the star and found Mary, the baby Jesus, and Joseph in the stable in Bethlehem. They offered gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.
     Christian children all over the world perform the "nativity" in their churches. My children played the parts of heavenly angels multiple times in our church. It was an exciting performance highlighted by a real infant portraying the baby Jesus.

   Most Christian Children believe in Santa Claus though there are other, similar customs throughout the world. Many believe that Santa Claus came from the Dutch Sinterklaas which quickly became a tradition in America in the seventeenth Century. This is even mentioned in the classic movie, "Miracle on Thirty-fourth street" by Santa Claus, himself. Santa Claus type characters appear in German lore and in Europe before Christianity took hold.  Most Christmas traditions such as tree decorating, Christmas Cards, gift giving, lights, and cookies, and feasts do not come from the church. Most traditions come from all over the world passed down from family members.

   I want the children in my community and in similar communities to know about other holidays and traditions as well. They need to because if they travel more than 90 miles away from here they will encounter people who celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. We live in a global society. Since the 1980's and the popularity of the internet we have been able to communicate widely with people around the world. This makes the world a much smaller place. Today we live in a world where we can share in the joy and traditions of others.
   When my children were young, we lived in West Chester, Pennsylvania a suburb of Philadelphia. In their elementary school all of the December holidays were celebrated and shared. What jubilance to celebrate with friends and share our traditions.  

       Kwanzaa is a relatively new holiday.  It was founded in 1966.  Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. It is a way for African-American to celebrate their heritage in a celebration of unity and ancestry.
      Kwanzaa begins on December 26th and lasts for seven days.  Each of the seven days is dedicated to a different principle, known as a whole as: Nguzo Saba. The Kinara, a candelabra is the central symbol of Kwanzaa. It holds three green, three red, and one black candle. These colors represent the African flag.  The kinara is placed on a mkeka (straw mat). The seven candles are lit in a particular order one on each day of Kwanzaa.  On day seven, all seven candles are burned. The order of the candles burning is as follows:
Day 1: The black, middle candle umoja, to maintain unity within the family and
Day 2: The innermost red candle is lit, kujichagulia-for self determination and
              advocacy, the ability to speak for oneself.
Day 3: The innermost green candle, ujima,- for collective work and 
              responsibility. To signify building and maintaining community.
Day 4:  The middle red candle is lit to honor ujamaa-this is economic co-
               operation to help and profit from one another.
Day 5: The middle green candle is lit- nia purpose, to build and develop the 
              community for the benefit of the people.
Day 6:  The outermost candle is lit- kuumba, it's for creativity to to put every
               effort to leave the community a better place for future generations.
Day 7:  The outermost green candle is lit- imani, to believe in parents, teachers,
               and leaders. 
     Corn, one ear to represent each child is placed on the mkeka mat, with a mazao (fruit basket) and a unity cup. Everyone drinks from the unity cup . Homes are decorated with traditional African crafts which are made during a craft party. A feast  called, Karamu,is held on day 6 consisting of traditional African food. The children help prepare the food to give them pride from their heritage.   On the last day of Kwanzaa, January 1st, zawadi (gifts) are exchanged which are typically the crafts. 
    It is acceptable to celebrate Christmas and Kwanzaa since Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday. Often African -American families decorate their Christmas tree in traditional African colors of black, green, and red and/or decorations that represent nature which are also part of Kwanzaa.

          Hanukkah is the Jewish Festival of Lights. This year Hanukkah begins on December 16, 2014. those who practice Judaism, celebrate Hanukkah to commemorate the miracle of the oil. In Hebrew, hanukkah means dedication. In 165 BC, Antiochus, the Syrian ruler decreed that all Jews in Judea must worship Greek Gods. The Jewish Freedom Fighters called the Maccabees rebelled. After three long years, the Maccabees conquered Antiochus. They restored their Temple in Jerusalem. As a part of the celebration they lit an oil lamp that only had enough oil to burn for one day. This gave them only one day to read the Torah.The miracle was that oil lamp stayed lit for eight days. this was enough time to make more oil to keep the lamp burning at all times.
    During Hanukkah, the Menorah, a candelabra is lit by lighting one of each of the nine candles over the eight day festival.  The ninth candle, called the shamash, is the candle used to light each of the eight candles. The candles are burned right to left, one each day, until all eight candles are lit on the final day. During Hanukkah, people celebrate by singing songs, eating oil fried treats like potato latkes and sufganiyot, jelly filled donuts.  Children delight in playing a game with spinning tops called dreidels. It is said that during the dictatorship of Antiochus, Jews got around not being able to read the Torah by playing what appeared to be a game with Hebrew characters carved on all four sides. Children also share gelt which are gold covered chocolate coins. They are a symbol of Jewish Independence.

     In the United States, Santa Claus has become a symbol for December. Some practicing Jews have added a little bit of Christmas spirit into their Hanukkah by choosing to put a "Hanukkah Bush" aka a "Christmas tree" into their homes. Like Christians,  Jews exchange gifts. They open one gift per each night of Hanukkah.

     So, the December holidays are intermingled which demonstrates just how close knit our world is. Being worldly isn't being materialistic or nonspiritual, it is being all-knowing. Being worldly is being able to go anywhere in the world and understanding cultural differences and practices. Being worldly is being able to embrace the world. Embracing your brothers and sisters in other places and understanding that although their traditions might be different than your own, they are valuable with rich meaning, and just maybe they can be  partly included in your own traditions. So while yes, dear dictionary, being worldly pertains to earth, it also includes the spirituality that customs, religions, and traditions bring.