Chapter 2 – Season Festivals activities and foods

In this chapter it will be taken into consideration what teachers and kindergartens, communities and families, all together, could manage to involve children in the most relevant season festivals belonging to the European cultural heritage.

European traditions are the result of a long history merging religious contributes together along many centuries: consequently, for instance, Christian festivals took the place both of Celtic rites in West Europe and of ancient Roman ludi in Southern Europe. In addition, when Christianity divided into Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant (a long process lasting quite seven centuries), some festivals changed while other ones have been added.

Due to so rich and diversified cultural traditions, it is really difficult to indicate a common approach about how to manage Season Festivals in kindergarten, as quite each region in each Country has its own specific habits to do that. Each educator in kindergarten could search for local specific traditions and habits about festivals, following a creative approach able to enrich children's experiences.


So far, we will give only some short information about Festivals, following the course of the year, to stimulate educators' and teachers' imagination.

Advent and Christmas

To create a solemn and quiet atmosphere approaching Christmas festive season, children could be involved in very simple and humble works, like to help you in cleaning the room where you will place the Christmas tree and the Nativity scene. After that, you could either read some short poetries, or listen to some short music pieces.

At the same time, children could work with paper and wood to create decorations inspired to the Christmas themes, they could paint them, maybe adding candies and sweets.

So, you have the possibility to develop a huge number of activities:

  • Clear the room
  • Create and paint decorations, better if made of paper, wood and wax
  • Search for moss and pick it up
  • Decorate walls and windows in the kindergarten
  • Create Advent Calendar
  • Prepare Advent wreaths
  • Set up Christmas tree
  • Prepare Nativity scene

Epiphany

Epiphany ends the Christmas Feast days, so it is quite a climax for children, especially if you will be able to motivate families to spent these twelve days between Christmas and the Epiphany with their children in a quiet and calm atmosphere at home – even if it is not so easy nowadays, as we said, because these days are normally employed to go away for travel on holidays.

The idea that Three Wise Men, represented as kings, are coming could stimulate children imaginations: Melchior, the red king offering gold (wisdom); Balthasar, the blue king offering frankincense (piety); Caspar, the green king, offering myrrh (vitality) – could give raise to many possible activities for our children.

  • Update the Nativity scene with coming kings
  • Create little plays with children, letting them act as the three kings (you could do it all along January)
  • Read to the kids some short poetry and listen to music pieces
  • Ask children for help to take down the Christmas tree and all the other decorations.

Carnival

The need to change our own role in our everyday life almost once every year is luckily and normally satisfied by children while playing. So, Carnival is a season festival which immediately could involve children.

In this case as well, you could try to do something useful to improve the child imaginative impulse, from one side giving them as a theme for their costumes gnomes, fairy tales, castles with queens and kings: but, on the other side, you could propose to your children to impersonate crafts and professions, so that they could establish both a connection with adult life, imagine ancient activities typical of your territory, and feel themselves got older.

We can suggest you these possible activities:

  • create several separate areas in your classroom, if possible divided by screens
  • inside there, create different workplaces for different trades, like farmers, shoemakers, carpenters, painters, fishermen, bakers, etc.
  • each trade could prepare its own tools and things, colors and materials
  • children will prepare costumes related to festival
  • each different workplace could be decorating just before Carnival, in the right way to identify the different trades
  • on Carnival, children will arrive at kindergarten already dressed up and could "work" at his own workplace or could go and work anywhere, irrespective of their costumes
  • you could add games and dances, involving families and friends.

In general, during Winter time, you could also refer to the traditional basic elements of nature to create simple activities:

  • Earth and fire: to prepare little sheaves of dry sprigs to burn in the fireplace, to cut bark, to make earth, sand, mineral available for free games.
  • Air: to play with the snow to hang light wool bows. To cook biscuits and to taste its warm aroma.
  • Water: experiences with snow and ice, to make her/it loosen, to pick up in buckets.

Easter

It is not necessary here to highlight the relevance of Easter for Europe cultural heritage, neither is it necessary to explain the reasons by which Easter festival is strictly connected to the Spring and how much is it meaningful for children to have an inner perception of the mutual correspondence of "death and resurrection" in human being’s life just like in the nature surrounding them.

As for Christmas, there are really hundreds of different ways to approach Easter in our European traditions, here we like better to give some ideas about activities you probably already do, maybe with some bigger or smaller differences: e.g., eggs, hares and lambs are common images we all share about Easter, so you will probably already familiar with the activities we are just going to suggest.

We can suggest you these possible activities:

  • preparing earth to sow seeds in your outdoor space or in some small vases in a room well illuminated could be an exciting experience for your children in the kindergarten.
  • to follow as they sprout from the earth and they quickly grow in this time, it will surely be occasioned to involve children in the spring atmosphere.
  • Easter hare
  • Easter lambs
  • preparing and painting Easter Eggs
  • searching for hares and eggs
  • creating Easter candles
  • suggesting ideas for home Easter preparation

In general, during Spring time, you could also refer to the traditional basic elements of nature to create simple activities:

  • Earth: to hoe, to clean the garden, games with the sand.
  • Air: to hang aromatic grass to desiccate, to create and to hang wool birds, to blow the blowpipes of tarassaco to play to ball.
  • Fire: experience of the sun and the heat.
  • Water: to walk under the rain to squirt in the puddles! Providing changes of clothes and explaining it to the children parents...

St. John’s and Summer Festival

Summer solstice and St. John's Festival combines with the beginning of summer, so that children could sense the turning point of the year, and normally it coincides with the end of schools and with the approach of summer break. They maybe fill themselves freer to being outdoors in the light, air and warmth, to play with water and sun.

Please, remember that all these intense outdoor activities ask for specific precautions, like wearing sunhat and sun cream, and to ensure that in any possible little summer trip there are places under trees, bushes or parasols.

We can suggest you these possible activities:

  • Observing busy life of insects and drawing them immediately afterwards.
  • Searching for flowers, picking and collecting them (they could bring them at home at the end of the day).
  • Dancing and singing outdoors, choosing pieces appropriate to summertime.
  • St. John's fire. It is an exciting experience for children, when they see flames leaping up and sparks flying. It is however mandatory that teachers give children an example how to keep the necessary respect for fire: so children must stay at a convenient distance and pass pieces of wood or old brushes to be burn to the teacher, almost until flames gradually diminish.
  • Create butterflies from colored wool.
  • Create flower crowns.
  • Make colored strings of bunting to create different game areas in the garden.
  • Organize games with gifts in the garden, placing them in the area you had delimited just before: fishing-like game, obstacle courses, ship-pulling game, dancing circles, etc.

In general, during Summer time, you could also refer to the traditional basic elements of nature to create simple activities:

  • Earth: water is added to earth and sand, to reap the wheat to beat the ears.
  • Air: to make butterflies of paper valine, garlands.
  • Fire: collect, dry and burn weeds.
  • Water: mix water and earth in molds, inspired by foods.

Michaelmas

This is a festival which is getting increasing relevance in kindergartens, especially in Central and North Europe, while in South Europe it is quite forgotten, even if in Middle Ages Saint Michael, the Archangel has been one of the most remarkable figures of the medieval Catholic tradition.

We consider his festival (on 29th September) a very nice opportunity for children to start kindergarten new year with a festival and, at the same time, to enter Autumn season in the most proper way.

Michaelmas could be celebrated together with Harvest festival, especially if your kindergarten is close to agricultural areas: it depends on the connection you could have with farming in your location.

These festivals are particularly relevant to suggest to the children the right relationship with food, as they could experience how nature provides human beings with fruits just at the end of summer, giving men the possibility to survive and to get ready to the coming winter.

We can suggest you these possible activities:

  • As Saint Michael, the Archangel is the protagonist, you could put a traditional image of him in the kindergarten, inviting children to imitate it in their drawings.
  • Children could prepare their little swords and red mantles, in the simplest way (two little sticks tied together with a piece of string are enough, and they are absolutely not dangerous!): they can add red mantles and golden helmets as well, to impersonate Saint Michael.
  • Apples are the most important food of this festival, so that you could prepare them with children, choosing the most colored (especially in red) and shiny, putting them in little decorated baskets.
  • Children could be gathered around a long table all together, and teachers will distribute red apples to each one.
  • You could find a lot of nice poetries and songs about Saint Michael, focusing on the possibility for every human being to develop his best inner forces for the benefit of all the human beings.

Lantern time (Halloween, Martinmas)

The end of October and the first Days of November are another meaningful festival time in the European (and North American) traditions: on October 31, Halloween, stemming from the celebration of the ancient Celtic new year (Samhain), is getting increasing relevance as a “commercial” festivals, especially spreading out among youngest generations all over Europe. It is overcoming the more traditional All Saints' Day Christian Church celebration on November 1, even if this festival upholds its relevance in catholic Southern European Countries. On November 11, Martinmas, the Feast of Saint Martin, has a similar meaning, as all these festivals mark a transition point during the year: a sensitive point, where life and death are very close, both in nature and in human souls.

We can suggest you these possible activities:

  • carving pumpkin lanterns
  • prepare costumes
  • adults like “angel guides”

In general, during Autumn time, you could also refer to the traditional basic elements of nature to create simple activities:

  • Earth: to make provision of fruit to prepare jams, to pick up vegetables, chestnuts, filberts; observe either where ants go or of how many forms and how many different colors leaves have.
  • Air: to desiccate tomatoes, to make garlands of leaves, to make to fly kites, walks in the fog.
  • Fire: experience the decrease of light and heat.
  • Water: learn children how to protect from rain, wind and snow, as a game, suggesting to them how to create mantels, caps and overshoes.

An active relationship among Festivals and sustainable Food could be easily established as season festivals are clearly connected to the rhythms of nature. So, you could help children to pay attention to this connection, both letting them collect seasonal fruits and vegetables, for instance, and involving them in the food preparation.

To do that at best, you could find some specific recipe, getting it out of local cultural food heritage. To give you a sample for that, you could find here a traditional recipe from [put here a link to a .pdf file containing a season festival recipe from your Country/Region]

Your approach will ensure:

  • to involve children when choosing food raw material;
  • to accustom children to handle food and observe its different characteristics;
  • allow them to do basic operations during food preparation and cooking;
  • invite them to take part in food and table preparation and presentation;
  • ask them to collaborate in cleaning the table and tidy up rooms after meals.