Chapter 3 – Food in Season Festivals as an Integration Way
This chapter is devoted to individuating season festivals stemming from other cultures and traditions which could be employed as useful opportunities to ease the participation of young children from different native cultural heritages in the same kindergarten.
In this chapter, it will be described some samples about religious traditions from the most important world regions. Thus, kindergartens could involve children families and communities of different cultures into common activities, giving people the opportunity to meet and to develop a mutual awareness about their traditions, at the same time promoting the exchange of opinions and experiences about children education.
Before starting this part, a good way to create the right mood for you as a teacher or educator is to have a look at this poem by Derek Walcott (1930-2017):
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was yourself.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
We will now have resort to some examples about how different religious cultural heritages connect season festivals with food.
Operators in kindergarten should carefully analyze the composition of their classes to get inspired from the different customs and traditions followed by the families of their children: not only to better interact with children but even to learn more about what they eat and how their typical dishes are prepared.
Basically, you could involve children in the preparation of the simplest foods for Christian traditional festivals, like paint eggs for Easter time, sweets for Carnival or Christmas [you could put here a link to some more specific recipes in your region/Country]. But, if you will able to get friendly with children's families, you could even propose to share their traditional food preparation for Festival with all your children in the kindergarten.
Here you could find some ideas about possible starting points with different religious and food traditions of your children.
A sample of ancient Asian Season Festivals is the Mid-Autumn Festival, falling on the 15th day of the 8th lunar month, near the autumnal equinox (on a day between September 8 and October 7 in the Gregorian calendar). This is traditionally China's and Vietnam's harvest time, but this festival is present even in several other Asian Countries, like Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.
Every family makes various delicious food and good wines to celebrate the festival. Over the centuries, the rich and colorful Mid-Autumn Festival diet customs were formed. The most popular Mid-Autumn Festival foods include mooncakes, pumpkin, river snails, taro, wine fermented with osmanthus flowers, duck and hairy crabs.
Mooncake is the most popular and important food eaten during the Mid-Autumn Festival: they are traditionally Chinese pastries which consist of a thin tender skin enveloping a sweet, dense filling. Mooncakes were used to be made at home, but very few people make them at home nowadays.
The traditional fillings include lotus seed paste, sweet bean paste and egg yolk: however, mooncakes with modern flavors such as ice cream mooncakes and chocolate mooncakes have appeared in recent years. Many other fillings are possible, like kernel and roast pork, seafood, red bean paste, fruit and vegetable, cream cheese.
This religion offers a quite different approach to food during festivals. Living the command of the ahimsa (it means “not to injure” and “compassion”), Induist believers undergo to an alimentary diet previewing a limited range of products.
Induists motivate their own choice of fasting in occasion of festivals because they consider this sacred time a privileged moment to dedicate exclusively to the divine and not to the material dimension of life: consequently, he will be able to feed itself only after the end of the festivity.
This alimentary norm, however, does not prevent him to manifest his joy also when eating. For example, the festivity in honor of Ganesha – son of Shiva, depositary of wisdom and science, usually represented with an elephant head – falls on the month of Bhadra (August-September) and it is the occasion to introduce typical dishes, serving mainly dishes based on milk and rice.
Just to give a sample about Islamic traditions, we could say something about the Id-al-Fitr, the celebration at the end of the practiced fasting period during the month of Ramadan: a tradition that marks in depth the Islamic food diet. It is worth underlining that a rich offer of foods exists in that month, intended to be consumed only in the allowed timeframes, or rather from after the sunset up to the dawn of the following day.
For instance, Harira, or Ramadan Soup, traditionally is a recipe considered as a breakfast, that is an interruption of the fasting: it has the characteristic of a unique dish, normally based on Mediterranean vegetables, able to reinvigorate the believers approaching to the table after many times of total abstinence.
Harira is usually served together with Shebbakia, a dessert composed by shreds of fried pasta with sesame seeds, toasted and then soaked in warm honey. Many other desserts are available in the Islamic tradition in order to celebrate their religious faith, between which: Khushaf (bagels), Atayef (a kind of white flour pancake and semolina, filled with stuffed cheese and syrup) and Ataif, really delicious fritters disposed to pyramid, decorated with syrup and whipped cream.
We can already imagine it is not too difficult to involve children in such a kind of food preparation!
It could be interesting to present a classic Jewish food tradition for Pesach (Easter), falling on the 14th of the Nisan month. In this solemn day, on every table, it is mandatory a tray containing: a lamb leg; a hard-boiled egg, singed on the flame and dipped in salt water; a compound of walnuts, shredded apples and honey; a celery stem, a small branch of parsley, some other vegetables, all dipped in salt water; bitter roots and herbs.
Shabbat Bescialach, a festive day that generally falls in January or February, is a further proof of the tie existing between religious festivities and culinary traditions. In this case, the Escape of Jewish people from Egypt and the vain attempt of the Pharao's army to force them to return is remembered in a dish, which obviously varies from region to region, the Frisensàl, “wheel of the Pharao”, made up by pasta layers with roasted meat, sausage of goose, raisin, pine nuts and noodles.
If you decided to try it, a last but very relevant and sensitive issue is about how to manage the participation of your children coming from different religious traditions to inter-cultural activities based on the preparation of traditional festival dishes.
The first step is to inform families about your idea and to ask them for their opinion, just to evaluate if they are willing to participate to such a kind of activity. It is possible that you must take time to meet parents, to explain your idea and to discuss it together: so, you must not be in a hurry for that, as this initiative must absolutely not sound like an obligation and its educative aims have to be clearly shared with and accepted by all the participant families, to get the requested pleasant atmosphere.
If you attain this result, you then must identify the right times during the year, to exactly decide which activities are easier to be developed, to choose which recipes to adopt, to design the program of the festival day.
To do that, you will be obliged to carefully study many details, to search for further information, to talk with children and with their relatives. Our suggestion is to pay specific attention to:
- how to set up premises and ornaments in your kindergarten;
- how to welcome and have cordial greetings;
- how to prepare food together (you must take into consideration legal norms concerning the management of kindergarten’s kitchen);
- when and how to serve dishes;
- when and how to meat it;
- to have time to some games children could play together, before or after eating.