Chapter 1 – Season Festivals enriching children's identity and social life
Every human community is marked by a mix of natural environment, cultural values and human social organization. Schools and kindergartens are all established in a specific location, which provides them with a natural environment, a cultural framework, a social context, where teachers and children live in together.
Currently, festivals are only occasions for people to be on vacation: it is a leisure moment, allowing people to meet friends, spend time together, travel, enjoy food and different kinds of entertainment. The original, deeper meaning of festivals has been lost in modern societies. But, it was completely different in the so called traditional civilizations.
Thomas Stearns Eliot, the great writer and poet of XX century, wrote that each of the great world cultures (Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Byzantine, Medieval, Islamic, Chinese, etc.) is the social and artistic expression of a religious worldview which is handed down through a specific cultural tradition.
So, we can define tradition as the social deployment by which the original religious worldview comes to permeate and imprint its stamp on the collective life of a civilization. Then, we could speak of “traditional civilizations” just when a society is entirely permeated by a religion, as in the case of the above cited great historical civilizations.
Consequently, the most relevant annual festivals all over the world every time stem from different traditions which historically characterize different societies. It is worth noting that traditional civilizations saw any annual festival as a step of an overall cosmic rhythm, influencing both nature and human lives as a whole. Festivals are a way for human beings to be actively involved by and be part of the life of visible and invisible spiritual forces operating all over the universe.
As every community has special times in his life, connected to the ancient cultural traditions and religion faiths, festivals become particularly relevant for children, allowing them to feel themselves as a part of an organic human society, together with their parents, friends and educators.
By this way, festivals contribute to design a common identity of a human community, through shared behaviors, habits and mindsets which children get in a more easy, direct and emotional way, in the same age when they are directly learning their mother tongue.
At the same time, festivals can mark and highlight the year course, throughout seasons, each one with its rhythms and its specific moods: following them, children become more and more aware of nature, empowering their inner individuality thanks to the idea that a wise order manages the world life as a whole, increasing their sense of security and their own positivity.
This is probably the best way to let children appreciate all the gifts nature provides to the human being, from flowers to earth products: this is an approach able to give children a well-balanced relationship with food, while learning to love and respect nature.
The idea that, like animals, trees and flowers, food is a gift nature can provide every year thanks to its wise season paces: but we can eat food only thanks to the human work employed in growing, picking and preparing them. This is maybe the best way by which children start feeling gratitude towards nature and human beings, all together operating in harmony around them.
Maybe, it is a first stimulus to the idea that a society is around him, supporting him and providing him with what he needs in every season, all along the year.
Season Nature Tables are a first practical suggestion to create the right feelings and to make children familiar with nature and seasons. Season Nature Table could be even a cupboard or a chest of drawers, arranged in the kindergarten, in the classroom or at home. It could be either very simple or very elaborate, as you could choose the solution best fitting the time you have and the natural environment you have access to.
In any case, two are the most relevant points, when you decide to prepare it:
- its connection with the current season and the upcoming festival or holiday;
- children participation both to its preparation and to take care of it.
These are the main aspects you must take into consideration to project and set it up:
- The Color Background. You must pay attention to the colors related to the season, to create an appropriate atmosphere. So, blue could be the best choice for Christmas, fresh green to spring and Easter, yellow for summer, a radiant and warm red for the autumn.
- The Nature's Gifts: you could use flowers, plants, fruits and stones belonging to the season time you are in, and children could be involved in searching for and disposing them in the Nature Table. Depending on the season, as a sample, you could use flowers like spring flowers, roses, sunflowers, autumn colorful leaves, etc.
- Pictures on the Nature Table: in festive times, you could position a relevant picture or an art postcard there. You should have to choose images based on children's own impressions instead of adult perceptions and ideas. When Nature Table is prepared at home, you must take into consideration the needs of older siblings, if there are any, as well.
A little daily care for the Nature Table you have built is a good way to enhance children's attention and love for nature, increasing their awareness of it. That does not request too much time, but it might let children to be absorbed by these preparations and care small activities they usually love, able to increase their attitudes through attention and imitation.