Monday, December 1, 2008

It begins...

It began with a Thai Festival of Lights. Back when I worked at the best bookstore in Chicago and my boss was the best fantasy writer I know, we celebrated Loy Krathong. We used tarp and a hose to make an actual flowing river in the middle of the children's section and everyone released rafts into it and watched them float. I think I can safely brag that it was the coolest bookstore event ever, rivaled only by the hunt for an actual bear that we staged later.

(image by Robert Pollai; from Wikipedia commons)

As a kid, I got tired of answering, "Are you Hanukkah or Christmas?" and "Do you really get eight presents?" As I got older, I got bitter every time someone wished me a Merry Christmas.

"I don't celebrate Christmas. Not everyone does, you know," I wanted to grumble, even though it was a lie: I do celebrate Christmas, because it's darn fun. But I wanted people to acknowledge that for a significant portion of the world, December 25 is just another day. It didn't help that Christmas lights started appearing before Halloween and people started referring to Christmas as "a secular holiday." Explain that one, somebody, please.

So when I became a full time teacher, I struggled. How to celebrate Christmas in the classroom, or Hanukkah, without leaving someone out?

And then I remembered the Thai Festival of Lights, and everything I learned as an anthropology major, and I decided: we would just celebrate EVERYTHING.* Every single holiday I could find. And we did. I made December's official social studies curriculum "Holidays" and invited representatives from every major religion (including atheism) to come talk to the class about their most important holidays and about how their communities answer life's big questions.

It is still my favorite unit I've ever taught. And I am still a strong believer in celebrating everything.

And guess what starts today? DECEMBER! (cue carnival music)

So hold onto your seats. Every day in December is party day in Jacqui's Room. Adventure! Prizes! Special guests! Useless font color changes!

But I will need your help. And today, I need a name for the Decemberpalooza. I hate "paloozas" ever since a friend gave my ticket to the first Lollapalooza to a boy who didn't even like her back. So what shall we call the December fun? Comments ideas, please.

And check back tomorrow, when we will receive our first visit from...
the magic present-finding guru,
who will answer all your most sticky gift-buying questions.

* I didn't have any Jehovah's Witness students that year, by the way. Also, I cleared this with all parents, administration, etc. Everyone loved it.


sruble said...

I celebrate Christmas, but I do feel bad about how overpowering the whole holiday has become. Not everyone celebrates it, and it would be annoying to have to deal with it if you didn't. It's even annoying to me that it starts earlier every year!

That said, I still like the holiday.

Your idea of celebrating everything is really cool. I hope the kids liked it too!

Christmas is secular because it's now all about Santa and gifts and family. Santa's not religious; he's more like the winter tooth fairy, except you don't have to leave your tooth to get a gift. Christmas is a bit like Thanksgiving now, but with gifts. (That's the best I can do about why it's secular.)

How about Holidayfest for your December name?

Debbie Diesen said...

You might call it "DecemberFest," though that doesn't seem quite exciting enough. (But thank you for not calling it a -palooza of some sort. I think it's high time -palooza go on the LSSU Banished Words list...)

By the way, you've probably already run across it in your travels, but your library should have a copy of Chase's Annual Events in the reference section. It lists all sorts of wacky celebrations and events for every day of the year.

Sharon Blankenship said...

People forget that there are many celebrations for the December solstice. In a large, multi-cultural school, we tried very hard to represent every religion present.
Of course, some people objected that we didn't acknowledge that Christmas was the TRUE reason for the season. But we so enjoyed learning the customs (and eating the various foods. . . yum) that their objections were largely ignored.
It's great to see that you did it, too. You really helped your kids appreciate the variety of cultures, viewpoints, etc.
As one with her mind constantly on her stomach, I sure hope you included FOOD in your celebrations.

Jacqui said...

sruble, I know. That's the explanation I've heard too. But people forget that Santa's Saint Nick, really.

Debbie, what about DecemberFiesta? And I will have to check out Chase's.

Sharon, you know me. Would I celebrate without a feast? Maybe I should call the palooza DecemberFeast?

Diane T said...

Great idea, Jacqui--in fact, it's Decemberrific!

I'm a heathen, although the family celebrates Christmas by exchanging gifts. One year in college my roommates and I (Jewish, Christian, and heathen) celebrated "Saturnalia," mainly by decorating the apartment with pine branches and drinking spiked eggnog.

In my book, you can never have enough reasons to celebrate. Can't think of a catchy name offhand, though.

Jacqui said...

Saturnalia is definitely involved.

I kind of like Decemberrific.

Candace Ryan said...

Anthro majors rock!!!

By the way, congrats on that NaNo thing (I don't have a nano second's patience for it:)

I like Decemberrific, too. Of course, if you wanted to highlight the crazy and wild nature of all the over-stimulation, you could always go with Decemberserk.

Rena said...

Sounds like you're going to have a busy month! :)