CultureGrams Global Holiday Roundup
Holidays provide a great way to introduce students to the culture and history of a country. Observe a world holiday in your classroom by asking students to research the holiday’s origins or learn more about a particular aspect of the country.
Holiday Focus: Tiananmen Square Anniversary
Since 1989, June 4 has been celebrated in Hong Kong, China to mark the anniversary of the massacre at Tiananmen Square when government tanks attacked thousands of student demonstrators who had been calling for reforms in China. Hundreds of students were killed and thousands more were wounded. The Chinese government has attempted to prevent these celebrations in some cities, but Hong Kong has been able to maintain its celebration, largely because it has retained some degree of independence from mainland China. Each year thousands of participants come to Hong Kong and hold a candlelight vigil in honor of the victims of the massacre.
World Holidays Featured This Month
Sweden – Swedish Constitution and Flag Day – June 6
Commemorates both the adoption of the Swedish constitution in 1809 and the ascension of Gustavus I to the throne in 1523. Celebrations include patriotic gatherings, parades, and flag raisings. Flags are given as prizes to various youth groups, schools, and other organizations, and in Stockholm, a choir of several thousand voices sings the national anthem.
Portugal – Agriculture Fair at Santarem – Ten days beginning on the first Friday in June
Known for its cooking and agricultural production, Portugal holds an annual fair each June in the capital city of Santarem. Festivies include bullfighting, folk singing, and dancing. Exhibitors come from all over Europe to show their best farm animals and machinery. Cooking demonstrations provide entertaining instruction on important national dishes.
Madagascar – Famadihana – Between June and September
This unique celebration takes place among the Malagasy people of Madagascar. In honor of their dead ancestors, the Malagasy exhume the bodies of relatives who have passed on and share a feast and party with them. While the bodies are out of the tomb, the Malagasy also replace their old burial clothes and then rebury them. To keep things as sanitary as possible, the Malagasy typically perform these celebrations during the winter months, which are drier.
India – Snan Yatra – May-June (full moon day of Hindu month of Jyestha)
During this celebration, images of Hindu deities are carried ceremoniously to a special platform where water is poured over them while passages from the Vedas are recited. Afterwards, the images are clothed and taken into seclusion for 15 days, during which Hindus enjoy themselves with grand celebrations.
United States – Festival of the American West – July
Begun in 1972 and held in Logan, Utah, this educational festival teaches visitors about America’s 19th century pioneer and Indian cultures. Activities include cowboy poetry readings, dutch oven cook-offs, Western art exhibits, and parades of antique wagons.
Philippines – Independence Day – June 12
From 1898 until 1962, the Philippines celebrated its independence on July 4 to commemorate their ties to the United States, who had helped the Philippines gain its independence from Spain in 1898. After 1962, Filipinos began celebrating independence on June 12—the day that they had originally declared their independence from Spain. The day is full of activities, including military parades, athletic competitions and games, fireworks, and dances. The U.S. ambassador is often invited to speak at an official ceremony.