“Diwali,” “Hanukkah,” “Pasko,” “Kwanzaa,” “Santa Lucia,” “Loi Krathong.” What do all of these unusual words have in common? They are Festivals of Light from cultures around the world—each one using light to celebrate. This is the perfect time of year for children of all ages to learn how different cultures celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Let’s take a look at 6 different Festivals of Light to study in the home or classroom. Set up a special area of the room for interactive learning and decorate it with lights. A map, craft paper, art supplies, access to the internet, and safe LED lights (rather than candles or lanterns) should be available for each festival studied. Each unit can involve geography, history of the festival, food tasting, storytelling, and a craft project.
Hanukkah is a Festival of Light celebrated in remembrance of the Jews’ military victory over the Syrians and a miracle of oil for God’s light. The Syrians had held the Jews’ temple. Eventually, the Jews fought and won back their temple, but discovered that the Syrians had allowed the light in the temple to go out. The Jews re-lit it, but had only enough oil for 1 day. Find out how long the light burned and why the menorah has nine candles.
Older students can study the history of the Maccabees’ resistance. Students can enjoy making contemporary menorahs, tasting latkes (potato pancakes), playing Chanukah Bingo, and making Hanukkah coasters. Blue and silver are traditional colors for Hanukkah and blue LED mini lights can be used for the festival.
“Deepawali-festival” by Ashish Kanitkar – http://www.flickr.com/photos/69871685@N05/6916052573/sizes/m/in/photostream/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Diwali means “array of lights” and is a festival that was originally a Hindu celebration of lights. It is now enjoyed by most families in India. Likely, it was an important harvest festival long ago. It also celebrates the return of Lord Rama from a 14 year exile in which he vanquished an evil demon-king. People decorate their homes with numerous clay lamps, and fireworks are set off in the streets. A safer alternative is to use LED lights in clay pots.
Students can make paper lanterns that are used with LED lights, make doodh peda sweets to taste, create a dried rice rangoli, and research the significance of firecrackers and gambling for the celebration. Multi-color mini LED lights are a great choice for this colorful festival. Red Color-Rite Interchangeable minis or green Color-Rite Interchangeable minis also work well. The bulbs can be swapped.
St. Lucia Festival
St. Lucia Festival is celebrated in Sweden and in other Scandinavian countries. December 13th is the longest night of the year in Sweden. Much of this festival centers upon the Scandinavian battle between darkness and light. Saint Lucia (Saint Lucy) was born to noble parents around 283. Her father died when she was 5, leaving Lucy and her mom without a male guardian. Lucy’s mom developed a long term illness and Lucy became a Christian when she prayed for her mother at a shrine. She remained a Christian even when persecuted for her faith.
Children can research why there are so few hours of daylight in Sweden during the winter, bake special Swedish buns called “Lussekatters,” and make Saint Lucia wreaths. Warm white color rite LED mini lights are perfect for this festival.
The Festival of Loi Krathong
The Thai Festival of Loi Krathong is a beautiful festival that traditionally takes place in the evening. “Loy” means “to float” and “Krathong” is a lotus shaped vessel made of leaves. The krathong carries a candle, sticks, some flowers, and coins. The festival starts at night under a full moon. People are offering thanks to the Goddess of Water. It is believed that Krathongs carry away bad luck and bad feelings.
Students can make paper boats to launch. They can also research the significance of setting free turtles in a pond, and do a science study to discover why the Chiang Mai lanterns are able to float up into the sky (and even launch their own).
Pasko Festival of Light
Pasko is the name of the Festival of Light in the Philippines. Parols, or star lanterns are an important part of the Philippines’ celebration of Christmas. Colorful parols of all sizes are displayed in homes. These were originally made of bamboo and paper. There are community competitions for the best parols, and families even pass down, from generation to generation, their secret expertise for crafting them. Church services celebrating the birth of Jesus, fireworks, and processions re-enacting the Christmas story are part of the 9 day festival.
Students can craft simple star lanterns, make star cookies, research the Giant Lantern Festival, and do a science unit on stars. Warm white Color-Rite LED minis are beautiful for studying this festival.
Consider studying other Festivals of Light from France (called the Fete des Lumieres), Germany, Mexico, and Swahili cultures (called Kwanzaa). All celebrations of light will be enhanced by the use of safe, cool, LED holiday lights available in many color and bulb choices. Also, all Holiday LED lights listed in this article (Color-Rite LED minis) allow you to customize the strand colors for any festival, holiday, or celebration simply by swapping out the bulbs. Festival celebration was never easier!