Last week the world celebrated a very important day; Universal Children’s Day. This day is dedicated to the rights of children around the world, especially to those who live in countries where they are deprived of their liberty.
Every child deserves the right to life, to health, to education and to play, as well as the right to family life, to be protected from violence, to not be subjected to discrimination, and to have their views heard.
In honor of this special day, Cheza Nami would like to dedicate a Thanksgiving blog post to how children in other countries celebrate Thanksgiving. Last year Cheza Nami wrote about the Homowo Harvest festival celebrated in Ghana. What a unique and colorful festival! There are however some other countries where families get together at fall (autumn) and share different foods and gifts with family, in their own country’s version of Thanksgiving.
The Patron Saint Nicholas visits Europe
On the night of the 5th November the spirit of Saint Nicholas; the Patron Saint of Children, wanders through Germany, Austria, Belgium and Switzerland. Wearing a bishop’s robe and carrying his staff, St Nicholas is accompanied by his devil-like accomplice called Krampus, who likes to tease and frighten children.
However scared of Krampus children may be though, their excitement far outweighs their fear because Saint Nicholas brings gifts!
Children will leave their shoes near a window or door on this night. They may also leave thei
r Christmas wish list in their shoe for Saint Nicholas so he can deliver it to Santa.
Then on the morning of 6th November, children wake to find their shoes stuffed with small presents! Traditionally, tangerines and shelled nuts are among these gifts.
The Moon Festival in China
In China and other parts of Asia a festival falls on the day of year when the moon is at its roundest and brightest! This is the Mid-Autumn Festival, called the Moon Festival.
This tradition comes from the ancient Chinese who observed that the movement of the moon had a close relationship with changes of the seasons and agricultural production. To express their thanks to the moon and celebrate the harvest, they offered a sacrifice to the moon in autumn.
Today children and their families gather to appreciate the bright full moon and feast on a Chinese delicacy called moon cakes. Moon cakes have a rich, thick filling made from red bean or lotus seed paste that is surrounded by a thin crust and may contain yolks from salted duck eggs.
Moon cakes are usually ornately decorated. Sometimes they have an imprint on top consisting of the Chinese characters for “longevity” or “harmony”.
Imprints of the moon, the Lady on the moon, flowers, vines, or a rabbit may also surround these characters.
On the Moon Festival, children and their families remember family members and friends who live far away.
There are also some other customs on this day like playing games with lanterns and watching traditional Chinese dragon and lion dances.
The Persian Festival of Autumn
At the beginning of autumn, on 8th October, Persian countries like Iran, Turkey, Afghanistan, Kuwait, Iraq etc. celebrate “Mehregan”, also known as the Persian “Thanksgiving” Festival of autumn. Traditionally, this ancient festival celebrates the harvest and the food it provides for winter, as well as nature and the creation of the world dedicated to the Persian Goddess Mehr. Her name, which is also referred to as Mithra, signifies love, friendship, understanding, knowledge, compassion and unity.
Symbolic dishes decorate the family dinner table on this day like pomegranates, wheat and barley. Wholesome food like meat, vegetables, nuts and sweets are part of the Mehregan feast. A colorful table is set and the tablecloth edges are lined with the herb marjoram. A religious book is placed on the table with a mirror and a type of eye make-up. A few other symbolic items like silver coins and rosewater adorn the table while frankincense is burnt.
The family prays in front of the mirror and then rubs the eye make-up around their eyes as a good omen. Handfuls of marjoram, lotus and plum seeds are thrown over each other’s heads while family members embrace each other. In the evening the festival continues with bonfires and fireworks and celebrations.
Cultural traditions and holidays are one of the cornerstones of our childhood memories. To children all over the world, we wish you and your family happiness, laughter and warmth over this time, however you may be spending it!
Author: Donna Van Wyk
SEO Copywriter at DigiGal Marketing