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: First Day of Summer
Celebrated on the Thursday that falls between April 19 and 25, the First Day of Summer is a major holiday in Iceland, which experiences long, dark winters. On this day, people exchange gifts and celebrate the end of winter with speeches, plays, singing, dancing, and sports. The traditional food eaten on this holiday is summer-day cakes (large rye flat breads on top of which other foods are placed).
World Holidays Featured This Month
Japan - Hana Matsuri (Flower Festival) - April 8
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Commemorates Buddha's birthday. The holiday is celebrated in Buddhist temples and culminates with a ritual in which people ladle spoonfuls of sweet tea over a small bronze Buddha statue.
Thailand - Songkran - Around April 12-15
The traditional New Year celebrations, usually lasting three days. Celebrated with a combination of religious rituals and secular celebrations. People worship at Buddhist temples, sprinkling water on Buddhist images. Birds and fish are released. On the streets, people splash water on each other as part of the festivities.
Sri Lanka - Sinhala Avurudu - April 13 or 14
Sri Lankan New Year celebrations. Astrologers set the precise hour that the new year will begin. In Sri Lanka, the new year often begins a few hours after the old year ends. These between hours are known as nona gathe (neutral period), and people do not eat or drink during this time.
Zimbabwe - Independence Day - April 18
Commemorates Zimbabwe's independence from Britain, in 1980. Zimbabweans celebrate with singing and fireworks and by holding political rallies, parades, and performances.
United States - French Quarter Festival - Mid-April
Celebrated in New Orleans, Louisiana, the festival celebrates the unique culture and music of Louisiana. Musicians from Louisiana and those who have been influenced by Louisiana's music perform. Bands perform throughout the French Quarter of New Orleans, and local restaurants open food booths serving traditional food from the region.
Switzerland - Sechselauten - Third Monday in April and the Sunday before
A festival held in Zurich that celebrates the coming of spring. A model of the Boogg (snowman, symbolizing winter) is paraded through the streets and then stuffed with firecrackers. The festival converges on the shore of Lake Zurich on Monday evening, when bells are rung, people on horseback circle the Boogg, and music is played. The event culminates with the explosion of the Boogg. Activities continue into the night.