While there’s a lot of discussion in education about the best way to celebrate diversity, holidays have long been a stand-by for those looking to bring multiculturalism into the classroom. After all, who doesn’t love a holiday? The problem many people see with this kind of diversity is that if holidays are the only way cultures other than the dominant one are brought into the classroom, students will not really learn how to be multicultural. For these people, holiday celebrations serve simply to fetishize other cultures.
However, I think bringing diversity in can only be a positive step. While there should certainly be greater attention to multiculturalism in general, and making all students feel included and respected, celebrating various holidays is a fun way to give direct lessons about other cultures. Take Cinco de Mayo for instance. Cinco de Mayo provides a quick Spanish lesson for lower level students, from figuring out what the holiday name means to discussing the kinds of food that are eaten in Mexico to celebrate the occasion and the kinds of outfits that might be worn by traditional folk performers. Cinco de Mayo also gives teachers an opportunity to discuss history, culture, and literature. Integrating the day into a lesson plan or a classroom celebration can help keep the day educational as well as celebratory.
What are some ways that you celebrate Cinco de Mayo? My family has (predictably) always gone out for Mexican food, which we enjoy on a regular basis anyways.