Italian Culture for Global Children – Carnevale, Easter and other Holidays and Events

You may have noticed from reading my posts, that although I have spent time researching and procuring books and innovative materials to help support my children’s interest in languages, I am also a firm believer in regularly immersing them in cultural activities. I strongly believe that language learning should be relevant for children. You can make their language acquisition relevant by engaging them in fun, interactive activities and giving them the opportunity to practice their “new” words and expressions during different times of the year and in varied environments. You should also provide them with historical background and a framework to help them remember their “new” words more easily.

Columbus Day

Columbus Day Parade

One way to go about this undertaking is to keep your finger on the pulse of annual cultural events that take place around certain holidays or during certain seasons. Although my children do not speak Italian, continuous exposure to one of their heritage countries’ customs is high on our list of priorities. Accordingly, whenever we have an opportunity to attend an Italian cultural event, we do. We have marched in the NYC Columbus Day Parade on 5th Avenue, attended  language lessons at our public library co-hosted by CampItlalia and New York Italians (See Fun Events that Complement Language Learning) and participated in UNICO’s Italian Heritage Summer Picnic. These types of events are great venues for children to learn about history and geography; language and customs; and foods and desserts.

Fun and friendly children's competitions at UNICO picnic

Fun and friendly children’s competitions at UNICO picnic

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Kids learning Italian in a fun CampItalia lesson at the public library! Photo courtesy of CampItalia

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carnevale in Italy

This year, I also attended a “Carnevale” event hosted by Long Island Italians, a chapter of New York Italians. This non-profit organization kicked off the Easter season with a social and informative event. Although the event was too late in the evening for my children to attend, I shared with them what I observed and learned that night and spoke to them about the history of Carnevale.  They were intrigued, more so, because of the timeliness of the “lesson”. Some of the tidbits they enjoyed hearing about:

Carnavale Masks

Carnevale Masks. Photo courtesy of Long Island Italians

  • Origin of the Word – Carnevale comes from the Italian “carne’ (meat) + ‘levare’ (to remove or take away).
  • Carnevale was first celebrated in the 12th century in the northern city of Italy called Venezia.
  • The entire city becomes a stage and residents, visitors, actors, acrobats, and musicians wear elaborate masks and elegant costumes.
  • Carnevale was especially fun because the masks allowed all people to be equal: a poor peasant could be mistaken for royalty when faces are covered by masks.

Easter in Italy

In Italy, on Palm Sunday, one week before Easter Sunday, many children create gifts for family and friends made from the palms brought home from Palm Sunday services. Italian children, like children in America, also dye Easter eggs. They make their own natural dye from red onion skins. Rather than placing the eggs in baskets, they are placed in or on bread braids to add color to the Easter desserts. Some of the dyed eggs come out after the Easter meal for children to play games with.

Children in Italy are not familiar with the Easter bunny, as the concept of the Easter Bunny that American children know was actually brought to the United States by the Germans in the 1700’s. Italian children, like their American counterparts, also receive elaborate chocolate Easter eggs with treats inside as gifts from their parents and family members.

If your children are studying Italian, are of Italian heritage, or just want to learn more about Italy and its culture, seek out these types of free and fun events in or near your community.  Below are some places you could begin:

  • CampItlalia continues to host additional free library events in neighboring communities in Long Island, NY  and is partnering with other Italian organizations in the Northeast Region to promote the Italian language and culture. CampItalia also offers an enriching, lively, well-rounded Italian summer camp program. Children practice speaking Italian and learn about aspects of Italian life, traditions, music, and history. This program is structured according to age groups and is ideal for children between the ages of 4 and 12. Click here for program details.
  • UNICO has 20 active chapters across the United States, and
  • New York Italians is branching out and developing chapters across the United States, too!

Buona Pasqua a tutti!!

 

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St. Patrick’s Day Parade – A Family Tradition full of All Things Irish

Our family lived in NYC for several years before we moved right outside the city limits, but we still go to NYC parades that celebrate our heritage such as the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

The Kilt

This type of event is always a great segue into conversation about history, geography and immigration as well as the arts, food, world cultures and languages.

Sometimes children need to be reminded that they are not the only ones who are learning to speak and/or speaking a second language. When they come to events like these, their eyes are opened and they see that so many other children celebrate their family’s culture and language, too. Children also typically go out to eat a traditional Irish dinner after the parade with their clan. Nowadays, you could find a little more than fish & chips and corned beef and cabbage on certain Irish menus. There is such thing as Irish cuisine! The language and cuisine of Ireland are not always in the spotlight, so what better time to bring it up?

The Irish Language:

Granted, I have never met an Irish-American family that speaks Irish to their children at home, but I do personally know parents who take the time to teach their children about the Irish language, sometimes referred to as Gaelic, and to teach them certain words and expressions along with some history.

Although Irish is not formally included in our family’s language plan, we do read Irish tales and myths at home with our boys.  We listen to Irish programs on the radio in the car from time to time. We also listen to children’s Irish audio books which do a grand job of exposing our sons to the correct pronunciation of certain Irish words and names such as Oisín (ush-een), Niamh (nee-uv), Cahir (care) and Aoife (ee-fuh). I had to look up the phonetic pronunciation to include in this blog post, but if my boys were home right now they would have been able to recite those names and pronounce them correctly without flinching. I attribute this skill of theirs to their exposure to world languages and speaking at least one other language from a very early age.

Irish Cuisine:

Did you know that Kinsale, a town in County Cork, Ireland, is the culinary capital of Ireland? Kinsale has some of the best seafood in the country and hosts an annual Gourmet Festival which attracts people from all corners of the globe. Irish cuisine has come a long way and Irish chefs have come to the States to participate in culinary exchanges. They have introduced some of their new Irish gourmet dishes such as poached paupiettes of lemon sole and fresh trout and poached darne of sea-fresh brill. If your children enjoy seafood, fine Irish cuisine could be a great addition to your dining repertoire.

The NYC St. Patrick’s Day parade abounds with entertaining, child-friendly, Irish stimulation. Bagpipes, Irish Step-Dancing, Irish Fashion: Irish Wool Sweaters and Caps, and of course Shamrocks, Gold Coins and Bright-colored Emerald Beads to add to the festive environment.

What a brilliant way to sprinkle children with a little bit of culture, cuisine and history!!!

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