Thursday, April 30, 2009

Happy Children's Day!

Children's Day is celebrated in Mexico on April the 30th. The celebration leading to "Children's month" generally starts around March the 21sth, when the Spring solstice and the Anniversary of Benito Juarez (Mexico's first indigenous president) is celebrated with pre-school age children parading around the streets wearing flower crowns and leis. When I was young I didn't like that tradition, mostly because my mother would make a lei for me out of straw flowers that made my neck itch!

During the 1970's, when I was in grammar school in Mexico City, the tradition began to get more commercial. Toy stores and TV commercials advertised toys and special sales leading to Children's day. Yet, my most cherished memories of this holiday had nothing to do with material things...but the gesture behind them. On April the 30th school aged children would get most of the day off from school. After a few lessons the teachers were in charge of entertaining their students for most of the day. We would go on field trips and receive lots of candy. Some times the teachers staged ridiculous plays where cross-dressing was encouraged.

When I was on fifth grade my friends and I snuck out of school during the children's day festivities. We ran to a near by Sanborns (a chain store that sold gifts, magazines and candy) and joined our resources to buy our favorite teacher a present. I remember running and laughing on our way back to school while complete strangers wished us a happy children's day. Back in school our teacher was waiting for us...she was not mad, but worried. She was waiting for us with small gifts she had made: colorful personalized name plaques made out of melted crayons. She had made one for every single kid in her class! We exchanged gifts and had a great day. Thad day made an impression on me. Up to this day I still imagine a young woman late at night, melting crayons and painfully applying them to dozens of little name plaques. The image above is from a new textile design. I made the design out of scraps pieces of paper and recycled materials. I think my 5th grade teacher would be proud.

I always found it sad that we don't have a specific day reserved to celebrate children, or childhood here in the US. Fairly recenlty, George Bush made a proclamation that made June the 3rd "National Child's Day" but that never really caught up. What I find even sadder is that the US is one of only two countries in the world that have not ratified the UN's Convention on the Rights of the Child (the other one is Somalia). The US is an incredibly youth centered culture. American kids have access to movies, amusement parks, summer camps, TV shows and many priviledges that other cultures don't really get tp experience. Maybe a holiday for children is not really necessary here. What do you think?

1 comment:

  1. I really enjoyed this post. I am a Spanish teacher in Phoenix, Arizona and I make it a point to celebrate el día del niño with all my classes. We make it a day of nostalgia and remembrance of the joyful, imaginative innocence of childhood. Students dress like little kids, sing kids songs (en español), play kid games and eat kid food. It is one of my favorite days of the year because uber-macho 17-year-old boys suddenly turn into smiling niños singing estrellita or playing musical chairs. So much fun!