Halloween is upon us — that spooky mysterious holiday that the Japanese people know nearly nothing about. The trees in Gunma will begin to change colours, and there is a cool crisp feeling in the air – a reminder that winter is drawing near and our towns will soon be covered in a blanket of snow. Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, and one of my favorite classes to teach, and there is a lot of opportunity for a fun and culturally informative class for kids at all age levels. So, before the snow starts to fall, we must celebrate this mash of ancient Celtic, Catholic and Roman tradition of harvest, celebration, and superstition.
October 31st was believed to mark the end of summer and harvest season, and the beginning of a cold dark winter. This changing of seasons, from light to dark; life to death, was an opportunity for ghosts and spirits to return to earth to cause havoc on remaining crops, but also offer spiritual guidance. It was a superstitious and spiritual night, and in celebration of this event, the Celtics built large bonfires, adorning themselves in costumes and telling each other their fortunes. The Catholics later incorporated their holiday All-Hallows, a time of honoring the dead, and the name ‘Halloween’ was born. European immigrants slowly made their way to America and the varied traditions of this autumn festival blended and spread throughout the country. Halloween became a celebration of community, marked with bonfires, story telling, costumes, dancing and general mischief.
Today, Halloween is a popular holiday throughout North America and all over the world. Young children dress up in costume and march door-to-door collecting candy and treats from neighbors. Pumpkins are carved, stories are told, and mischief is caused. There is absolutely nothing you can’t love about this holiday.
Whether you celebrate Halloween in your own country or not, it is a great excuse to break away from the general routine of your classroom and incorporate a cultural element and a lot of fun! There are loads resources on the internet to put together an awesome Halloween class for your kids. Here are some of my ideas that have worked well in the past, and while they are mostly catered to the younger Elementary School crowd, they can be easily adapted for your older too-cool-for-school Junior High kids:
- Get Costumed. Don Quijote is easy. There are four in Gunma: Takasaki, Isesaki, Ota, and Kiryu and plenty around in Tokyo. Your kids will flip if you show up to school dressed as Pikachu.
- Drop a Beat. Genki English has some good songs with video and pictures. Trick or Treat, Apple Bobbing, and Happy Halloween. Put on your spookiest ghoul voice. They will love it.
- Play Cards. MES-English always has great Halloween Game Cards. Use the matching flashcards to learn the vocabulary first. Karuta is an easy game to play, or divide the class into teams and play a gesture game. (One at a time, the kids pick up a card and gesture the image to their team to guess. The first team to complete all the cards wins).
- Mask Yourself. There are plenty of resources on the internet for printable masks. Give the kids 20-30 minutes to choose a mask, cut it out, and attach elastic bands to each side (to go around their ears). The kids look so cute and they love to do crafts and dress up. Cute masks, scary masks, real cute masks, and even more masks.
- Pin-The-Face-On-The-Pumpkin – Print and laminate and cut out all the pieces. (make several copies for a bigger class). Attach double-sided tape to the backs of the face pieces, and post the large pumpkin on the wall. Divide the class into groups and blindfold one student at a time. Blindfolded students try to make a Jack-O-Lantern face.
- Tick Tac Toe – Print several Tick Tac Toe board games and pieces. Students can decorate their own board games and play together.
- Spot the Difference – Print the pictures really really big. Divide the class into teams and race to win, or spot the differences together as a class.
The ideas are endless and you will find more than you will ever need with a simple google search. Halloween-it-up, Gunma.