During one of the Beginner classes at Excellence Center this week, Monica from the US who is participating in the Teach English and Speak Arabic program, along with the American volunteer Katrina, taught Palestinian students about one of our favorite holidays we celebrate in America—Halloween. To prepare for this lesson, both volunteers did some research on the history of the holiday and they were surprised to find out it began long ago in Europe as a pagan festival and later adapted as a Chirstian tradition to celebrate the dead saints and Martyrs. It was such an interesting find and they were excited to share this with the class and explain that although this used to be religious, in America it is more of a cultural celebration now that involves a lot of candy and spooky things. To this some Palestinian students reply, “we have scary things all the time, we don’t need a day for that.” While it was a funny remark, it added another layer to my understanding and experience of life in Palestine.
In addition to the history, International volunteers showed students the various types of costumes both children and adults wear. They even demonstrated how some costumes are a play on words, such as a man dressed in a giant iron suit making him Ironman. To add more interest to the presentation, both international volunteers showed some pictures of creative foods served during Halloween, such as breadsticks that looked like fingers or jackolantern that appears to be vomiting out guacamole. While they had a good laugh, they explained to me that they have a saying that they “eat with their eyes.” If something doesn’t look good, they wont eat it or enjoy it even if its delicious.
Following this presentation, it was time for the students to take turns presenting about a holiday of their own, — Eid. The Palestinian students divided into groups and on large white paper drew representations of it, such as a butcher , lamb, the mosque, and family. It was very interesting to learn the story behind this and why and how they celebrate it. Little by little activities like this do much to foster culture awareness and exchange and make the unfamiliar a more familiar for each other.