2015 – The Year of Multi-Cultural Monthly Festivities
Celebrating and promoting cultural diversity in Northern Ireland is as important to my family as survival as it creates the future environment for my children.
I was raised during the 1970s in a small town which was segregated, not formally, just by an unwritten rule that I should not play with kids ‘at the other end of the town’. Fast forward 30 years and I am fortunate to have met and married a man from ‘the other side’ and we have two young sons.
I am grateful that the early social conditioning experienced as a child did not prevail and prevent me from living the happy family life which I have today. A major factor in my shift in attitude was going to college and being educated alongside a variety of people from various religious and cultural backgrounds. I met my best friend in 1993 at University. We had lived in the same town and missed out on so many potential childhood adventures because of the political landscape at that time. Although this is regrettable, it’s important not to dwell on the past as the past can’t be changed; the focus is on today and creating a promising future for our children.
My 7 year old son attends Bridge Integrated Primary School. Their motto is ‘One in the Spirit’ which is a direct fit with our family’s rationale. I could not send him to a single identity school when we are a double identity family. He has the opportunity to learn about the world alongside different religious and cultural backgrounds. My son tells me about class mates from Italy, France, Poland and Spain. He has classmates of all physical and mental abilities. This stands him in good stead to socialise with people from all walks of life as he gets older. The Northern Ireland Council for Integrated Education claims 93% of children are educated in single identity schools. That is a lot of children missing out on the opportunity to learn and grow alongside children from various backgrounds until they enter higher education or the workplace.
I have many concerns for my children, as do all parents, about their future and the world they will grow up in, however I can only do my best to teach them that everyone is ‘one in the spirit’ despite differences in appearance, in belief and in culture. Our family’s New Year’s Resolution for 2015 is to learn about the different customs and holidays of various countries by celebrating a different holiday every month – what’s not to love about a monthly party? At the moment the calendar looks like:
19 January – Martin Luther King Day
19 February – Chinese New Year, year of the Sheep.
17 March – St Patrick’s Day
3 – 7 April – Easter
27 May – Children’s Day
21 June – Solstice
12 July – Orangefest
18 August – Parsi New Year
28 September – Ancestor’s Day
2 October – Mahatma Gandhi Birthday
31 October – Hallowe’en
11 November – Dwali – Festival of Light
26 November – Thanksgiving – it’s a great ethos to celebrate everything which we are grateful for.
December – is all about Christmas….remembering the spiritual message as well as Santa.
31 December – we celebrate New Year’s throughout the day as the world brings in the new year from various time zones…there is no way the boys can stay up until midnight, not yet.
Of course this list is currently a work in progress as we are just setting out on this quest, meaning any other suggestions would be greatly appreciated.