CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 32. . . .April 24, 2015
With the addition of these six new titles, the “Cultural Traditions in My World” series now numbers 16 books. Designed for young readers, each title discusses the religious, family, seasonal and national holidays of a specific country and the historical significance, foods, customs and celebrations associated with them. The books, each having 14 chapters, begin with a brief introduction of the country- its location, population, official languages or religions- and are arranged chronologically, starting with the first holiday of January (usually New Year’s). One or two holidays are featured per double-page spread. Some of the cultural traditions date back to ancient times while others are relatively recent. What readers will find interesting is that no matter where they are celebrated, many of the holidays are quite similar around the world. For instance, several countries have holidays that honour workers, celebrate the country’s independence, or reflect on the sacrifices made by their military in times of conflict. Text is printed in a large, simple font; “Did You Know?” text boxes provide additional information. The illustrations consist mainly of colour photographs, some black and white archival photographs and a few maps. A table of contents, a glossary and an index are also included.
Cultural Traditions in Canada not only provides information about religious holidays, such as Easter and Christmas, but it also discusses specifically Canadian holidays, such as Victoria Day, National Aboriginal Day, Family Day and festivals such as the Quebec Winter Carnival and the Calgary Stampede.
Mardi Gras, Bastille Day and Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary are just a few of the holidays mentioned in Cultural Traditions in France. Famous celebrities and movie buffs flock to the Cannes Film Festival while music is celebrated at the Festival of Music in June. May brings the Medieval Festival of Sedan during which people wear costumes and enjoy music, food, games and competitions that were popular in medieval times.
Though Israel is a small country, it has a rich culture, its holidays following the lunar calendar. Cultural Traditions in Israel begins with Tu Bishvat, a kind of Arbor Day. Other celebrations include Purim, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot and Hanukkah. Many Muslims living in Israel celebrate the month-long holiday of Ramadan which is characterized by fasting and special prayer services. Two minor flaws in this title are the fact that the author describes a Bar Mitzvah as a “special party” that is held when a boy turns 13-years-old, but there is no mention of the religious ceremony; the other is that, though Hanukkah is known as the Festival of Lights, readers are not given the reason why.
The United Kingdom is comprised of four different countries, each of which has its own customs. Cultural Traditions in the United Kingdom showcases a few of these, ranging from wedding customs in Wales and Scotland to the gathering of Druids at Stonehenge in England on Midsummer’s Day to celebrate the summer solstice. Cultural traditions are also influenced by the Royal Family. Robert Burns Day, Guy Fawkes Night, St. Patrick’s Day and Remembrance Day are just a few of the other holidays featured in this title.
Cultural Traditions in the United States highlights a variety of holidays, from the historical, such as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Presidents’ Day and Memorial Day, to the religious, like Shrove Tuesday, Good Friday, Easter and Christmas. Others mentioned include Native American Day, which celebrates the contributions of indigenous peoples, Hallowe’en, a fun night of trick-or-treating, and Thanksgiving, a time to give thanks for the year’s harvest. Perhaps this title should have mentioned Kwanzaa, a week-long celebration of feasting and gift-giving which honours the African heritage of African-American people.
Despite a few omissions, this series meets its objective- that is, to promote an appreciation of other cultures around the globe. That said, there are numerous titles already in print on the same topic, and this series adds nothing new to the mix.
Gail Hamilton is a former teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.