Celebrating holidays in harmony and respect with others

This article was written by Rachel Lwin TNSM parent and Diversity and Community Engagement Committee (D+CE) and expresses her views. At TNSM, we are grateful to have this D+CE forum that allows opportunities for members of our community to share their own beliefs, always with the goal of  expanding our understanding of each other’s experiences and points of view.

This time of year and around the winter holidays too, I spend a lot of time explaining myself. “My family celebrates Easter, but we’re not religious,” I say, a bit ruefully. It’s a familiar line to me, and I’m sure to many others too, as I’ve used it to explain away my family’s celebration of holidays from two different religions that we have never followed, well, religiously.

Myanmar new year, or Thingyan, fell on the day before Easter this year. It is a Buddhist observance with rituals that literally and figuratively wash away the previous twelve months, allowing celebrants to step cleansed, once more, into the new year. The concept of beginning again is not dissimilar to the history behind Easter, in fact (I think, but we’re not religious). Thingyan is a water festival that involves various bathing ceremonies, acts of forgiveness and restoration, and (the kids’ choice) water fights! Growing up in Maryland, April was a little too cold for such a water-centric holiday, so the community always celebrated in June.

But even back then, I found myself repeating that line, “Our family celebrates Thingyan, but we’re not religious,” which wasn’t entirely true as my father was a practicing Buddhist. Yet, I had only a vague idea that Thingyan was even a religious holiday at all; the party line in our household had always been that it was a demarcation of the transition into the rainy monsoon season in Myanmar, akin to a pagan solstice or equinox celebration, according to family lore. 

These holy days have expanded beyond the boundaries of their religious origins into each corner of our societies. They form our personal and professional schedules (even in secular spaces) yet, I know I’m not alone in my desire to reinforce the delineation in my own family. As my children are getting older, we’ve had more conversations about why we celebrate certain events but not others, and how other families may celebrate the same events we do, but carry different meanings with their festivities. I suppose, in the end, my hope is that they’ll have grace and confidence in their own beliefs, while celebrating in harmony and respect with others.

Below are some titles that may help children explore what holidays mean to them and the world around them.

Does your family observe a tradition or cultural holiday that you’d like to share with the TNSM community? Do you have a passion for or expertise in a certain area of DEI? The D&CE committee is always looking for books, resources, and classroom speakers to help deepen the cultural competency of our school community. Please reach out to us at Diversity@…


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