Essay written by TNSM parent and D+CE member Rachel Lwin
Thadingyut is the Myanmar holiday honoring the end of the summer and the transition to the cool, dry season of southeast Asia, heralded by the full autumn moon. This year, it was on October 20, the day that I wrote this blog post! Like Halloween, Thadingyut is one of many celebrations of the end of the harvest in the northern hemisphere, a marking of the annual changing of the seasonal guard.
Last year our family skipped trick-or-treating and held a Halloween/Thandingyut celebration instead. We were homeschooling at that point, and as both the ringmaster of our little school and a Halloween enthusiast, I commanded the troops to spend an inordinate amount of time learning about the holiday and a couple other fall equinox celebrations around the northern hemisphere.
Halloween as we know it today, has roots in an ancient equinox celebration called Samhain. It is a time to commemorate the harvest and prepare for the impending season of darkness. Several of the equinox celebrations my kids and I read held a few common themes: the triumph of light over dark; feasting; giving thanks to or honoring others, living or dead; and community steadfastness in the face of adversity.
Holidays offer a gateway for our children to find connections with cultures and parts of the world different from our own. I’ve listed a handful of books in the Cincinnati Public Library collection that we all might find comfort and connection in as the light fades and we prepare for brighter, warmer days ahead.
- A short history of Halloween by Sally Lee (2016): True to its name, this is a short, succinct history of Halloween and Samhain.
- Mooncakes by Loretta Seto (2013): A beautifully illustrated story of a girl and her family celebrating the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.
- Día de Los Muertos by Roseanne Thong (2017): Bright and simple illustrations and clear, factual descriptions of a Día de Los Muertos celebration.
- Halloween by Gail Gibbons (1984) & Halloween is… by Gail Gibbons (2002): Two oldies but goodies with historical information about present-day Halloween traditions like trick-or-treating, costumes, and jack-o-lanterns.
- The autumn equinox: celebrating the harvest by Ellen Jackson (2000): A basic guide to harvest celebrations around the world, including a retelling of a Native American Sauk tale.
- We are grateful/Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell (2018): “Journey through the year with a Cherokee family and their tribal nation as they express thanks for celebrations big and small.” –Cincinnatilibrary.org
- Samhain: rituals, recipes, and lore for Halloween by Diana Rajchel (2015): If you’re ever in need of a basic guide to pagan celebrations and lore, Llewellyn Sabbat’s guides are always a reliable place to land. Generally, these books have a western lean, though sometimes include other traditions.
- Love Sugar Magic by Anna Meriano (2018): “Wanting to be a part of her family’s Día de los Muertos preparations, Leonora sneaks out of school to discover her mother, aunt, and older sisters have been keeping a secret.” –Cincinnatilibrary.org