Saturday, January 8, 2011

Learning about... The New Year

Big Bro and I launched into the New Year full of enthusiasm for a new project, perhaps even a new resolution: to learn about something each week. The idea for this came from Little Garden Helpers' "Teach Your Toddler" series, where the Little Garden Helpers spent six weeks of their summer focussed on a different garden creepy-crawly. I haven't decided whether ours will be a summer activity or last longer- Big Bro starts at his new pre-school in February, so if he seems to be full to the brim with learning from there, we will slacken off at home. But I hope not- we've already had lots of ideas of things we'd like to immerse ourselves in for a week, including:

- caterpillars
- slaters
- Australia Day, Chinese New Year, St Patrick's Day, and other festivals/holidays when possible (takes up about half the weeks!)
- New York
- how houses are built
- sharks, or more specifically, "why sharks don't have bones" (I'll stick with the broader topic I think!)

This week I suggested we learn about the New Year. It's nothing fancy, and mostly just comes from the internet, but by the end of the week we learnt:
- this year is 2011, so is (about) two thousand and eleven years after the time we think Jesus was born (the Christmas Story stuck this year)
- we say the New Year starts on the first of January, but other people around the world think it starts at different times, like Chinese New Year, or the start of Spring
- there are lots of ways to celebrate the New Year, including by saying "happy new year", with fireworks, and singing Auld Lang Syne (Little Bro thought this was the worst song ever!). Our family celebrates by having lunch with Auntie R.
- lots of people like to make New Year's Resolutions to say things they'd like to learn or do in the coming year. Big Bro didn't quite get this, but he did take much more to the idea that the New Year is a time that we can say "bye" to the bad things that happened- or we did- in the old year. There were lots of descriptions of traditions to do with farewelling the previous year with a fire, which I condensed for simplicity into us burning a small twig of our Christmas tree to "say bye to all the bad things from 2010". Big Bro took this to heart, and since then has, several times, either told me/Little Bro that we can't be crabby/rough (respectively, I point out!!) because we said bye to those bad traits over the fire.
- there are lots of New Year food traditions. We made Sesame-Honey cookies, where the sweetness symbolises the good things of the year to come, and the seeds symbolise fecundity, growth and all that (not fertility in our family, thanks!!) and were going to make Nigella's lentil and sausage soup until the weather turned hot, and we substituted pasta with pea and corn (fecundity and all that) and chopped up sausages (which look like coins). We also ate "the twelve grapes of luck" for the coming year (not at midnight on New Year's Eve), though Little Bro spat out several of his grapes, and I'm wondering what that symbolises.....

Incidentally, did you know that 2011 is the UN Year of Forests? I didn't until pre-school sent Big Bro a letter telling him to bring a photo of his favourite tree on the first day. Bless his little heart- he's decided his favourite trees are the silver birches he helped us plant. Eco-credits to us?! I see 2012 is the UN Year of Cooperatives- I wonder what that class will be invited to bring? $20 to invest in the class pyramid scheme?


Kymmie said...

It's so great that you're making the effort to learn new things. I have a post ready to go about my goal to try new things, so on a very similar theme! Toddlers can make you learn so many new things. I don't know about you, but they ask very hard questions! xx

ANB said...

I like the idea of burning away the bad things of the past year. In a fantasy series I like a lot (The Witches of Eileanan) they write their failings on pieces of paper and send them up the chimmney. A lot of the stuff in the books is based on Scottish traditions so I'm not sure if that is a real or made up one. I think they also did it at the winter solstice rather than New Year ... anyhow, cool post and list of things about New Year!

_vTg_ said...

A- I also liked the "new year, fresh start", especially because with kids there's no point in having emotional baggage! Throwing paper up the chimney reminds me of the tradition of burning letters to Santa... Lots of Japanese temples have racks where you write your requests on paper and tie them on, and the wind will carry your request to the gods.

Kymmie- LOL, yes, Big Bro comes up with some doozies! And apologies for the delay in responding to your kind plug. Have been struggling to come up with my list of 7... work in progress...!!

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