Lots to look forward to in the Autumn term 2021

After the challenges of the last year were all hoping that the coming term will be a return to something like normality for UK schools. Whatever the future holds, here’s my roundup of things to look forward to this autumn.

Autumn Term Top Ten

  1. Although we didn’t get the best of summers this year, we should still have a few weeks of warmer days before the nights draw in. Let’s make the most of them while we can.
  2. It’s a new school year! Remember that feeling when you wrote your name on a new exercise book and opened the first fresh page full of possibilities. While we may have concerns about the return to school, children will have that same feeling of open possibility. This is an opportunity to help them capture that feeling and go on to achieve great things!
  3. Keats famously described autumn as the ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’ And we can all take delight from the many natural signs that summer is turning into autumn. Keep an eye out for which plants are flowering now, which fruits are ripening and which leaves changing colour. Which changes in the behaviour of birds and other animals do you notice? You’ll soon find that no two days are alike. You can find out more, and a range of nature-based activities on the Wildlife Trusts’ Looking After Yourself and Nature webpage.
  4. The annual Macmillan Coffee Morning, this year on 24 September, is now a firm fundraising fixture in many schools. You can sign up and get more information and a fundraising kit here: Macmillan Coffee Morning 2021.
  5. In the UK, October is Black History Month, which honours and celebrates the contribution Black Britons have made to our vibrant and diverse society. Why not make BHM 2021 a focus for an inclusive and diverse curriculum, not only for a month, but all year round. You can find out more about events and activities throughout the year, and order a school resource pack, from blackhistorymonth.org.uk. There are also regional listings so you can look for events local to you. Friday 22 October is Wear Red Day when we are encouraged to wear something red to show unity against racism. You can find out more on the Show Racism the Red Card website.
  6. This Autumn sees a range of other national awareness events. The links here will take you to information and resources for schools. This year’s Big Draw Festival has the theme ‘Make the Change’, exploring ways to live in balance with the world around us, to reconnect with each other and create a better world for future generations. Jeans for Genes Day lasts a week this year, with schools able to hold their day at any time in the week beginning Monday 13 September. We are all encouraged to #ShareAPoem on the theme of ‘Choice’ on National Poetry Day 2021, which is 7 October. You can download free resources from the education pages of the website. Another event featuring in the calendar of many schools is Anti-Bullying Week, which this year takes place between Monday 15 and Friday 19 November with the theme of ‘One Kind World’. 19 November is also the date of this year’s annual BBC Children in Need appeal which has become a regular fundraising focus for many schools.
  7. When the nights do draw in, and the weather gets colder, humans have responded by making lights and loud noises for as long as history records. In the UK, our excuse to celebrate with bonfires and fireworks is now Guy Fawkes Night on 5th November; well worth a reminder about firework safety.
  8. Some of the best school traditions happen in the Autumn term and will be upon us before we know it. So, check your Christmas jumper for moth holes, change the battery in your LED-lit elf hat, try to recall where you put that box of decorations, and start planning the Nativity Play now!
  9. At the end of this term, the Christmas Holiday beckons. This year, because it and Boxing Day fall on the weekend, the UK Bank Holidays are on Monday 28 & Tuesday 29 December.
  10. There are many other key dates, holidays and festivals you may wish to mark during the Autumn term:
  • Tuesday 7 September Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year celebration
  • Thursday 16 September Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement
  • Tuesday 22 September Autumn Equinox
  • Sunday 31 October is Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve, and this year it is also the end of British summer time, so clocks go back one hour
  • Monday 1 November is the Christian feast of All Saints’ Day
  • Tuesday 2 November is the Christian feast of All Souls’ Day
  • Thursday 4 November Diwali / Deepavali, the Hindu Festival of Lights
  • Thursday 11 November Armistice Day, with Remembrance Sunday following on 14 November
  • Sunday 28 November marks the start of Advent in the Christian Calendar
  • Monday 29 November is the First Day of Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, with the Last Day falling on Monday 6 December
  • Tuesday 30 November St Andrew’s Day, a Bank Holiday in Scotland
  • Tuesday 21 December is the Winter Solstice, with the shortest day length of the year.

What do you most look forward to in Autumn? Let me know if there are any dates or events that I’ve missed here.

Looking for some more inspiration for assemblies? Have a look at these educational quotes for Monday morning motivation. 

Festival dates from timeanddate.com

Image: Pixabay / Peggy Choucair

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Things to look forward to in Summer Term 2021

I’ve been writing these ‘start of term’ posts for a while now. This time, more than ever before, it feels like we’ll all be looking forward to making the most of what summer has to offer as we emerge not just from winter, but from over a year of tackling Covid.

Times remain difficult and much that would normally happen this term must be postponed, or happen in a different way. Nevertheless, I hope that there is still a lot to look forward to.

The clocks have gone forward and each day is a little longer than the one before. One thing to enjoy is more waking up and coming home from work in daylight. Longer (hopefully) sunlit days help lift our mood, so it’s a good idea to try to make some time to get outside each day; even if it’s overcast, natural sunlight will do you good.

For 2021, The Big Pedal, organised by the charity Sustrans, runs from Monday 19 April to the end of the month. This annual event challenges primary and secondary school pupils to cycle, scoot and wheelchair as many miles as they can. You can find out more, register and pick up free resources from the Big Pedal website.

If you prefer two feet to two wheels, Walk to School Week is back to it’s usual time in the calendar, spring, running from 17-21 May. You can order a classroom pack now from the Living Streets Website.

While you’re out and about, take some time to connect with nature. Look out for the many changes in the natural world as spring turns into summer. Which plants are coming into bloom? Which berries and fruits are starting to form? Which birds, bees and butterflies do you notice? Take note of these small changes and you’ll soon see that no two days are alike. You can even use an app such as iRecord to add your nature sightings to the National database. If your pupils are feeling inspired by nature, the might want to submit a poem for the Into the Green Poetry Project that I’m involved with, run by The Bodleian Libraries and Oxford Botanic Garden to celebrate 400 years of plant science in Oxford. You can download a project pack from the Bodleian’s website. The deadline for submissions is 1 July 2021.

Connecting with nature is one way to look after our mental health and ‘nature’ is the theme of UK Mental Health Awareness Week which, this year, runs from 10-17 May. You can find out more from the Mental Health Foundation who are asking us to share images, videos and sounds of nature on social media using the hashtag #ConnectWithNature.

Lockdown and travel restrictions have highlighted adverse effects of fossil fuel use including air pollution and the climate emergency. The UN World Environment Day is on Saturday 5 June and this year marks the start of the UN’s Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. This could provide a focus for learning activities about human impact and the environment. You can find out more at worldenvironmentday.global #GenerationRestoration

THERE ARE MANY FESTIVALS, HOLIDAYS AND EVENTS THIS TERM:

  • Ramadan has already started and is observed by Muslims until Eid ul-Fitr on, or near 13 May
  • Stephen Lawrence Day is on Thursday 22 April
  • St George’s Day is on Friday 23 April and this is also Shakespeare Day
  • May is topped and tailed by bank holidays, with the Early May Bank Holiday on Monday 3 May and the Spring Bank Holiday on Monday 31 May
  • Friday 7 May is the Jewish Holiday of Shavuot
  • The Christian feast of Pentecost is on Sunday 23 May
  • In the UK, Fathers’ Day is on Sunday 20 June
  • Monday 21 June marks the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year
  • Tuesday 22 June is Windrush Day which marks the anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in 1948 and celebrates the British Caribbean community
  • Tuesday 20 July is Eid ul-Adha, or greater Eid

Many of the most memorable aspects of school life usually happen during the Summer term: school trips, outdoor education, Summer concerts and productions, PTA barbecues, sports days, enrichment weeks, proms and end of year awards.

These enrich the curriculum and help build communities. This year these events will be very different, and some may not be possible at all, but schools will find ways to celebrate their own unique community and the landmark transitions for years 6, 11, and 13.

Hopefully, by the end of the summer term, teachers and pupils alike will be able to enjoy a well-earned summer break after an extraordinary school year.

Holocaust Memorial Day 2021

Holocaust Memorial Day is on 27 January. It’s an occasion many schools mark each year and build into their teaching.

On the day, people all over the world remember the victims of the holocaust in Nazi occupied Europe during WW2, and victims of genocides that have taken place since then, including those in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia.

This year, the theme is Be the light in the darkness. It explores the ways individuals resisted the darkness of genocide to be the light before, during and after horrific events. You can find more information and resources for schools on the HMDT website. For HMD2021, the Trust asked young people to submit photos on this theme, the best of which will be used in an online exhibition to be launched on 27 January.

A couple of years ago, I ran a similar in-school competition that drew on the work of Gregory Stanton of Genocide Watch. The aim was to encourage young people to think about the part they could play in countering the ten stages of genocide, including the denial of historical events.

The ten stages of genocide

  1. Classification: all cultures have categories that distinguish different groups of people, but these can become the basis of discrimination. A first step can be the denial of citizenship to a group. We can prevent classification by celebrating our shared humanity.
  2. Symbolisation: different groups are distinguished by symbols or colours, for example the yellow star worn by Jews under Nazi rule before and during WWII. We can prevent symbolisation by rejecting racist and derogatory language and attitudes.
  3. Discrimination: A dominant group, driven by an exclusionary ideology, uses custom, political power and the law to curtail the rights of other groups. We can counter discrimination by ensuring full citizenship rights, political engagement, and legal redress for all groups.
  4. Dehumanisation: the humanity of members of a group is denied by equating them with animals, vermin, insects or diseases. They may be vilified through hate propaganda in print, on radio & TV, and in social media. This subverts the normal human revulsion against murder. We can prevent dehumanisation by challenging such speech across all media platforms, and in everyday interactions.
  5. Organisation: genocide is organised by a state either directly or through militias or decentralised terrorist groups which allow deniability. This can be countered by national and international scrutiny, sanctions, and prosecution.
  6. Polarisation: extremists drive groups apart and target moderates who speak and work against genocide. Polarisation can be prevented by supporting the work of human rights groups and the legal challenge of extremist actions.
  7. Preparation: Leaders of the perpetrator group plan for genocide, perhaps using euphemisms for mass killing such as ‘Final Solution’ or ‘purification’. This may only be prevented by international action such as arms embargoes.
  8. Persecution: victims are separated because of ethnicity, religion or other factor. They may be confined to ghettos or concentration camps and subject to extrajudicial killing. Perpetrators watch for international reaction and accelerate their actions if it is ineffective.
  9. Extermination: the mass killing that defines genocide occurs. It is referred to as ‘extermination’ by the perpetrators because they do not regard the victims as fully human. This can only be halted by rapid international intervention to protect victims.
  10. Denial: this occurs during or after genocide. It includes attempts to cover up or discredit evidence, denial that genocide occurred, or even attempts to blame the victims. Denial can be countered by prosecution of perpetrators, and continued school and public education.

Where we can all most readily play a role in countering genocide is in the early stages, and in working against the denial that occurs following genocide. That’s why I believe that it is so important for educators to embrace events such as Holocaust Memorial Day. Steps like commemorating past victims of genocide, challenging the use of language to describe those who are ‘other’ today, and standing up for human rights, all help to guard against any future genocide.

Ten Things to look forward to in Autumn 2020

I have been writing these ‘things to look forward to’ posts at the start of each school term for a few years now. Of course, 2020 was the year everything changed. Like everyone else, I didn’t anticipate at the start of the year that we would all have to cope with lockdown and then adjust to living with COVID-19.

Nevertheless, after all the planning as schools prepare to return for the start of the new school year, there is still plenty for us to look forward to. Many events will have changed their format, but hopefully their essential character, and importance to schools, will remain the same.

Autumn Term Top Ten

  1. It may not feel like it, following a chilly August bank holiday weekend, but we still have a few weeks of (hopefully) warmer days and longer evenings before the nights really draw in. British Summer Time ends when the clocks go back on Sunday 25th October.
  2. It’s a new school year! Remember that feeling when you wrote your name on a new exercise book and opened the first fresh page full of possibilities. This year, more than ever before, children will have that same feeling. This is an opportunity to help them capture that feeling and go on to achieve great things!
  3. During the lockdown, many of us noticed the natural world more than ever before and took solace from spring blooms, birdsong and other signs of environmental renewal. Now we can take delight from the many signs that summer is turning into autumn. Which plants are coming into bloom now, later in the year? Which fruits are ripening and which leaves are changing colour? Which birds and other animals do you notice? Noting such changes helps us see that no two days are alike. You can find ideas on how to safely get more actively involved on this Wildlife Trusts’ webpage on Looking After Yourself and Nature.
  4. The annual Macmillan Coffee Morning is now in its 30th year and has become a firm fundraising fixture in many schools. This year it is taking a different format and is running throughout September. You can sign up and get more information and a fundraising kit here: World’s Biggest Coffee Morning 2020 and find further information on running safe, socially distanced events here: Coffee Morning Guidance.
  5. In the UK, October is Black History Month, which honours and celebrates the contribution Black Britons have made to our vibrant and diverse society. In recent months Black Lives Matter has drawn our attention to the work that remains to be done to tackle racism across British society, including decolonialising the curriculum. Perhaps this October can be a focus in addressing these issues not only for one month but all year round. You can find out more about events and activities throughout the year, and order a school resource pack, from blackhistorymonth.org.uk. There are also regional listings so you can look for events local to you.
  1. There are a wealth of other key dates, holidays and festivals you may wish to mark during the Autumn term, including:
  • Saturday 19 September Rosh Hashana
  • Tuesday 22 September Autumn Equinox
  • Monday 28 September Yom Kippur
  • 31 October Halloween, or All Hallows’ Eve
  • 1 November All Saints’ Day
  • 2 November All Souls’ Day
  • Sunday 8 November Remembrance Sunday, with Armistice Day falling on Wednesday 11 November
  • Saturday 14 November Diwali / Deepavali
  • Sunday 29 November Start of Advent
  • Monday 30 November Scotland celebrates St Andrew’s Day with a bank holiday
  • Friday 11 December is the First Day of Hanukkah, with the Last Day falling on Friday 18 December
  • Monday 21 December Winter Solstice
  1. Your school may already be involved in one of the many National and international Awareness events that take place in the Autumn term. This year, many organisers have modified their events to enable teachers to take a more flexible approach. As well as being Black History Month, October is also time for the annual Big Draw, with artistic events around the country. Registration is now open for the 2020 Big Draw Festival and this year’s theme is #ClimateOfChange. A fundraising event that has become a regular fixture in many schools is Jeans for Genes Day. This year, the format is more flexible with schools able to hold their day at any time during the week beginning Monday 14 September. You can find out more and register at jeansforgenesday.org. We are all encouraged to #ShareAPoem on National Poetry Day on Thursday 1 October. You can download free resources from the education pages of the NPD Website. Many groups and charities that receive funding from the annual BBC Children in Need appeal have been helping disadvantaged children and families during the COVID-19 outbreak. This year’s event is planned for Friday 13 November. Another event featuring in the calendar of many schools is Anti-Bullying Week, which this year takes place between Monday 16 and Friday 20 November. The theme is ‘United Against Bullying’ and you can get more information and resources from the Anti-bullying Alliance.
  2. When the nights do draw in, and the weather gets colder, humans have responded by making lights and loud noises for as long as history records. In the UK, our excuse to celebrate with bonfires and fireworks is now Guy Fawkes Night on 5th November. Worth a reminder about firework safety and undoubtedly there will be additional guidance on staying safe.
  3. Some of the best school traditions happen in the Autumn term and will be upon us before we know it. Whatever guidance is in place to keep us safe this winter, it’s probably worth checking your Christmas jumper for moth holes, changing the battery for the LED lights in your elf hat, and starting to plan the school Nativity Play right now.
  4. At the end of this term, the Christmas holiday and New Year! Here’s looking forward to 2021!

What do you most look forward to in Autumn? Let me know if there are any dates or events that I’ve missed here.

Looking for some more inspiration for assemblies? Have a look at these educational quotes for Monday morning motivation.

Festival dates from timeanddate.com

Image: Rodger Caseby

Things to look forward to in the 2019 Autumn Term

What happened to the Summer holiday? Half way through the first INSET day of the year, it may have already retreated to the distant recesses of your memory. Don’t despair; there is plenty to look forward to in the 2019 Autumn Term.

Autumn Term Top Ten

  1. Summer isn’t over! We’ll still have a few weeks of warmer days and longer evenings, so make the most of them before the nights draw in. British Summer Time ends when the clocks go back on 27th October.
  2. It’s a new school year! Remember when you were at school and got new exercise books? We wrote our names on the cover and opened the first new blank page full of possibilities. Your pupils will have that same feeling; how will you help them capture it and achieve great things? You can make their school year a great one!
  3. Take time to connect with nature. Look out for the signs that summer is turning into autumn. Which plants are coming into bloom now, rather than in spring or summer? Which fruits are ripening, which leaves are changing colour first? Which animals do you notice? Take note of these small changes and you’ll soon see that no two days are alike.
  4. The annual Macmillan Coffee Morning is now a fundraising fixture in many schools. Something to do with the cake perhaps? This year it’s on 27th September. You can sign up and get more information and a fundraising kit here: World’s Biggest Coffee Morning 2019
  5. In the UK, October is Black History Month, which honours and celebrates the contribution Black Britons have made to our vibrant and diverse society. You can find out more and order a school resource pack from blackhistorymonth.org. There are also regional listings so you can look for events local to you.
  6. There are plenty of other key dates, holidays and festivals to mark during the Autumn term. The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashana is on 30th September and Yom Kippur falls on 9th October. Diwali (Deepwali), the Hindu, Sikh and Jain Festival of Lights, is on 27th October. Halloween (or All Hallows’ Eve) is on 31st October, preceding the Christian feasts of All Saints’ Day the next day and All Souls’ Day on 2nd November. This year, Remembrance Sunday is on 10th November and many schools will mark Armistice Day at 11am on the Monday. Scotland celebrates St Andrew’s Day on Saturday 30th November, with the bank holiday in Scotland on Monday 2nd December. The first Sunday of Advent is shortly after on 1st December, bringing us to the lead-up to Christmas. Hanukkah begins on the 23rd of December and ends on the 30th.
  7. There are many National and international Awareness events that schools may wish to get involved with in the Autumn term. As well as being Black History Month, October is also the month of the annual Big Draw with artistic event taking place around the country. Get set for a busy day on Monday 7th October which is Jeans for Genes Day, National Poetry Day, AND World Smile Day! Many schools will be fundraising for the annual BBC Children in Need appeal, which this year is on Friday 18th November, and will be getting involved with Anti-Bullying Week, 11-15th November. The theme this year is ‘Change Starts With Us’. You can get more information and resources from the Anti-bullying Alliance.
  8. When the nights do draw in, and the weather gets colder, what better way to celebrate than bonfires and fireworks on Guy Fawkes Night, 5th November? Gunpowder, treason and, with any luck, toffee apples. Worth a reminder about firework safety.
  9. Some of the best bits of school happen in the Autumn term and will be upon us before we know it: if I were you, I’d check your Christmas jumper for moth holes and start planning the school Nativity Play now.
  10. At the end of this term, the Christmas holiday and New Year!

So, what are you looking forward to this Autumn term? Are there any dates I’ve missed out? Why not share with a comment?

Looking for some more inspiration for assemblies? Have a look at these educational quotes for Monday morning motivation.

Festival dates from timeanddate.com

Image: Rodger Caseby

Things to look forward to in the 2019 Summer term

The summer holiday may seem a long way off, and exams may loom for many, but there’s also plenty to look forward to in the Summer Term.

Summer Term Top Ten

    Enjoyed the bank holiday weekend? There’s another one soon on Monday 6th May!
    Easter isn’t over! It isn’t just one chocolate-laden bank holiday weekend, but the greatest season of the Christian tradition, running until June this year. In the Orthodox calendar, Easter Monday is on 28th April.
    Easter is traditionally a time for embracing new life and new beginnings. Perhaps it’s a good time to consider our own professional practice – are there any aspects that we might revitalise or new things we could try?
    There’s no more waking up before sunrise and coming home in darkness. Longer (hopefully) sunlit days help lift our mood, so make some time to go outside each day. Even when it’s overcast, natural sunlight will do you good.
    While you’re out and about, take some time to connect with nature. Look out for the signs that spring is turning into summer. Which plants are coming into bloom? Which birds, bees and butterflies do you notice? Take note of these small changes and you’ll soon see that no two days are alike. You can even use the iRecord app to add your nature sightings to the National database
    A couple of international dates recognising our dependence on our environment fall within the Summer term. The UN World Environment Day is on 5th June and Oceans Day is on 8th June. With young people becoming increasingly concerned about climate change, perhaps that week could be a focus for environmental awareness and action at school?
    There are plenty of key dates, holidays and festivals during the Summer term. These include St George’s Day on 23rd April and the last day of Passover on 27th April. Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) is on 2nd May this year and Ramadan starts on Monday 6th May, running until Eid I’ll Fitr on 4thJune. 6th May is also 75th anniversary of the D-day landings in Normandy. The Spring Bank Holiday is on Monday 27th May. 9th June is both the Christian Pentecost and Jewish Shavuot. In the UK, Fathers’ Day is on 16th June, and the Summer Solstice is on 21 June. 22nd June is Windrush Day. Initiated in 2018, this day marks the anniversary of the arrival of the Empire Windrush at Tilbury docks in 1948 and celebrates the British Caribbean community.
    You may have pupils taking exams this term. While I’m proud of my qualifications, I’m also very pleased that the ticking clock and wobbly exam desk are well behind me! We all survived the process, so now we get to use our experience to help our students to succeed as well. I’ve written about tackling exam stress here. The article also contains links to useful websites offering further advice to students and parent & carers.
    Some of the most memorable aspects of school life happen in the Summer term: school trips, outdoor education, Summer concerts and productions, PTA barbecues, sports days, proms, end of year awards. Some schools have activities weeks, others move to their new timetables before the holiday. These and more enrich the curriculum and help build communities.
    At the end of this term… Summer holiday!

So, what are you looking forward to this Summer term? Are there any dates I’ve missed out? Why not share them with a comment?

Festival dates from timeanddate.com

Image: Rodger Caseby

Things to look forward to in the 2019 Spring term

With Christmas and new year celebrations gone, the winter weather and long dark nights may seem just the time to hunker down and count the days till summer, but don’t despair: there’s plenty to look forward to at the start of the 2019 Spring term!
Christmas isn’t over yet! Christmas isn’t just a single day, but lasts until 6th January (twelfth night). Traditionally the decorations stay up till then. If that isn’t enough for you, Orthodox Christmas Day this year isn’t until Monday 7th January.
While it may seem dismally dark outside when the alarm goes off each morning at the start of term, remember that from now on the days will be getting longer. The Spring equinox is on Wednesday 20th March so from then on we’ll have more daylight hours then night, with the clocks going forward on Sunday 31st March for the start of British Summer Time.
There are a multitude of feasts, festivals and special events to look forward to this term:

    2 January to 23 February RSPB Big Schools Bird Watch. A chance to get pupils involved in some citizen science by contributing to this annual bird survey. You can find out more and get class resources from the RSPB website.
    Friday 25 January Burns Night. Scots the world over celebrate their national poet.
    Sunday 27 January is Holocaust Memorial Day, an occasion many schools mark or build into their teaching. The theme this year is Torn from home. You can find out more and order free resources from the HMDT website.
    Thursday 31st January Young Carers Awareness Day. Championing the needs of Young Carers, the theme this year focuses on mental health. You can find out more from the Carers Trust website and via the #CareForMeToo hashtag.
    Tuesday 5th February Chinese New Year. Commencing the Year of the Pig.
    Thursday 14th February Valentine’s Day
    Monday 25th February to Sunday 10th March is Fairtrade Fortnight. The focus this year is on fair trading of cocoa. You can find out more and get school resources from the Fairtrade Foundation.
    Friday 1st March is St David’s Day, the feast day of the patron saint of Wales, and a bank holiday in Wales
    5th March is Shrove Tuesday (or Pancake Day), with the next day, Ash Wednesday marking the first day of Lent.
    Thursday 7th March is World Book Day in the UK (although the rest of the world celebrates this on 23rd April). You can find out more about this, and events throughout the year from the WBD website.
    Friday 15th March is Red Nose Day. This charity event takes place every two years and is a firm fundraising fixture in many UK schools. You can find out more and order a fundraising pack from the Comic Relief website.
    Sunday 17th March is St Patrick’s Day, when half the world discovers its Irish roots. Monday 18th March is a bank holiday in Eire & Northern Ireland.
    Thursday 21st March marks both the Hindu festival of Holi (‘festival of colours’) and the Jewish festival of Purim.
    31st March is Mothering Sunday in the UK (the international date is 12th March).
    Monday 1st April is April Fools Day. It’s the first time in several years that this has fallen on a school day, so watch out for jokes!
    14th April is Palm Sunday in the western Christian Calendar, with Good Friday bank holiday falling on 19th April, although with Easter falling later this year, most schools will already be on holiday on these dates.
    Saturday 20th April is the First day of the Jewish Passover
    Sunday 21st April is Easter Sunday, with the Easter bank holiday on Monday 22nd April. This date is also the first Stephen Lawrence Day. This day was announced by the Prime Minister in 2018 as a national day of commemoration for murdered teenager. You can find out more from the website of the Stephen Lawerence Memorial Trust.
    Tuesday 23rd April is St George’s Day. He’s the patron saint of England, but there’s no bank holiday for the English, so it will be back to school for many.

The list contains something for everyone, I hope, and plenty to look forward to. Let me know if I have missed any important dates and I’ll add them.
Whatever you are looking forward to this spring, have a Happy New Year!

Festival and event dates from www.timeanddate.com

Image: Rodger Caseby

Explaining Easter: Why we celebrate the heart of Christianity with a rabbit that lays chocolate eggs.

The following is the background information for an Easter assembly I put together a couple of years ago. Feel free to use it if you are preparing an assembly or activity for Easter.

I wanted to do something a bit different, while marking the most important feast of the Christian calendar in an appropriate way. It proved popular with staff and students alike, the latter part prompting many students whose families originated from abroad to share some of their own cultural experiences. I have incorporated some of these, adding to those in the original assembly.

Why do we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead with a bunny and chocolate eggs?

EasterThe festival called ‘Easter’ in English celebrates Jesus rising from the dead on Easter Sunday, following the crucifixion, which is marked on Good Friday. It’s the most important feast of the Christian calendar. As hard as you look, though, you won’t find any references to bunnies, eggs, or chocolate in the Gospels. So why does the Easter Bunny bring us delicious chocolate eggs for Easter?

Eggs, new life, and barbaric Brits

Giving eggs in springtime predates Christianity. In many cultures, eggs represent new life, fertility and creation. In mythology, the Anglo-Saxon goddess Eostre found a wounded bird one winter. Realising that the bird could not survive the cold weather, she not only healed it but turned it into a hare. The hare did survive, and went on to lay coloured eggs the following Spring!

The early Christian church had problems bringing its message to the peoples of Northern Europe, who had a reputation as barbarians. The church decided to fix the dates of key Christian feasts near the times of the year when people were used to partying because of local celebrations. In Britain, Eostre’s festival became the Christian season of Easter. We retained the original name, whereas elsewhere Christians call it ‘Pascha’.

We forgot about the hare, but gave each other painted eggs as presents. Christians took on the egg as a symbol of resurrection. The egg can also represent the stone that was rolled away from Jesus’ tomb, or the empty shell (or half-eaten chocolate egg) can symbolise the empty tomb itself.

Chocolate eggs were introduced by confectionary manufacturers in the 19th Century and soon became very popular. The Easter bunny was reintroduced to Britain from the United States. The traditional hare, or Osterhase, who rewards good children with eggs, had been taken to America by German settlers, but the bunny has gradually lost the mythology of Eostre’s hare, and we now gloss over the idea of it actually laying all those eggs.

Celebrating Easter

There are many different traditions for celebrating Easter around the world:

  • Christians May keep a vigil on the evening of Maundy Thursday, remembering the night before Jesus died. They may then attend a service on Good Friday, remembering the crucifixion, and will go to church on Easter Sunday to celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. In the UK traditional Easter foods include hot cross buns, traditionally eaten on Good Friday, and Simnel Cake, which is topped with eleven marzipan eggs, representing Jesus’ disciples, minus Judas who betrayed him.
  • In Jerusalem, pilgrims may walk the route that Jesus is said to have walked to his crucifixion, the Via Dolorosa (‘Way of Sorrow’). Some carry wooden crosses, remembering that Jesus was made to carry the cross on which he was to be crucified.
  • Sometimes communities will put on Passion Plays which reenact the biblical events of the Easter period. In parts of the Philippines this is taken to an extreme where some participants allow themselves to be actually nailed to a cross.
  • Many children will have fun at Easter egg hunts on Easter Sunday and may have egg-rolling competitions. In the USA the president hosts an Easter egg roll on the White House lawn each year.

Egg painting is an Easter tradition in many European countries, as is bringing spring branches of shrubs and trees into the house and decorating them with painted eggs. In Russia and Eastern Europe eggs are often dyed red and patterns are carved into them. A modern trend is to paint pictures of politicians or celebrities onto eggs.

  • In the Czech Republic and Slovakia boys whip girls legs with decorated willow twigs on Good Friday.
  • In Poland boys pour water on people. Tradition says that a girl who gets drenched will be married within the year. In Hungary this ‘sprinkling’ has been replaced by a spray of perfume.
  • On the Greek island of Corfu, Holy Saturday is ‘Pot Throwing Day’. Earthen ware pots and plates are thrown from balconies to smash on the ground below to greet the spring.
  • In many Caribbean countries, kites are flown on Good Friday, symbolising Jesus’ ascension to heaven.

If you have any other Easter traditions, please let me know and I’ll add them to the list.

However you are spending the holiday, have a very Happy Easter!

Images

Easter Bunny: Pixabay

Calvary: Public Domain Pictures

Painted Easter eggs: Pixabay

Decorated branches: Wikimedia