Articles Tagged with: culture

The History of Halloween and Other Spooky Holidays

Halloween is just around the corner now! We hope your costumes are prepared and your trick-or-treating routes have been decided. But, if you’d like to know the history of Halloween, we’re here to let you know. And not just about Halloween- find out all about several spooky holidays.

Halloween History

Halloween ghosts

You might be surprised to learn, Halloween was not always a time for dressing up and stuffing your face with candy. Halloween began with the ancient celebration of Samhain among the Celts, during which they believed ghosts returned to the Earth. Later, the holiday was combined with Roman traditions as the empire conquered Celtic land.

Finally, Christian leaders decided to combine Samhain with their All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day celebrations. It was common practice to try and overwrite pagan traditions with Christian traditions: the same strategy was used for Christmas! When it moved over to the Americas, however, Halloween slowly lost its religious connection. Many traditions melded together, and the day eventually became the spooky holiday we enjoy in the United States and elsewhere today!

Find out more about its history here!

All Saints’ & All Souls’ Day

All Saints Day Halloween holiday

However, just because Halloween moved away from religion, doesn’t mean the holiday it emerged from went away. Many countries in Europe and South America still celebrate All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day. All Saints’ falls on November 1, while All Souls’ takes place the day after, and they remain a part of Catholic tradition to this day.

All Saints’ Day is meant to commemorate all the saints of the Catholic Church, including those who are “only known to God.” Meanwhile, All Souls’ Day commemorates those who have died and sit in Purgatory. The living pray in order to help them leave. Places such as Germany, Hungary, Austria,and others have specific traditions during this time.

Find out more here!

Dia de los Muertos

Day of the Dead Halloween holiday skull

Dia de los Muertos or the Day of the Dead stems from Aztec ceremonies of around 3,000 years ago. When Spaniards came to Mexico to colonize, the tradition took on some elements of All Saints’ and All Souls’ Day, just like Halloween did. Before that point, it was celebrated in summer but moved to align with these celebrations in late October and early November.

The Day of the Dead is a very festive occasion. Families decorate altars to their deceased relatives, offer them food, and clean up the area around their grave. Rather than the scary times of Halloween, the Day of the Dead offers families time to reminisce and celebrate their loved ones who are gone.

Find out more about the Day of the Dead and its history here

Do you celebrate any of these holidays? How are you planning to celebrate this year? Let us know in the comments for this post. If you’re interested in history, don’t forget to check out our deep line of educational games including the Excavate! series, where you can become an archaeologist and discover more about the traditions of ancient cultures.

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Hispanic Heritage Month: Resources for Teachers

What Is Hispanic Heritage Month?

Hispanic Heritage Month is a celebration of Americans whose ancestry can be traced to Spain, Mexico, or other Hispanic countries. The festival lasts from September 15 to October 15, starting in the middle of a month since September 15 marks the independence day of five seperate Hispanic countries. Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua all celebrate on that date.

The month particularly focuses on the arts and culture of Hispanic Americans, highlighting important figures from history, hosting music festivals, and even working with the Smithsonian, Library of Congress, and more organizations in DC. You can find out more about it and the events that comprise its duration in the DC area by looking at the official website. If you’re not from the DC area, don’t worry. This calendar features events from all over the country. So you can put something on your schedule no matter where you are!

Hispanic Heritage Month Resources

National Hispanic Heritage Month at the Smithsonian

Photo credit: Detail of Maíz Flor Serpiente/ Flower Maize Serpent commissioned digital art work by the Indigenous Design Collection, 2015.

While homeschools could consider scheduling a field trip to one of the events you can find above, teachers in the classroom might not be able to find time to bring their students out and about to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. However, thanks to how long the festival has been an established part of the calendar, there are already plenty of resources for bringing Hispanic Heritage Month into the classroom. Both the websites linked above bring you to plenty of helpful classroom resources.

The government site has links to resources from the Library of Congress, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Archives, National Park Service, and the Smithsonian Institution. Check them all out. On the other one, you can find many articles about Hispanic culture, scholarships, social impact, and more. While not all of them may be great for all classrooms, the resources can expand your knowledge as well.

For more traditional lesson plans, you can also find resources on the National Education Association site and on Scholastic. See how to bring in multi-cultural education into your classroom in celebration.

Excavate! MesoAmerica

Excavate! games MesoAmerican screenshot

While Excavate! MesoAmerica doesn’t cover every Hispanic ancestry, it’s a great, fun way to get students interested in the history and cultures of ancient MesoAmerica. Explore the Aztec, Inca, and Maya civilizations through interactive archaeology. Students can discover more about these MesoAmerican sites by deeply examining artifacts and stretching their critical thinking skills. Excavate! MesoAmerican also includes a Spanish language option!

Until September 30, all our Excavate! games are 30% off with the code BACKTOSCHOOL18, so snag yourself a copy during Hispanic Heritage Month to bring Hispanic history to your classroom.

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Fractured Fairytales: Twisting Up Familiar Stories

We all love fairy tales. The sheer number of beloved Disney movies based off these ancient stories can attest to that. We love to see the heroic prince slaying dragons or the plucky princess pursuing true love. Sometimes though, we wonder what if. What if Cinderella had been more rebellious or Red Riding Hood more observant? Because of that curiousity, we make fractured fairytales.

What is a Fractured Fairytale?

At its most basic, it’s a rewritten fairytale. Simply put, a fractured fairytale takes an existing story and, literally, fractures it. Instead of following the plot to the letter, the rewritten story changes point of view, certain events, time period, or even the ending. Fracturing the fairytale provides new perspectives on the story through considering how else the story could have gone.

Examples of Fractured Fairytales

The video above comes from a segment of The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show (19959-1964) dedicated to fractured fairytales. On the show, everything from Rapunzel to Little “Fred” Riding Hood to every pun on Sleeping Beauty you can think of is covered. Despite its age, the charm and comedy remain timeless. Collections can still be found online or single episodes can be found on YouTube.

For more literary examples, The True Story of the Three Little Pigs transforms the Big Bad Wolf’s story into a true crime drama (for kids). However, all it takes is a quick web search to find a copious amount of other delightful examples.

Fractured fairy tales fit well into many language arts curriculums, particularly in elementary school. Read Write Think has several great ones, including this resource which walks groups through analyzing the common elements of a fairytale. Then, groups use that information to make their own fractured stories. Education World and Teachers Pay Teachers also offer a selection of different ideas for teaching these offbeat stories. These include both reading and writing exercises.

Roterra: A Fractured Fairytale Puzzle

Roterra is inspired by fractured fairytales among other influences

Roterra eschews the traditional structure of the fairytale. Princess Angelica takes destiny into her own hands instead of waiting for a huntsman or fairy godmother to give her a hand. While it’s not a true fractured fairytale, since it doesn’t retell any particular story, it retains the ethos of giving more agency to the heroine. A better term might be “flipped” or “upside-down” fairytale. It gives Princess Angelica a role she might not usually fill in other fairytale stories.

You’ll be able to step into the role of Princess Angelica this year when Roterra releases. Until then, keep yourself up to date with the development by signing up to the newsletter on the game page or giving the teaser trailer a watch. We’re very excited to be giving you an awesome female protagonist in a fairytale setting. If you want to know more about the development of Roterra, keep an eye on the blog! We’ve got some inside looks into the world, characters, and development process coming up!

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