An October Reflection for our Carousel Family
Central Park–“The Pool” in Fall
A leisurely stroll from our Carousel NYC home!
At Carousel of Languages, we know that a child’s earliest experiences impact learning for the long haul. Happy, warm, playful, loving interactions build and shape the brain, plant the seeds of language development, and much more.
Joyful learning is our top priority, and greatest measure of success.
That’s why we focus on the whole child—social emotional growth, motor skills, language development, executive function, imagination, and more. Our program is designed to engage the senses, spark curiosity, and inspire a sense of global citizenship.
We create a family atmosphere. We love to support parents, nurture relationships, and build community—locally and around the world—connecting people to their cultural heritage and helping them learn about others, celebrating holidays, sharing traditions.
AUTUMN is one of our favorite times of year for exactly this reason! It’s a chance to talk about how this special season is observed in other places.
We also love fall because it’s back-to-school time! It’s a season to enjoy beautiful cool weather, walks outside in the crunchy leaves, colorful landscapes, crispy apples, and plump orange pumpkins. The shorter days and longer nights invite us to quiet, cozy times at home with family. October and November bring opportunities to honor some of our most cherished and fun traditions surrounding the harvest and gratefulness. It’s a time for reflection.
2020 has brought unexpected challenges. Parents, you have done amazing things. You’ve worked unbelievably hard—at times in chaotic, uncertain circumstances and tight spaces. You’ve loved, nurtured, and taught your children—even keeping up with foreign language lessons—and we see them thriving!
As we move into our exciting and beloved autumn festivals, and some of the hectic feelings that come with the season—pause. Take some time to practice self-care, whatever that means to you—exercise, reading, meditation, good food, a little extra rest on these longer nights.
Most important, in this harvest season, reflect on all you’ve accomplished: the seeds you planted, and the many things that grew, blossomed, and bore fruit. Maybe some things didn’t take root, or got choked by weeds—it’s okay, let them go. Other things just need patience, they’re still growing. Focus on all that you’ve already harvested. The bounty you’ve shared with others and they’ve shared with you. Focus on what brings you joy.
We hope our families in the United States and China will enjoy these synopses of our respective autumn traditions.
Share them with your young Citizens of the World!
Second only to Lunar New Year in importance, China’s Mid-Autumn Festival began this year on October 1st. The festival, which lasts 3-7 days, traditionally begins on the 15th day of the eighth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, when the moon is full. (In the Gregorian calendar, it falls in September or early October, and corresponds to what we call the Harvest Moon in the U.S.—the first full moon following the Autumnal Equinox).
The tradition dates back over 3000 years, originating in the Zhou Dynasty (1045 – 221 BC). Ancient Emperors worshiped the full autumn moon, believing this would bring a bountiful harvest the next year.
During the Song Dynasty (960 – 1279) Mid-Autumn was officially established as a Festival. Moon worship and offerings to the moon became popular traditions.
Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for gathering. Family and friends come together, farmers bring in their crops. It’s a time to give thanks for the harvest and the earth’s bounty, as well the company of loved ones. It’s also traditionally a time for prayer, and to celebrate marriages.
Like American Thanksgiving, the festival revolves around delicious food! People gather for feasts, and traditional fare includes mooncakes, a fancy pastry, round like the full moon, filled with lotus seed or red bean paste, and baked in ornate molds. The round shape also symbolizes unity and completeness, families coming together. Each region has its own variety and style of mooncake!
During the festival, streets and homes are brightened with colorful lanterns. They may be hung up or carried, or floating lanterns may light up the sky. The exact history of the lantern custom is uncertain; it has numerous influences, and the meaning varies from region to region. In some areas the lanterns are simply ornamental, or playthings for children, and may be decorated with riddles; elsewhere they are more sacred, symbolizing prayers for fertility, or believed to light the way for spirits that have passed on.
Chinese children grow up hearing the fascinating myth associated with the Mid-Autumn Festival. The legend of Chang’e has many variations, but the basic story goes like this:
Chang’e was a lovely girl who lived in Heaven with good people, fairies, and immortals. She worked in the palace of the Jade Emperor, but was banished when she accidentally broke a valuable porcelain jar. She was sent to live on earth among mortals.
Chang’e became a member of a poor farmer’s family, and grew into a beautiful young woman. She became friends with a talented young hunter named Hou Yi from another village.
Strangely, all at once, ten suns rose over the earth, shining brightly at all times and scorching everything. There was blazing heat and no cool night; nothing would grow, life was threatened.
Hou Yi used his tremendous skills as an archer to shoot down one of the suns, and became a hero. He married Chang’e and was made King. The goddess Xiwangmu offered him a rare gift—an elixir of immortality. But she gave him only enough for one person. Hou Yi was conflicted about being the only mortal to have this gift, so he hid it away.
Chang’e found the elixir, and though her reason varies in different versions, she swallowed it.
When Hou Yi discovered what she had done he was angry, and she ran away from him, jumping out a high palace window. He shot his arrows at her but she drifted into the night sky and up to the moon where she remains.
Some versions of the myth say Chang’e was turned into an ugly 3-legged toad on the moon, and forever spends her days consuming the elixir, her only companion a white rabbit who makes it for her.
Eventually Hou Yi missed his wife, and to show his forgiveness and make her feel less alone, he left gifts of food and sweets in the moonlight until he died.
It is said that if you look carefully at the full moon you can see Chang’e and Yu Tu, her rabbit.
In the United States, October brings plans for Halloween! Each year on October 31st, children dressed in costume go house-to-house in their neighborhoods (or apartment-to-apartment in large city buildings) shouting TRICK-or-TREAT! at each door, where they’re greeted with candy. A big night of trick-or treating can send a child home with a large sack of candy… and a little tummy ache.
Many families decorate their homes to be exciting and inviting for trick-or-treaters. Some do it simply, with a few paper cutouts of ghosts, bats, and goblins. Some go wild with elaborately staged scenes of skeletons, scarecrows, and graveyards, vampires and zombies, massive spider webs, or witches stirring steaming cauldrons. Some houses play creepy sounds or funny monster music.
The most recognizable symbol of Halloween, and everyone’s favorite decoration is the Jack-o-Lantern, a pumpkin hollowed out and carved to look like a funny or frightening face. After dark, a candle is placed inside and it’s spooky smile glows.
Young children, accompanied by their watchful parents, often parade through the neighborhood in costume while the sun is still up, for safety and so they aren’t frightened by creepy decorations or costumes. Older kids and teenagers go out after dark and trick-or-treat or attend parties with friends.
Besides candy, people eat buttery, salty toasted pumpkin seeds that they scooped out to make a Jack-o-Lantern, and drink hot apple cider.
Though Halloween is an American favorite, it didn’t begin in the U.S. It has its roots a couple thousand years ago in Celtic harvest traditions and ceremonies, blending over the centuries with diverse influences including Roman holidays, and Christian religious celebrations.
Halloween as we know it began to take shape in the late 1800s, and by the 1950s became the costume- and candy-filled fall festival we enjoy today!