Thursday, December 4, 2008

Talking Turkey

For the past two weeks, I have been leading classroom discussions about Thanksgiving and Christmas. I took pictures to class for Thanksgiving (pilgrims and the Mayflower, turkey dinner, football game, Macy's parade, etc) and Christmas (paintings of the Nativity, Santa Claus and his sleigh, trees and decorations, stockings on a fireplace, etc) and answered the students' questions. They were especially interested in Ralph Stone's pictures of a real Thanksgiving and had many questions about both holidays. Some were what I expected: How do you cook a turkey? Is it a real tree and what does it cost? Are there special songs for the holidays? However, a few of the questions were real stumpers. Here is a sample.

  • Why do Americans give each other colored eggs at Thanksgiving?

  • Who do you give thanks to on Thanksgiving Day?

  • How much do turkey eggs cost and how do you cook them?

  • What kind of ID card do you need in order to go inside a church?

  • In the Nativity scene, which one of the men is Santa Claus?

  • If you can afford to buy new decorations every year, why do you still use the old ones?

  • The animals pulling the sleigh: are they elk? (They remembered Rose Mary Harty's wonderful pictures of the elk at Horseshoe Loop)

  • They were thrilled to learn that 85% of artificial trees are manufactured in China.

  • Very few knew that the Western calendar numbered years from the supposed date of the birth of Jesus. They knew ther abbreviations "B.C." and "A.D." but were not aware of what they stood for.

  • Asked to identify the people in the Nativity picture, about half knew the baby was Jesus and a few knew that the woman was named Maria. Asked who the white-haired man standing beside Maria was, they replied in unison: "STEVE!"

  • They love to sing in English, so I taught them the words to "Silent Night." Then I was asked to explain the "Virgin and Child" concept. Not as easy as you might think...

The questions were earnest attempts to understand Westerners and I repeat them here not to make fun of my students, but to give an idea of how eager they are to penetrate the mysteries of beliefs and traditions that we take for granted. These kids are wonderful, always surprising and a pure joy to teach.

Quiz: What Is It?

Today's round of the "What Is It Quiz" features a few random objects from daily life, mostly in our apartment. See if you can guess what each object is before you read the captions. A perfect score is a "10." Lucky contestants with scores of 8 or above can join me on the street for a quick snack of Grilled Squid on a Stick.

Seriously, several of these things are gifts from Chinese friends and small souvenirs of our travels. They add color and pleasure to our lives and will bring back happy memories for many years to come.