Wednesday, September 11, 2013
Children’s Day in Honduras
Yesterday morning I woke up with the feeling that I forgot something really important. Right! Children’s Day!
For years, when I was still director of art NGO for children, it was one of the most important days of the year. Preparations started weeks before because we always organized a major event for the kids of Copán. Not in the traditional way with piñatas and lots of candy, because we figured the kids would be sugared-up more than enough and the piñata thing, as beautiful as they look and as much as I’m in favour of keeping cultural traditions, they’re also quite scary. Seriously, having a blindfolded overactive zealous kid swinging a bat around??? I’m always amazed the newspapers don’t report a few smashed-in little children’s brain the next day.
So what we usually did was rounding up a bunch of volunteers and organize game stations: tug-of-war, carrying a tray with cups of water over a balancing beam, sack-race, (Velcro) darts, bowling and of course some art activities such as face painting or mask making. Each child would receive a “passport” and had to pass through all the activities spread over our colourfully decorated playground before receiving, at the end of the event, juice, some cookies (whole wheat of course) and a little gift bag, generally containing some crayons and a notebook. The kids were always super happy and not once did we get a complaint about the lack of candy and piñatas.
Afterwards, the adults were always completely drained. While the kids would run out the gate, gift bag ain their hands and looking for maybe another Children’s’ Day celebration elsewhere in town, our team would barely have the energy to take down the decorations and pick up the trash before surrendering to some much deserved cold beers.
Lots of work for just a few hours of fun, but time well spent. Children’s Day is for most kids more important than their birthdays which are only celebrated by the (upper) middle class. Christmas is important too, although the majority of the children is lucky enough to receive new clothes to wear on Christmas Eve. Children’s Day, however, is just about fun. And getting your hands on as many sweets as possible, of course.
In my home country Holland we don’t celebrate Children’s Day. We have Animal Day though, on October 4th, when children are allowed to take our pets to school (which can actually lead to situations as dangerous as bursting a piñata.) You can’t miss something you’ve never known, but now that I do, I think it’s a great idea to celebrate Children’s Day, even it would be nice to focus a bit more on the reason for celebrating: It was recommended in 1954 by the United Nations that each country should pick one day a year to promote children’s welfare and their universal rights.
Children’s Day in Honduras has little to do with Human Rights, or children’s welfare for that matter. It has turned into a commercial and even political circus, especially now that the elections are coming up. Yesterday the kids of Copán had a field day, running from one piñata to the other, offered by the municipality and some of the new chain companies in town. I doubt their strategy will be successful. Counting conquered candy is much more important than the person who actually bought the stuff.
So yesterday afternoon, while I was quietly and happily finishing up a sign on a local café, teachers and volunteers of the local day care centre started arriving with that exhausted look I know all too well. I couldn’t suppress a satisfied smile. As much as I have enjoyed celebrating Children’s Day over the last sixteen years, it is absolute great for once not to have anything to do with it.
But nonetheless, happy Children’s Day!