"We can bring our light into the world to make it brighter and warmer. How can we bring our light into the world? Let me use a pumpkin to show you..."
Halloween in Taiwan
Not every country (or culture) celebrates Halloween or the custom of the jack o'lantern. This is especially true in Taiwan where I teach English in a government school. This is in a remote area with a number of Indigenous tribes that date back for many thousands of years. As in a number of countries including the United States, these indigenous people have become marginalized. Their impoverished situation creates a multitude of related problems that leave a fairly "dark" world for these children - not seasonally, but all year round.
As I attempt to introduce the best of American culture as a part of my English classes, I have come to find the over-commercialization of Halloween and Christmas to be almost an embarrassment. Certainly nothing to be lifted up. Parents sometimes ask how they can find a balance for their children.
Pumpkin Carving Lesson
My wife, Carol, teaches English in a large Nursery/Day Care school of 250 children ages 1-6. Many of these children come from very wealthy families, but each situation can have its own dark corners in life. My below "lesson" was used with the little ones and then expanded for the elementary children. Depending on your context, you can incorporate more direct Christian language.
- 1 pumpkin
- 1 candle
- 1 basin of water to wash pumpkin (optional)
- 1 bucket to put the pumpkin seeds in (optional)
- 1 knife (optional)
Note: If you don't want to do the whole carving in the moment, you can use three "prepared" pumpkins: one dirty, one washed and the top cut off, one already emptied out and carved ready for a candle.
As the season changes, the days become shorter, the nights become longer. The time of light grows shorter, the time of darkness grows longer. The temperature grows colder and colder.
What can we do when the environment around us grows dark and cold like this? Do we have to grow dark and cold with it? No. We can bring our light into the world to make it brighter and warmer. How can we bring our light into the world? Let me use a pumpkin to show you.
First, clean up your mess. Wash off the dirt and grim. (Wash a dirty pumpkin in a basin of water.)
Next, open up your mind and take all the yucky stuff out. (Cut the top of the pumpkin and take out the insides.) The yucky stuff are things like anger, grudges, jealousy, and negativity.
Then, open up your eyes to see the beautiful things around you. (Carve eyes and a nose into the pumpkin.) What are the beautiful things around us? The green mountains, the blue sky, the open field, our friends, family and teachers. ... There are many goods things around us. Let’s pay attention to them instead of the bad things.
Next, carve a smile on your face. (Carve a smile into the pumpkin.) Sometimes it’s hard to smile, I know. But even if our surroundings are bad, we don’t have to be bad like them. We can choose to be good. Let’s put a smile on our face and make this world a better place.
Finally, put a light within you. (Put a candle inside the pumpkin.) Even though our surroundings may be dark, we don’t have to walk in the darkness. We can choose the light. We can turn on the lights. We can light a candle. We can put light within us by choosing a positive attitude.
Take your light into the world and let it shine! (Carry the lantern around.) Let your light shine and make this world a brighter place.
Stephen A. Woggon teaches English at Fong Li Elementary School in Taitung, Taiwan. This article is adapted from the lesson by Carolyn Ngceen Woggon of Sunflower Kindergarten, Taitung.