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An introduction to festivals

Approximate duration: 2 lessons

Key competencies:

  • Thinking
  • Using language, symbols and texts

Effective teaching:

  • Encouraging reflective thought and action
  • Making connections to prior learning and experience

Links to social inquiry processes:

  • Finding out information
  • Exploring values and perspectives

Conceptual understandings/learning intentions:  Today we are learning that...

  • (Level 1) There are similarities and differences in the cultural expressions of Chinese New Zealanders and other cultural groups.

What is a festival?

Where do festivals and celebrations come from?

The teacher introduces the word ‘festival’ and ensures that students understand the following points:

  • A festival is a celebration that lasts over a period of time – a day or maybe longer.
  • Festivals are held all over the world for different reasons.
  • Festivals are fun and bring families and friends together.

The teacher chooses some festivals and celebrations from the list below or ones that reflect the cultures of their class and community.

Valentines Day


Children’s Day


Guy Fawkes




Olympic Games



Dragon Boat Festival

White Sunday

Highland Games

St Patricks Day

Wedding traditions


Mother’s Day

The teacher gathers and prints a selection of celebration images that represent each of the festivals and celebrations that they chose. The teacher also makes a set of celebration flash cards for the image collection that name each festival or celebration and its country of origin.

The students sit in a circle with the photos and flash cards inside the circle. A map of the world is also inside the circle. The students have turns trying to match an image to a flash card and justify their choices.

The teacher and students discuss the following questions as this activity is carried out:

  • What do the images tell us about what happens in each festival or celebration?
  • Are there any clues that tell us which country the festival or celebration might have started in?
  • Do people in New Zealand take part in this festival or celebration?

If it is decided that this festival/celebration is part of New Zealand life the children can slide the card and its image from its home country to New Zealand. The teacher and students discuss reasons why these festivals/celebrations are celebrated in New Zealand even though they did not originate from here. The teacher encourages students to understand that New Zealand is a multi-cultural nation with many migrants and that people like to retain their culture, traditions and customs wherever they live.

Extension Activity - The students can find out where their family’s country of origin is and identify an important celebration, festival, tradition or custom that originated from their homeland. A wall display could be made from the information found. Include a photo and brief profile. For example:

Mele is from Samoa, the home of the Teuila Festival. Choirs sing and people dance with fire-knives and race fautasi (long boats). This happens in September.

A world map could be included in the display and as children find out about their heritage they can pin a string between their country of origin and New Zealand.

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