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MFL - Festival atmosphere

Go beyond Halloween to discover customs from around the world

Go beyond Halloween to discover customs from around the world

For many schools, Halloween this year falls within the autumn break, but do not overlook the opportunity to insert a fun, culture-based lesson before or after the holidays.

Why not broaden it beyond spiders, witches, ghosts and ghouls? Explore other countries' traditions for festivals at this time of year, including their food, festivities and music. Lessons based on these holidays can be fun and you can still weave in some specific vocabulary or grammar objectives.

Dia de los Muertos, Mexico's Day of the Dead festival (see pages 36-37), is an obvious starting point. A resource from TES language adviser Rachel Hawkes on the Day of the Dead will help you delve into its history and necessary vocabulary (bit.lyTESDayoftheDead).

To create a festive mood, ask pupils to prepare Pan de Muerto, a sweet egg bread, to bring in and share with the class. Review the recipe in class, perhaps using Univisions' short YouTube video (bit.lyR2ZZ7H). Alternatively, try a recipe for the Mexican drink atole.

Martinstag, or St Martin's Day (11 November in Austria and Germany), is another popular Catholic holiday. Celebrating the life of a Roman soldier famous for his acts of kindness, it corresponds with harvest time, feasts washed down with newly produced wine and the end of preparations for winter. It is the Austro-German lantern procession, however, that is most popular with children.

Then there is the celebration of All Saints' Day (La Toussaint, 1 November), which precedes All Souls' Day and is a public holiday in France, when families visit the graves of their relatives. Pupils can prepare traditional pastries called Les Niflettes, from the Latin ne flete, which means "don't cry". One theory is that these were offered to orphans to console them.

Chrysanthemums are the flower for La Toussaint, and it is fun to mention to pupils a foreigner's faux pas of giving these blooms at any other time of year.

With mature classes, have a discussion about the famous and oft-visited cemetery Pere-Lachaise in Paris' 20th arrondissement (or take them on a tour, virtue of YouTube). Famous figures such as Edith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Frederic Chopin, Honore de Balzac and Oscar Wilde are buried there, and regular crowds form around the grave of Jim Morrison. The journalist Victor Noir has a particularly unusual grave, which has become a fertility symbol.

Anna Winskill has taught French in Ireland and New York, and English in Germany. She is a member of the TES modern foreign languages panel

What else?

Try rhawkes' Day of the Dead lesson. bit.lyTESDayoftheDead

Or find out more about Martinstag using a PowerPoint and worksheet shared by frenchgerman.

bit.lyTESMartinstag.

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