We were back at EP Primary Ho-Bankoe today for Class 6A and 6B. With the older children, we feel like we are getting a much clearer picture of the Ghanaian celebrations. What we are seeing is that there are a lot of universal holidays and celebrations here in Ghana: New Years, Independence Day (celebrating their Independence in March 1957), Valentine’s Day (also called Chocolate Day), Easter, Christmas, Birthdays, Weddings, and Funerals. For these celebrations, there are many similarities with the U.S. in the symbols and ceremonies of how they celebrate. Then each is also infused with Ghanaian cultural elements. They include: cultural dress; singing, dancing, and drumming; gathering of family, friends or the whole community; processions of chiefs; outdoor canopies, colorful chairs, balloons and flowers for decorations; and special foods (rice, yams, fufu, banku, meats). Since many Ghanaian celebrations include these cultural elements, we are noticing that many of the images the children are drawing are similar across celebrations.

The children are also sharing celebrations, mostly called festivals, that are unique to Ghana. In the Volta region, where Ho is located, by far the most popular of these festivals is the Yam Festival. It is followed by the Homowo, Hogbetsotso, and Rice Festivals, and the holiday called Farmer’s Day. Many of these festivals express gratitude for the harvest, honor ancestors, and thank God for caring for the people of Ghana. They too are infused with the traditional cultural elements listed above and some include unique rituals to honor the occasion.

The primary religions here in Ghana are Christian but there is also a significant Muslim population so the holidays and celebrations the kids are sharing included the Muslim celebrations of Ramadan, Eid-Ul-Fitr, and Eid-Ul-Adha, the latter which are national holidays.

Another interesting celebration that has come up in most classes is Outdooring. This is a celebration where friends and family come together for the naming of a new baby. Historically, it was the first time the baby was taken “outdoors.”  The teachers at EP Primary Ho-Bankoe want to know when Amy is having the outdooring ceremony for her new baby!

Celebrations and Traditions is the theme of this exchange so we thought you might like to know more about what the children here are sharing with us. There is still so much more to learn about all of these celebrations. We hope the U.S. kids continue the exploration when they receive the projects from their Ghanaian friends.

Back to Class 6A and B … The kids in Class 6A were paired with St. Andrews School Grade 7. The kids in the U.S. made a beautiful holiday mural for their Ghanaian friends that was covered with holiday images with colorful paintings of their hands between images. They Ghanaian kids were given paper to draft an image for the mural but it did not take them much time to be clamoring for a space around the mural to start bringing it to life with markers and pastels. When they were done with their mural images, many of the kids wrote letters to their friends in the U.S. We were struck with how many questions they asked.  “What do you like? What is your best hobby? How many brothers and sisters do you have?” They are soooo curious about each other. The letters also shared so much love and friendship. “Hope you are fine by the grace of God. I want to be your friend forever. I love you.” When most kids were done with their images and letters, we invited them to add hands to any spaces that were left on the mural. There was another mad rush for a space around the mural. The kids were so enthusiastic about adding their hands and other additional celebration images. There was such joy and ease in working with this class.

The kids in Class 6B were paired with Paideia. Their project was a Traditions Book. Each page of the book the kids in the U.S. made included a scene and description of one of their favorite holidays. The kids in Ghana were given a piece of card stock to create a similar image and description. There always seems to be a celebration that is most popular in each class. This time it was funerals—followed closely by the Yam Festival. As we may have mentioned, funerals in Ghana are big celebrations. They celebrate the life of the deceased and ensure their spirit has a good sendoff. They are always held on Fridays and Saturdays. Every weekend at the place we are staying we can hear lively music from a nearby funeral. They are the biggest parties in town. What a great way to celebrate life. For the tradition books, we took a photo of each child. We find that some of the kids love to get their photos taken and try to sneak in for a second or third one, while others are very shy and it is difficult to get them to smile. Many of them smile after you take the picture. We haven’t figured this one out yet.

Today, we also broke out a few jump ropes we brought with us. The kids looovveed them. They have two breaks during the day for recess and eating. We gave one jump rope to the boys and one to the girls. In both cases, two kids twirled the jump rope and the other kids clamored for a spot in line to try jumping. On your turn, you can jump as long as you can keep going but as soon as you miss, you step away, go back to the end of the line, and the next person gets their turn. We are reminded that simple things bring joy here in Ghana, things we take for granted in the U.S. that these children do not have access too. We loved hearing their excitement and seeing their smiles as they enjoyed these jump ropes. Next time we will bring more.