Payton celebrates a multicultural fall

By Isabelle Ravanas, Staff Writer

It’s getting to be that time of year again; a bitter cold sets in as Chicago heads into a brutal winter. Looking back at fall, one is met with lots of celebration: Halloween, Thanksgiving, and no-school November. However, Payton, with its multicultural student body and international emphasis, celebrates more than just American holidays. The Language Department, headed by Mme. Bonnan, comprises four languages: Spanish, Latin, French, and Mandarin. Each of the main countries where these languages are spoken celebrate unique fall festivities.

Saturnalia was a holiday celebrated by the ancient Romans to honor the god Saturn. The series of celebrations took place a week before the winter solstice, consisting of jubilant song and dance, community feasts throughout the mornings and deep into the night-long festivities. Even though the celebration wasn’t until later in the year, the Latin classes have still found a way to put a spin on American holidays such as Halloween. For example, in some Latin IV classes, students showed up to class in togas (ancient roman clothing) and watched Ben-Hur (an ancient Roman inspired action movie) incorporating a Roman twist to the American dress-up holiday.

On November 1 and 2, the Hispanic community celebrates Dia de los Muertos. Literally translated as The Day of the Dead, Dia de los Muertos is a nighttime celebration where family members commemorate dead loved ones. Bringing Pan De Muertos, mole, tamales, and other foods, many families migrate to the graveyards at night to stay with the spirit of the departed as they return to visit. Besides visiting graveyards and churches, custom has it that deceased ones are celebrated by an ofrenda, an offering set up in the house and decorated with pictures, marigolds, food, water, skeletons, and other symbols. In most beginning Spanish classes at Payton, the month of October is largely concentrated on this holiday. Vidhi Piparia, a student in Spanish II, said her class learned all about the meaning behind certain objects on ofrendas by doing a virtual ofrenda project.

Instead of doing a physical project this year, Spanish students were asked to make virtual ofrendas for famous Latinx people, immersing themselves in the cultural practice.

The French holiday of La Toussaint, or All Saints’ Day, takes place on November 1 and has similar origins as Dia de Los Muertos. The holiday celebrates all of the saints in the Catholic religion as well as all those who have passed. Usually, cemeteries are overflowing with flowers, especially chrysanthemums. At Payton, however, this holiday is not celebrated in most French classes.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is a traditional South and East Asian festival dating back thousands of years. The festival celebrates the moon as it was believed that the moon provided a bountiful harvest. Specifically in China, the celebration is a time for giving thanks, coming together as family, and praying. The two most common items found during the Chinese celebrations are mooncakes and lanterns. Isabella Tan, a student in Mandarin II, said that her class watched videos, learned vocabulary words connected to the festivities, and discussed the holiday. At Payton, the Mandarin classes don’t have a celebration; nonetheless it is definitely an important part of the lesson because of its importance in the culture. 

Though Payton might be an American school with American traditions, most of its students are immersed in a foreign culture and language. With this comes their fall celebrations and festivities, each with more or less a theme of thanks, bountifulness or both.

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