One of my classes recently had a unit all about holidays. We started with traditional holidays like Spring Festival and Mid-Autumn Festival, then moved onto modern Chinese festivals like National Day and International Children’s Day. Finally, we discussed Western holidays like Halloween and Christmas. To wrap up the unit, I asked each student to pick their favorite holiday and describe what they do, eat, or where they go to celebrate. The trick was that they couldn’t say the holiday name, so the other students had to guess.

children running at park on childrens day
Many families choose to celebrate Children’s Day by going to the park.

I thought that most students might pick Chinese New Year or the Mooncake Festival because they have a long holiday break and get to eat delicious food. But nope. They all described Children’s Day when they went to the movies for free, eat hamburgers, and play outside. As a kid, I think this would have been an easy pick for me too.

Children’s Day history began in the 1930s in China, and it used to be celebrated on April 4th. However, the date was changed in 1949 with the foundation of International Children’s Day. That year, the Democratic Federation of Women declared June 1st as the official date and the purpose of the holiday was to bring attention to children’s welfare and protection. Unlike traditional Chinese festivals, it’s easy to remember when is Children’s Day since it always falls on this date.

Although almost 50 countries celebrate on June 1st for International Children’s Day, countries celebrate the holiday throughout the year. Here in Mexico, where I am currently located, celebrations were on April 30th, and I saw many promotions for free ice cream and other treats around my city. The UN adopted November 20th as Universal Children’s Day, so many countries also observe the holiday on this day, too.

In China, Children’s Day is for primary and middle school students until they are 14 years old. Celebrations vary. Some schools have student performances, have a class party and others go on field trips to the museum or the park. Businesses offer promotions or discounts during the holiday such as free movies, admission to amusement parks or treats. The students only attend school for half a day, which is usually spent doing fun activities. Their parents may also take the day off to spend extra time with them. Nowadays, it’s also common for parents to give their children toys on June 1st.

Children’s Day has also become popular among young adults, too. Although they are no longer children, this age group remembers the fun and relatively carefree times from their youth. While you will see many children with parents standing in line for movies or for a hamburger, you may also see groups of nostalgic twenty-somethings treating themselves to snacks and looking back on their childhood.

This week, my students told me they will have a class party to celebrate International Children’s Day. They were all very excited to have pizza and hamburgers for lunch. How are your students celebrating this holiday?

Don’t forget to wish them Happy Children’s Day in Chinese by saying: “儿童节快乐!” (értóng jié kuàilè )

Childrensdayquestions
Use this graphic to ask your online ESL students
about International Children’s Day.

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