Thursday, June 2, 2011

Happy Children’s Day!

“There’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day; there’s no Lesbian Lover’s Day!”

This snatch of dialog is again ripped from the popular 1990’s sitcom Friends. It references the fact that Ross’ wife, who had discovered she was gay was having a baby, as mentioned in the Uber-Blonde entry of this blog. Susan, Carol’s partner, was dismayed that in no way would she be recognized with a special day after the child is born.

Today is Children’s Day in China. All over the country children are celebrated: either they get the day off from school or the school caters to them especially, with treats, camping trips, free movies, skits and other special activities. Children of civil servants often receive small gifts from their parents’ employers. Parents celebrate their children by offering small gifts and restaurants offer child-themed meals.

All over the world, people celebrate June 1st as International Childrens’ Day. From Angola to Zimbabwe and Canada to Tunisia, parades are held, feasts are prepared and enjoyed, gifts are presented to all of the little ones on the face of the Earth.

Some countries celebrate Universal Children’s Day on November 20th. First proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1954, it was established to encourage all countries to institute a day, firstly to promote mutual exchange and understanding among children and secondly to initiate action to benefit and promote the welfare of children around the world. It was also chosen as the day to celebrate childhood. Universal Children's Day is preceded by International Men's Day on November 19 creating a 48 hour celebration of men and children respectively during which time the positive roles men play in children's lives are recognized.

That’s nice to know, but we’re here to talk about Children’s Day.

Strangely enough, America does not celebrate an officially proclaimed Children’s Day. There’s Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and even Grandparents’ Day but no Children’s Day. Why? America is one of a very few countries that does not have an officially sanctioned day to recognize children. However there is Halloween, Easter and Christmas – they have become more of a child’s day of celebration than a religious holiday. Also, America is one of the few cultures that actively celebrates children’s birthdays.

My Children’s Day started with a chorus of chirpings from my cellphone denoting incoming text messages. I thought it would be Sam telling me that today’s Teacher’s seminar would again be canceled – this is the end of the academic year and teachers are busy, after all. Instead I found no less than 7 messages from various students/friends who were wishing me a happy day. What a way to greet the morning!

After my morning stretches and exercise routine, I decided to respond in kind. If people could wish me, a nearly half-century old teacher Happy Children’s Day, why couldn’t I wish others the same? First order of business: respond to all of the fun and thoughtful messages I had already received. That being done I typed up a message to send out to group after group of people on campus, from the Assistant Dean of the English Department on down to every teacher and student whose number was stored in my phone.

Second, I set about notifying my stateside friends that today was Children’s Day, and sent them a greeting. Being as I’m halfway around the world from them – the voice of the future, as I like to call myself when I address them, it is not yet June 1st in America so they are probably withholding their responses until that momentous day.

And then I had the monumentally fun idea to walk around campus with a bag of treats to dispense to whomever I passed by. I invited Jenny and Dash along and together we gave out treats and wished people Happy Children’s Day. You should have seen some of the looks we got! The elderly looked at me dumbfounded, the students were charmed and the small children we encountered tried to grab the entire bag of treats I was carrying. It was easy to keep them from it; tall as I am I simply held the bag out of reach. But they certainly had fun trying to capture an extra piece of candy or a cake!

I have to reflect on the wisdom of dedicating an entire day to the celebration of children. Perhaps, maybe certainly children the world over are revered but in China, where each couple is only allowed to produce one child, children have a special significance. Isn’t it a great idea to commit one day to their honor? Children are our future movers and shakers, our future policy makers, our yet-to-come leaders. In a few years we will place the world in their hands, what world there is to give them. Shouldn’t we celebrate that they will have the fortitude to take over after our successes and our blunders?

I am my mother’s child, a child of the world and a child at heart. I salute my fellow children, no matter what age they are… and that means you! Also, I salute the children of the world and encourage you to do the same. Go out and hug a child today… maybe even one you hold dear to your heart.

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