Houston Children's Museum Celebrates Diverse Seasonal Holidays

December 2, 2000

Source: The Houston Chronicle

On December 2, 2000, The Houson Chronicle reported that "six-year-old Alie Oshkoohi raced to a Santa Claus costume and quickly draped himself in the seasonal red cap and long white-trimmed coat. He gazed at his St. Nick-self in a mirror...It was Alie's first glimpse of the Children's Museum of Houston's Festivals of Light, an exhibit of seven seasonal religious and cultural holidays including Christmas, Hanukkah, Ramadan and Diwali. All seven holidays feature lights in some form, from the star marking Jesus' birthplace and the candles of Hanukkah to the Dipa lamps from Diwali. The exhibit, which continues through Jan. 7, highlights the celebrations that take place from October to early January, said Niobe Ngozi, arts education curator at the museum. Ngozi organizes the annual exhibit, which includes displays and interactive activities plus workshops and cultural performances...Youngsters can dress up in Mary and Joseph costumes, Indian saris and hats such as yarmulkas. They can learn about different holiday symbols, such as prayer rugs for Ramadan. Devout Muslims pray five times daily, kneeling on the small rugs while facing east toward the holy city of Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Ramadan, the Islamic holy month, emphasizes sun-up to sun-down fasting but culminates in a joyous celebration known as Eid-ul-Fitre. The fasting part of Ramadan has already begun and Eid will be celebrated Dec. 26 or 27, depending on the sighting of a new moon. Devout Muslims greet the light of the Ramadan moon with prayer. For Hanukkah, which will be celebrated for eight days beginning Dec. 22, the exhibit features a wall banner with a menorah, an eight-branch candelabrum. During the Jewish festival, which celebrates a miracle in 165 B.C. , one candle is lit each night. According to tradition, Jewish forces recaptured the Temple in Jerusalem and prepared to rededicate it. Although only a small amount of lamp oil was found, the oil burned for eight days, a phenomenon remembered in the lighting of the menorah...One of the most popular exhibits explains the Swedish tradition of honoring Santa Lucia, or St. Lucy. According to tradition, Lucia was a fourth-century Sicilian virgin and martyr who was executed because of her generosity to the poor. In Sweden, her feast day is observed Dec. 13. Traditionally, the oldest daughter of the family rises at dawn and dresses in a white gown with a red sash representing the saint's blood. She also wears a crown of candles representing light...In addition to craft projects, there is a microphone for youngsters who would like to sing Christmas hymns, Santa Lucia songs or songs for Las Posadas, a Hispanic Christmas celebration. Each Thursday during free family night at the museum and on Wonder Weekends, a different religious tradition is emphasized...Several local schools helped prepare exhibits for the festival at Ngozi's invitation. St. Ann's Catholic School selected Diwali, a joyous Hindu celebration centering on Lakshmi, a goddess who brings good fortune and prosperity...The St. Ann's students researched Diwali and created an elaborately decorated cabinet featuring Hindu artwork and copper lanterns. Benavidez Elementary School students created a mural celebrating Las Posadas and made 30 textile prayer rugs for Ramadan. Las Posadas (Spanish for lodging) is an eight-night Mexican festival that features the journey of Mary and Joseph seeking shelter on their way to Bethlehem. Each evening, adults or children dressed as Mary and Joseph visit a home asking for lodging. The celebration often features singing and praying, and culminates with a small party."