United Nations Day was October 24. I’d forgotten all about it until I turn the page on my calendar. And there it was: UN Day. For many years–thirteen to be exact–it had been the biggest school celebration for my three daughters.
The first school they attended was the Makati International Nursery School.
Then they moved on to the Manila International School. Most of their elementary and secondary school years were spent there.
The students at the International School came from every continent except Antarctica. No single national group made up more than about fifteen percent of the whole, so it was hard to find a holiday the school could celebrate.
children representing New Zealand, Norway, and Okinawa
National holidays were out. For American children, that meant no Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Martin Luther King Day, Columbus Day, end-of-summer Labor Day, or even American Thanksgiving.
In a student body of varied religions, celebrating religious holidays didn’t make much sense either.
Since the school was located in the Philippines, a Christian (mainly Catholic) country, it didn’t need to celebrate Christmas and Easter. Reminders of them were everywhere … outside of the school.
Halloween can’t really be described as a national holiday or a true religious holiday. But however you want to describe it, it isn’t universally observed around the world. During our years in the Philippines, if a child had knocked on a door and shouted “trick-or-treat,” the homeowner would have greeted him not with candy but with a look of puzzlement.
The only holiday remaining suitable for an international school to celebrate was United Nations Day.
At my daughters’ schools, the UN Day celebrations often lasted for a week. The older children participated in mock-UN sessions and learned national dances. The younger children brought their mothers in to share games, crafts, and traditional dishes from their respective countries.
The culmination of the week-long festivities was the Parade of Nations.