Autumn Festival with Ukrainian and Romanian Parents Sharing Traditions

Amazing weather for November Autumn Festival!

Late November, despite rain in the middle of the night, and 100% predictions of rain throughout the entire weekend, the Autumn Festival at AMURTEL’s Gradinita Rasarit kindergarten was blessed with an unbelievably warm, sunny clear Sunday. Fifty-five parents and young children from both Ukraine and Romania gathered together with their young children to celebrate the harvest season and share traditions and fun together, while getting to know each other.

Dancing Romanian Hora, Singing Chernova Kalyna

The day began with an easy, festive Romanian “hora” circle dance with all of the children and parents. Then they sang a few songs about autumn they had prepared, while Cristina translated for our Ukrainian guests. The Ukrainian mothers and children then sang the patriotic “Chervona Kalyna”, a touching song from the 17th century about the Red Viburnum berries, who are bent with hardship at the beginning and then rise up with new life and confidence by the end.

Discovering Connections under the Parachute

Didi then unfurled a big, rainbow-colored parachute in the middle of the circle, inviting everyone to hold onto the edges. Some children, too excited to await directions, had already eagerly run underneath the vibrant colorful undulating canopy it formed. When the parachute could finally settle all the way to the ground without giggling moving lumps, Didi explained that she would ask a question, and whoever it was true about, they could come under the parachute while everyone else waved it above their heads, until it settled back to the ground. It is a way to discover things that are the same and different in the group.   First, all of the Ukrainian children came to the center, then the Romanians, then everyone who loves dogs, and everyone who loves cats. Then those that liked vegetables….a surprising number…but possibly because they simply loved being under the parachute. Everyone, of course, loved ice cream. Then when mothers and afterward fathers were called to the center, there was a suspiciously high number of impossibly young parents…confirming the previously mentioned hypothesis about loving vegetables.

Romanian Crafts with Seeds and Spices

Everyone then went inside, where they were delighted to find lovingly prepared workshops that our teachers Madhavii and Alina had been setting up since Friday evening!  There was a table prepared with wooden spoons and cloth-covered cardboard bookmarks waiting to be decorated with the seeds, bark, star anise, and glue arranged in little dishes on the table. There was also a table of small glass flasks, funnels, and an attractive assortment of colorful spices with interesting aromas – tumeric, cinnamon, and paprika. The children became very quiet and concentrated as they carefully spooned different layers of colored powder into the flasks.

Decorating Gingerbread Flags Baked by Ukrainian mother

Meanwhile, a Ukrainian mother had been busy for days baking gingerbreads in the shape of flags. The table was prepared with sets of red, yellow, and blue frosting so that the children could make Ukrainian and Romanian flags…though some preferred a more Jackson Pollock type of abstract design. Anyway, they didn’t last long until they were gobbled up by their very own creators.

Spectacular Vegetarian Banquet

When the music began again outside in the courtyard, children gathered again to find a table laid out with all kinds of spectacular and delicious vegetarian delicacies made by our talented friend Andra. Food took center stage for a while, while parents each received “shopping lists”. Romanian parents received a list written in Ukrainian with phonetic spelling so they could pronounce the words more easily, and Ukrainian parents did the same in the Romanian language.

Mystery Shopping at the Farmer’s Market

The children then took turns in the role of “sellers” in our harvest farmer’s market which was piled high with baskets of fresh autumn vegetables and fruits. The Romanian children listened to the lists read out and repeated by Ukrainian parents and children, and then the Ukrainians took over the market and filled up bags of fruits and vegetables according to the lists that the Romanian parents tried to pronounce. It was a fun way to learn words in a practical context, and experience what it is like to navigate not only a different language but also a different script.

Gift Exchange with Matching Numbers

The event then closed with an exchange of gifts that each group of children had made during the week. The children from the Malva center had prepared lovely little festive dolls, and the children from Gradinita Rasarit had different decorations made from seeds. Each child drew a number from the magic bag, and then found the object with the matching number to find their gift.

Festive, Memorable Experience to Build a Sense of  Community

One of the Ukrainian mothers said, “Thank you so much, this was such a lovely holiday – not just for children, but also for us!”  Kateryna, one of the Ukrainian volunteers that founded the Malva center for other Ukrainian parents to create opportunities for play, socialization and bonding was very touched, hugging Didi and expressing her thanks and delight many times throughout the day.  The Romanian parents were also really pleased with the whole event andthe opportunity to make new friends in such a unique way. One particularly thought the brochure to discover facts about Romania and Ukraine was a great idea. The atmosphere was festive, friendly, and full not only of fun but also of a lot of opportunities for meaningful cultural exchange and community building.  It will be the beginning of a good partnership and friendship as both centers look forward to future collaborations.
Just as the AMURTEL team was cleaning up, clouds gathered, and by the time everything was packed up in the car, already raindrops were falling that lasted throughout the rest of the weekend. Perfect timing!
This event was organized with funding provided through the partnership with NRC (Norwegian Refugee Council),  and involving  AMURTEL’s Gradinita Rasarit Kindergarten, and the Malva Center led by Ukrainian volunteers.