Being the true wanderlust that I am, it is no coincidence that I try my best as a mom to instill my love of travel, culture and adventure in my children. Whenever I get back from a trip abroad, I make sure to show them my photographs and talk to them about where I was and what I learned. This especially holds true for my volunteer trips and travels to third-world countries, where life is dramatically different than ours. Although they are still relatively young, it is my hope that they will eventually get it and learn to understand the world better through my eyes.
Back in December, I worked hard at my son’s elementary school in organizing a school-wide World Cultures Day. At this day long event, Max’s school of 800 children were introduced to over 30 countries and cultures from around the world. It was a proud moment for me as a parent who had dreamed of the day I would be able to make a larger impact by bringing culture to children on a grander scale.
On a smaller scale, I try to do small things with my own family such as visit the museums and various festivals and cultural events around town to keep their minds churning. Living in a dynamic metropolitan area with a host of new immigrant communities (Hmong, Somali, Ethiopian, and Indian to name a few), there is always a grand festival to be had. Last weekend, it just so happened that one of my favorite weekend festivals was taking place: The Festival of the Nations in downtown St. Paul.
I couldn’t find a better way to describe the event than the following words on the Festiva of the Nation’s home page. I especially like their mission:
“The Festival of the Nations is the largest and longest running multicultural festival in Minnesota, celebrating cultural diversity with food, music, demonstrations, exhibits and dance. At the Festival of Nations we are able to renew a sense of pride in our respective ethnic heritages. At the same time we have the opportunity to develop an appreciation, rather then just a tolerance of the culture of others as we build for the future together”.
On Sunday, my family and I went to our second annual Festival of the Nations in downtown St. Paul. It was a rainy weekend and venturing to an indoor culture fest sounded like the perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon. Remembering last year, I could hardly contain my excitement. The food. The music. The costumes. The dance. The handicrafts from around the world. The entire event was stunning and I couldn’t think of a better way to show my kids the world without boarding a plane.
This year’s Festival of the Nations marked its 80th anniversary. The crowds could not have been larger and the lines to sample the multitude of ethnic cuisine were immense. But as always, it was worth the discomfort of too many people. For where else can you go and experience 90 different ethnic groups from around the world in one building? Where else can you share their food, culture, music and handicrafts under one roof?
The Festival of Nations is the perfect hodgepodge of America: It perfectly illustrates the diverse melting pot that American culture and life have become. It can no longer be said that America is one culture. By looking around at the attendees and participants at the Festival of Nations and realizing that all these people are Minnesotans and Americans, it is evident that our country has become a country of many. That realization alone is enough to make you go.
Here are some pictures from our day…..
Besides the food, the other huge attraction for the kids is the passports. For $1 you can buy a pretend passport and spend the day traveling around the world to each country and getting your passport stamped. Each country has a booth that is manned by a representative of that country. The booths are decorated in pictures, artifacts, handicrafts and clothing from each nation. You also can get your name written in the local language. The kids loved it!
Here is a snapshot of the kids visits around the world. If you want to see the photos larger or as a slideshow, just click on a thumbnail and the slideshow will be launched. Follow Max and Sophia around the world!
After the passport stamping, it was time to eat! Too many choices too little time. They had everything! I opted for my old favorite from last year, a chocolate cream puff from Holland. The cream inside melted in your mouth…
My husband Paul visited the Nepali booth for some curried potatoes and chicken over rice. The smells of ethnic cuisine filled my nose and made my stomach grumble. I could have spent the entire afternoon eating away! Yet unfortunately the realities of being a parent sunk in….we had to leave to get to my son’s first T-Ball practice. Next year I’ll be sure to pencil in at least another hour of time for the event. It is one that can’t be missed and a great way to show the kids the world. Hopefully someday we will!