Guatemala, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras and Nicaragua all gained independence from Spanish colonial rule on Sept. 15, 1821. Because Guatemala and neighboring countries gained their independence at the same time, they celebrate by having runners carry a torch along the Pan-American Highway from Guatemala to Costa Rica. Villages can also light their torch from the large torch in Antigua and carry it back to their villages.
1. Backyard Carnival
Have a carnival in your backyard for your kids and their friends. You can involve your children in the planning and preparation, giving them a taste of what it's like to plan a large party. Let your child pick out games that she thinks her friends will like, such as a craft table, card games or sack races. You can suggest a cake walk where the kids have to recite a different fact about Guatemala with each step. Your child can research facts and, if players get stuck quick, turn it into a true or false game as they walk. Spend time as a family preparing Guatemalan dishes for your guests to enjoy
2. Torch Relay
Have your own torch relay -- in fact, turn it into a race. Start by explaining the liberated countries' tradition of relaying the torch along the Pan-American Highway. With older kids and teens, you can use real torches or sparklers. With small kids, have them pass flags between them as they run. Arrange a race in a large backyard or by a school. Have a soccer ball ready in case the race wraps up early. Soccer is a favorite pastime in Guatemala.
3. Make Piñatas
Making piñatas keeps little hands busy and gives them something to take home at the end of the day. Blow up a balloon to the desired piñata size. All you need to do is provide newspaper strips, string and paste to cover with papier-mache. Mix 1 cup each of flour and water and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir with a spoon until it has a batter-like texture. Show the kids how to dip each strip into the mixture and then place it on the balloon. They should make a crisscross pattern over all of the balloon except the knotted end. Set the balloons out to dry. After it dries, poke a hole in the top and bottom to run string through. Encourage the kids to decorate or color it with the colors of the flag or with their favorite Guatemalan images.
4. Make a Worry Doll
Worry dolls are a Guatemalan tradition. If your child is worried about something, he tells a doll his worry and puts it under his pillow. That way the doll can take over worrying while your child gets a good night's sleep. He can even explain multiple worries to multiple dolls. Worry dolls are simple to create, although kids might lack the skills needed to make traditional Mayan costumes. Making a body can be done in several ways. Tie two pieces of twigs together, use garbage twist ties, tie wires together or twist pipe cleaners. Wind cloth around the frame to give it a doll shape. Add more yard for hair. You can use scraps of old clothes or small squares of knitting to dress the dolls. The kids can draw on a face with a marker.
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