Holiday Fun Around the World… same or different?

By Julia Pimsleur Levine, founder of Little Pim

I think the holidays are a great launching pad to ask my kids to imagine what children in other countries are doing during this special time. Are they counting down to Hanukah or Christmas in December? Is “The Big” day December 25th or a different day? At the holidays you can teach your kids about traditions around the world, and you can play the “same or different game” by telling them about foods, stories and festivities in other countries and asking how they compare to your family’s traditions. You will likely find that all around the world kids are eating special foods, exchanging gifts and making traditional treats.

In FRANCE families eat a special holiday dessert called Bûche de Noël (pronounced “booche de no-el”), which means “Christmas log”. It’s a very sweet cake, shaped like a log from the fireplace! It’s made of layers of sponge cake and sweet chocolate icing wrapped into a cylinder. Want to make your own? Here’s the recipe!

In SPAIN, The Three Wise Men bring gifts to children on Christmas morning, but celebrations continue long after December 25th. On January 5th, The Eve of Epiphany, children fill their shoes with straw and place them on the doorstep. Legend tells that the Magi traveled through Spain in the dead of night to reach Bethlehem. On the morning of January 6th, the holiday Epiphany, children wake to find presents in their shoes

In CHINA, as most Chinese people are not Christian, the main winter festival is The Chinese New Year, which takes place toward the end of January. Kids decorate their houses with beautiful paper lanterns. Many Chinese children also hang stockings and wait for Santa Claus, whom they call Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run), which means “Christmas Old Man.” Santa Claus is also called Lan Khoong-Khoong, “Nice Old Father.”

In RUSSIA, the chief winter holiday is New Year’s Eve. Families decorate a New Years tree and make Salad Olivier, a delicacy composed of diced meat, veggies and potatoes all slathered in Mayo. Grandfather Frost (‘Dyed MOR- oz”) delivers presents to good children, aided by The Snow Princess (“Sneh-GU-ratch-ka”).

We have made our own traditions for the holidays. One of them is that we always make yummy butter cookies with my mother, and even more fun making them disappear! We celebrate Hanukah by lighting candles and giving each other gifts on seven nights, but on one of the eight nights, we give away a toy to less fortunate children. My 6-year-old son really loves this now, and talks about what toy to give away for weeks leading up to the big night! I don’t know how well my two-year old will do with this, given that his favorite word is still “mine!”

Do you have a special family tradition? Have you ever spent the holidays in another country and had a totally different experience from the holidays in America? If so, share those experiences with your child and have fun exploring, baking, and learning about other cultures.

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