Tag Archives: traditions

Celebrating Valentine’s Day

This Valentine’s Day will be a little different for us. We usually celebrate it by making or preparing Valentines during the day, then surprising each other with them at suppertime. Our grandma comes over for a special meal, and we end the day with a lot of chocolate.

This year, however, my husband will be working late, so the kids and I have been wondering what to do. The consensus is that we’ll have a special Valentine’s Day snack instead of a supper during the few minutes in the afternoon he can come home so he won’t miss it. And we’ll still end the day with chocolate. 🙂

There are lots of ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day. Here are a few more ideas:

  • Find picture books at the library about St. Valentine, or look up information about him online. Share his story with your children.
  • Spend some time baking together!  Make Valentine’s Day treats from scratch with your kids. You can find all sorts of recipes to try at KidsCookingActivities.com and Kaboose.com.
  • Decorate a room in your house – Cut out paper hearts and tape them around the room. Our favorite room is our kitchen, and the paper hearts are going up all over the windows. Have the kids write messages on the hearts or the names of the people they love.
  • Create homemade cards for grandparents or neighbors.
  • Make valentines to share with the residents of the local nursing home or for children in the hospital.
  • Write a letter to a friend you don’t see very often.
Happy Valentine’s Day!

New Year’s Around the World

No matter if we’re home together or visiting other family members, we usually celebrate on New Year’s Eve with games, snacks, movies, fireworks, and of course, staying up until midnight. This year, as we get ready for the festivities, we thought it would be interesting to find out how the rest of the world welcomes the new year. Here’s what we discovered:

In England, New Year’s Eve customs are quite similar to our own here in America. Many people celebrate with parties either in their homes, restaurants, or pubs with friends and family. They also watch fireworks displays, and at midnight sing “Auld Lang Syne”. They count down with the clock and toast the new year. Sound familiar? It did to my kids!

But here are some other things we learned:

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay, and it’s an evening full of traditions. One of the customs is called first footing, or being the first person to cross the threshold of a home after midnight. This “first footer” will bring all the luck of the coming year with him, but there are some criteria he must meet. Ideally, he will be tall and handsome with dark hair, but he cannot be a doctor, a minister, or a grave digger. It’s also traditional for the first footer to carry a lump of coal to signify life, comfort, and warmth, along with a cake to represent prosperity.

Omisoko, New Year’s Eve in Japan, is one of the country’s most important holidays, coming second only New Year’s Day. Buckwheat noodles, called toshikoshi soba, are eaten to ensure longevity and prosperity. Families gather to watch the Red and White Song Festival, a television program that features singers whose songs were popular during the year. As the clock approaches midnight, many people visit the shrines and temples. Getting up to watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day is another important tradition, as viewing the first sunrise is considered a good and proper start to the new year. Popular foods for New Year’s Day include fish, fish eggs attached to seaweed, black beans, and kelp. New Year’s postcards sent to friends and family are delivered on New Year’s Day, and children receive monetary gifts in special envelopes.

In Mexico, Año Nuevo (New Year’s Eve) is celebrated by decorating homes in red ( improved lifestyle and love), yellow (blessings and good employment), white (improved health), and green (improved financial situations). Families often celebrate with a late-night dinner of turkey and mole. If Mexican sweet bread is served, it was usually baked with a coin or charm inside the dough. It’s tradition that whoever receives the piece with the coin  will have good luck in the coming year. When the clock strikes midnight, 12 grapes are eaten — one at a time with each chime of the bell – and a wish is made with each one.

People ring in the New Year in so many different ways! What interesting New Year’s traditions do you have in your family?

 

Photo by Matthew Hull

Resurrection Day

Today is Easter Sunday,  a day set aside to remember our Savior’s death on the cross and resurrection. A day to celebrate our new life in Him.

This past week was full of special activities — egg hunts, Easter parties, craft days, and re-tellings of the Easter Story. We have a few favorites things we do almost every Easter season. They include:

*Reading our favorite Easter picture books — Benjamin’s  Box by Melody Carlson is one we read year after year. It’s written to correspond with the Resurrection Egg set, where each egg contains a different “piece” of the story. Before we purchased one of the sets, I made up my own using regular plastic eggs and filling them myself with items we had around the house.

Another book we really enjoy is The Parable of the Easter Lily by Liz Curtis Higgs. In the story, a young girl named Maggie receives a flower bulb as a gift and, disappointed, tosses it into the garden. When the bulb grows into an Easter Lily, Maggie learns about grace, forgiveness, and the true meaning of Easter.

*Dying Easter Eggs — Sometimes we dye the eggs before Easter, sometimes on Easter Sunday. Either way, it’s always been a great activity for bringing extended family together. Now that the kids are older, we don’t just dip the eggs  in the dye; now we blow the eggs out so they’re hollow and paint them!

*Hunting for Easter Baskets — We had this tradition when I was small, and I’ve continued it with our children, for no real reason except that it’s a lot of fun.  Each child has a designated basket filled with goodies, and Easter morning they hunt around the house for them. Even my 14-year-old still enjoys looking for his basket. Or maybe he just going for the treats inside. Hmmm….

What does your family do to celebrate the Resurrection?

Cooking Up Something Sweet

The holidays are the perfect time for trying out new recipes, especially with your children! There are simple recipes for desserts to share with friends and neighbors, as well as foods you can make to give as gifts. If holiday baking with your family is part of your plans this week, here are some websites to check out:

Families Online Magazine – This site features treats you can make with your children, including Candy Cane Cookies and Popcorn Snowmen.

Family Fun – Family Fun is one of my favorite magazines, and one of my favorite websites too. Here you’ll find recipes for advent calendar cookies, cookie kids, and dancing gingerbread people.

Dreams Alive Magazine
– On the page featuring Christmas crafts and cookies just for kids, you’ll find the directions for making chocolate coffee spoons with peppermint and a Christmas chocolate kiss tree. There’s also a recipe for gingerbread cookies in a jar, a nice gift kids can give to relatives or neighbors.

Easy Kids Recipes – While this site has a few interesting recipes posted by the author, there are many, many more on the “Cookie Recipe Contest Page.”  Just click on the link, and you’ll be directed to the 2010 winning recipes as well as 40+ other recipes to try.

Apples4TheTeacher – There are quite a few ads on this site, but once you close them you’ll find a number of tasty recipes, including chocolate fudge and candy cane marble.

NorthPole.com – You’ll find lots of recipes for baking with kids here, so many that they are divided into categories: cookies, cakes, pies, candy and fudge, breads, and other recipes.

Kids Cooking Activities – This is one of my favorite sites for cooking with kids, and they have a page dedicated to Christmas cookies too. Visit this site for the basic sugar cookie recipes for making cut-out cookies, as well as the directions for making jam-filled wreaths, reindeer cookies, and gingerbread men.

Photo by cohdra

Let’s Have a Parade!

This week, we met up with family to spend a day together at a children’s museum. While we were there, we began talking about Christmas parades, and my grown niece commented that one of her dreams was to be in a parade.

“Really?” I replied. “That’s funny, because we’re going to be in a parade this Sunday. We’ve been in one every year for the last five years.”

“But I thought you had to represent a business or an organization,” she said.

But in our little country town, you don’t. Participation is open to anyone willing to pay the entry fee, which ranges from $10 – $20 depending on what you are entering. The categories always include commercial and non-commercial vehicles and floats, classic and antique vehicles, recreational vehicles, horses, pageant winners, and walkers/marchers.

Those may seem like difficult categories for a family to fit into, but they’re not. We enter every year as a non-commercial vehicle. We decorate my husband’s old pickup truck and dress up to fit the theme of the parade. My husband drives the truck, and the kids and I all ride in the back, waving and tossing out candy and wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas.”

Our parade offers plaques as prizes for the entries with the best decorations, and would you believe it, for the past five years we’ve placed either first or second in our category? When I first came across the entry form six years ago, I thought it’d be fun to enter it on a whim; now it’s become a family Christmas tradition. And the kids are always anxious to see if we’ll win again.

If your children would like to be in a parade next year, check into your town’s entry requirements. If you do need to enter as a group, you could enter as a club, a church organization, or a homeschool co-op. Then, with a little creativity and a lot of planning, you’ll be ready to join in the fun!

Photo by gracey

Lessons on Parade

JGS_mF_AndHeresSanta…Or perhaps this should be entitled, “Lessons from the Parade?”

This past weekend, we followed a family tradition we began five years ago: we entered the Christmas parade of a neighboring small town. For a small fee, we enter the “Non-Commercial Vehicle” category, decorate our old pick-up truck according the theme of the parade, and dress up appropriately. The children and I ride in the back and toss candy while my husband drives. At the end of the parade, plaques are awarded for first, second, and third place in each category. All in all, it’s a really fun time.

This year, though, the theme was a little harder to develop, so I waited… and waited…and waited for inspiration to hit, which it never really did. We worked hard on the decorations, though, and we thought we had a chance of placing. But the weather was damp, and the duck tape we were using to hold our decorations to the truck wasn’t sticking. We were still rushing around as the parade was about to begin, fixing this, taping that. During the parade, I even had to hop out of the truck and walk along beside it so I could pick up anything that fell off!

We made it past the judges in one piece, though, and they gave us a good score. We took first place in our category (yay!), and we were all surprised. But there were some good lessons learned:

1. Cuteness counts!  My youngest, Luke, was dressed as a chick in an egg, and Lillie, my nine-year old, dressed as a farm cat. I think that helped a lot!

2. Prepare ahead of time! I waited too long to get started on this project. While we finished our design in time, it was stressful trying to get it all done.

3. Enjoy the process!  While the kids enjoyed the parade, they also enjoyed working on it. They painted almost all the props, and Luke especially was proud of his work. To me, this was the best part of the parade this year.

So, are we going to be ready next year? I’ll answer with a “Yes!” — that is, if we’ve learned our lessons!

Counting Down to Christmas

calendarWhen my oldest child was little, I found an advent calendar in a catalog that I really liked. It had 25 pockets with a number on each one; inside the pockets were hidden characters to include in a nativity scene: shepherds, wise men, sheep, camels, Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus. Every day in December, the child pulls out one of the characters from the corresponding pocket and sticks it onto a background. Of course, baby Jesus would be in Pocket 25.

At the time, we didn’t have much extra money to spend, so I made my own calendar using felt for the background, pockets, and characters; fabric paint for the numbers; and Velcro pieces to make the characters adhere to the stable scene. And we’ve been using that calendar ever since. Though I’ve had to replace a few pieces along the way, it’s been one of our favorite traditions for counting down to Christmas.

A friend of mine recently told me of one of their traditions: they make paper chains from construction paper with the days numbered on them, then tape one on each child’s door where they can reach them. Every day, then, the children get to remove one link of the chain. A variation of this would be to put a verse from the Christmas story in the Bible on each link; then, when the children remove the link, they can work on memorizing the verse.

One family we know counted down the days by setting up a nativity scene with all of the pieces except the wise men and their camels. They would set them far away from the display, perhaps on a windowsill or bookshelf. Then, every morning, they would move them a little closer to the scene, until finally, on Christmas Eve, the wise men would arrive at the manger.

Does your family have a favorite way of counting down to Christmas?

Organized Christmas.com

pinkballThis fall has flown by. Thanksgiving was here before I knew it, and now Christmas is on its way. Many people we know already have their trees up and decorations out, but we haven’t even brought out the boxes from the attic. Once we do, it usually takes us a couple of days to get everything set up — a couple of days of chaos, that is.

And then there are the gifts. I have much of my holiday shopping already completed (whew!), but we plan to take treats to our neighbors this year. And what about Christmas cards? It’s been nice keeping up with friends on Facebook, but there are others who haven’t joined that I need to get in contact with.

How to do it all, and without much stress? I’m finding help at OrganizedChristmas.com. If I had started back in August, I could have worked the Holiday Grand Plan — an 18-week schedule for organizing and cleaning your home in time for the holidays. There’s also a 6-week Christmas Countdown beginning the first of October so your holiday preparations are done by December 1. Though I missed those dates, it’s okay — there are still a lot of resources on the site for a late-comer like me.

Under the section entitled “Simplify Holidays”, you’ll find links to articles and free printables for just about any aspect of the season that’s overwhelming you. You’ll find tips and resources for creating a holiday budget, setting up a Christmas calendar, writing Christmas letters, and cutting down on clutter. These pages also include ideas for frugal gift giving, holiday cooking, decorating, and simplifying traditions. There’s even a section about teaching children how to give.

So if you (like me) are feeling a bit behind these days, don’t. Visit Organized Christmas, find some good ideas, and enjoy the season!