Tag Archives: holiday cookie

Global Family Fun: Celebrate Chinese New Year

A little more than a month after most New Year celebrations end comes Chinese New Year, a fantastic opportunity to teach your children about Chinese culture and recommit to all the great intentions with which you started 2011.

Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world in countries with large Chinese populations and those with a significant shared cultural heritage. Indonesia, Malaysia, Chinatowns in North America, Australia, and Europe, as well as Korea, Vietnam, and Japan all celebrate the festival that begins on February 3 this year.

With its focus on family, good fortune, health, and happiness, Chinese New Year has many elements parents can adapt for their children.

For example, families in China prepare for the new year by thoroughly cleaning their homes in order to remove bad luck and make way for good fortune. However, they believe that it is very important that no one sweeps during the first few days of the new year because cleaning will remove the good luck once the new year begins.

Homes are decorated in red, the luckiest color, and adorned with intricate Chinese paper cuts. By putting up Chinese New Year decorations, you’re getting a head start on Valentine’s Day, which also incorporates red decorations.

Family visits are an important part of New Year celebrations and people usually buy new clothes. Your family can adapt this custom by planning a visit to an elderly neighbor or relative. They’ll be happy to see you whether you’re wearing new clothes or not!

Like most holidays around the world, food is a big part of the celebration. Throughout the holiday, families will share meals that include dumplings, fish, duck, chicken, noodles, and sweets.

Preparing the dumplings, in particular, is a family activity. Parents, grandparents, and children work together to prepare enough dumplings for the feast. Extended family and friends are invited so families have to be ready to feed a large crowd.

On the morning of the new year, children wish their parents health and happiness. In return, they are presented with leisee, money in red envelopes decorated with gold to signify wealth.  Children also are given oranges. The Chinese name for “orange” sounds the same as the word for luck or fortune.

Families cap off activities by setting off fireworks and some towns organize parades complete with lifelike dragons and lions. One of the most famous parades outside of China takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

One final element of the holiday is forgiveness. People are urged to reconcile with each other and welcome the new year in with peace. That is especially fitting in 2011 as the ferocious and volatile Year of the Tiger gives way to the easy prosperity and peaceful negotiation of the Year of the Hare.

Although Chinese New Year celebrations last for more than two weeks, you can be a lot less ambitious with your activities. Sharing a special dinner, cleaning the house together, or making some special decorations are all you really need to do to give your family a flavor of the holiday and teach them about Chinese culture. Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year!

 

1 Comment

Filed under Holiday, Learn

Make a Prediction

In 2011, consider adopting the German practice of predicting the future on New Year’s Eve.

Germans used to try to predict the future by dropping molten lead into cold water and “reading” the results.

Instead, why not anticipate the good things you hope will happen in 2011 by writing a news story or a letter to a loved one dated one year from now.

Ask everyone in the family what they think will happen – for themselves and other family members – and write up the results.

In the future, you can save these letters and re-read them on New Year’s Eve as a reminder of all you hoped would be.

Happy New Year!

Leave a comment

Filed under Holiday, Learn

Eat Some Grapes, Have a Laugh

In Spain and Portugal, people celebrate the new year by eating twelve grapes at midnight to encourage 12 happy months in the New Year.

In Japan, people let loose with a laugh at midnight to bring good luck to them and their families.

Each of these practices sounds so fun and charming; it’s a sure bet your family will feel the same way.

In addition, think of other things you can do at midnight to encourage a great outcome in 2011.

For example, if – like most people – you have financial concerns, consider playing Monopoly with your family on New Year’s Eve. Or dedicate a new piggy bank to help you keep track of loose change or remind you to make saving a habit.

If you feel like you and your family have been too stressed out over the past year, watch a bunch of laugh-out-loud, family friendly films to remind you to enjoy the moment.

If you’re dreaming of fun trips to exotic locales, encourage everyone in the family to dress up as if they were leaving on a vacation to their favorite spot. You might be surprised to see who is wearing a Hawaiian shirt and who’s got ski pants on!

Whatever you choose, you’re sending a message to yourself and your family that the new year can be everything you hope for.

Leave a comment

Filed under Holiday, Learn

New Year’s the Write Way

One of my favorite ideas for celebrating New Year’s is from Belgium where children are encouraged to decorate cards and write notes to their parents and godparents.

In Belgium, as in many other parts of the world, the new year also has religious significance.

It’s a wonderful time to reflect on the past and consider the future (while improving kids’ spelling, handwriting, and other skills!).

And if it’s good enough for the kids, it should be good enough for the parents.

If you’re still fortunate enough to have your parents and godparents living, parents should also consider joining in the fun.

It’s a relaxing, creative activity that may just put you in the right frame of mind for the new year while reminding some very important people of the wonderful role they may have played in your life.

No parents or godparents? Consider writing to a teacher or other mentor who had a positive impact on you.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Have an Aussie New Year!

Weather permitting, consider celebrating the new year the way they do in Australia: with picnics, camping, and lots of fresh air.

Even if your climate isn’t conducive to a December camp-out, try moving the outdoors inside by ushering in the new year with an indoor picnic.

Set up a blanket on the living room floor, hand out flashlights and turn out the lights.

Take turns sharing your favorite thing about 2010 and what you’re looking forward to in 2011.

You can also recreate your favorite picnic foods inside for added fun.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a Wii or other video game system, maybe play some sporty games as a family to remind each other that the winter – which seems interminable – will end.

And if you’re the kind of family that just loves winter sports, get out there and enjoy them together as a great way to start the new year in a happy and healthy way.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Holiday, Learn

Countdown to a New Year

Just as one holiday ends, another begins. Before the wrapping paper has been recycled (but long after the first toy has been broken), families around the world are gearing up to celebrate one of the most popular holidays – welcoming the New Year.

For the next week, KidCulture will look at how the new year is ushered in around the world and how you can adopt – or adapt – new practices for your family.

Although different cultures and religions celebrate the New Year on different days, the idea of celebrating the new year is universal.

In many cultures, the old year (2010 for us) is considered evil and has to be banished in order to properly set the stage for a happy and successful new year (2011).

One practice that most moms and dads would probably love to adopt is the idea of cleaning the house before the end of the year to present a clean, organized, and ready-for-anything mentality.

Scotland is one of the many cultures that encourage cleaning house in preparation for the new year.

In addition, fragrant branches are burned inside the house to erase old odors and leave a sweet smell.

If you can convince your children to celebrate the new year the Scottish way, hand them a dustpan and broom and a bottle of Febreze and see if they get into the spirit of things! Extra points if you teach them the lyrics to “Auld Lang Syne” and you sing while cleaning.

Auld Lang Syne

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne!

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne.
We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Holiday, Learn

Cookies 25: Lebkuchen

I hope Santa Claus was kind to you and that you spend a wonderful day with family and friends.

It’s been a lot of fun learning about different cookies from around the world and surfing the many, many, MANY websites devoted to Christmas cookies and international foods. I’ve definitely discovered a few new favorites and I hope you have, too.

And I also hope that through these 25 days of cookies you had an opportunity to learn about the other people and cultures who share our same goals: peace on earth, goodwill towards all, and maybe, just maybe, a sweet treat to share with loved ones.

Since my family is (partly) from Germany, I’m glad to share this final recipe – Lebkuchen – from there.

This Lebkuchen recipe is from MarthaStewart.com.

Lebkuchen

Ingredients

Makes 17

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/3 cup blanched whole almonds (about 1 3/4 ounces), toasted, plus more untoasted for decorating
  • 1/3 cup blanched hazelnuts (1 1/2 ounces), toasted
  • 1/3 cup diced candied orange peel
  • 1/3 cup diced candied lemon peel
  • 4 Medjool dates, pitted and chopped
  • 3 ounces almond paste, crumbled into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup apricot jam
  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk

Directions

  1. Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Pulse almonds and hazelnuts in a food processor until very finely chopped. Add candied peels and dates, and pulse until finely chopped. Add almond paste, and pulse to combine. Add jam, and pulse. Add eggs and brown sugar, and pulse. Add flour mixture, and pulse. Transfer dough to an airtight container, and refrigerate overnight (or up to 3 days).
  2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using a 2-inch ice cream scoop ( 1/4 cup), drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing cookies 3 inches apart. Place 3 almonds close together on top of each cookie. Bake until golden brown, about 14 minutes. Let cool completely on sheets on wire racks.
  3. Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and milk, and brush over cooled cookies. Let stand until set. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Lebkuchen – Martha Stewart Recipes

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Eat, Holiday

Cookies 24: Pastel de Navidad

Pastel de Navidad cookies are from Spain and they include raisins and walnuts.

Here’s a Pastel de Navidad recipe from a website called Cookies-For-Christmas.com! Sounds like fun.

Pastel de Navidad

Ingredients

frozen or home-made pie pastry dough sufficient for 1 pie shell

5 large eggs

2/3 cup granulated sugar

5 tablespoons butter, melted

pinch of salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup chopped walnuts

2/3 cup raisins

 

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 F. Roll pastry thin and cut into 12 4-inch circles. Fit each round into muffin cup and press in gently. Beat eggs until they are light; add sugar and mix well. Add butter, salt, and vanilla; mix well. Combine walnuts and raisins and fill each cup 1/2 full. Add egg mixture to fill each cup three-quarters. Bake filled cups 20-25 minutes.


Leave a comment

Filed under Eat, Holiday

Cookies 23: Speculass

Speculass cookies, which are from the Netherlands, resemble the Springerle cookies from Germany we made way back on Cookie Day 4.

This speculass recipe is from Martha Stewart and it looks difficult and amazing. But then again, isn’t that what we’ve come to expect from Martha?

Speculass

Ingredients

Makes about 32 cookies

  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
  • Pinch of ground cloves
  • 6 ounces (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup packed light-brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • Confectioners’ sugar, for surface

Directions

  1. Whisk together flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, mace, white pepper, and cloves in a large bowl.
  2. Cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in half the flour mixture. Beat in water, then remaining flour mixture. Shape into 3 disks. Pat each to a 1-inch thickness, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  3. Dust surface and springerle mold lightly with confectioners’ sugar. Roll out dough to a 1/4- to 3/8-inch thickness (deeper molds will need thicker dough). Cut a piece of dough about the size of the mold. Press mold firmly into dough, flip over, and gently roll over dough with a rolling pin. Flip over, and press onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Using a knife, trim excess dough. Gently coax dough out of mold with fingertips and onto a baking sheet. Repeat, spacing cookies 1 inch apart, and placing same-size cookies on same sheet. Freeze until firm, about 1 hour.

Read more at Marthastewart.com: Speculaas Cookies – Martha Stewart Recipes

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Eat, Holiday

Cookies 22: Basler Brunsli

Today’s cookie is from Switzerland and – much like that country – it’s pretty picture-perfect for the holidays!

This Basler Brunsli recipe is from Pastrywiz.com.

Basler Brunsli (Chocolate Almond Cookie)

1½ cups natural almonds (8oz)
1 cup sugar
½ cup powdered sugar
6 oz semisweet or bittersweet chocolate chopped
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 large egg whites

In a food processor combine almonds with sugars until ground fine. Add chocolate and mix until fine. (Do not overmix or chocolate will melt.) Add spices and egg whites and mix until dough comes together. Chill dough for about 1/2 hour.

On a surface covered with sugar, roll dough to about ½ inch thickness. Cut out cookies with a 2 inch cookie cutter (heart or star shaped) and transfer onto baking pan lined with parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 350º F. Put cookies into the oven and reduce the temperature to 325º F. Bake for 15 minutes or until firm. Be careful not to overbake or the cookies will be too hard.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Eat, Holiday