Aug
13
2014

Back to School Traditions Around the World!

Around the world, kids are getting ready to go back to school. Some are picking out fresh boxes of crayons and pencils, while others are getting new lunch boxes and backpacks. Here’s a look at what students in different countries are doing to prepare for a new year of learning!

 

First Day of School in Japan

In Japan, children carry all of their school supplies in a randoseru to school. This hard-sided backpack is filled with books, origami paper and a special pencil case called a fudebako. For students who bring their own lunch to school, the tradition on the first day, thought to bring good luck, is to bring a lunch of rice with seaweed sauce and quail eggs. Also, since outdoor shoes are not permitted inside the school, students will bring their own pair of slippers.

First Day of School in Holland

In Holland, bakfietsen, or cargo bikes, are frequently used by parents to take their kids to school.  These bikes have a large box that sits on one or two wheels in front of the rider. Bakfietsen owners love that they are eco-friendly and don’t require a parking spot. The bikes are so popular with parents that nearly all bakfietsen are used to tote around the kiddies! On the first day back, students are sure to be rolling up to school in one of these smart inventions.

First Day of School in Germany

For a very long time now (200 years!), kids in Germany have been given a Schultuete (pronounced shool-too-teh) on the first day of school. A Schultuete, which translates to “school cone,” is a large, decorated paper cone filled with school supplies, small presents and sweet things to eat. Sometimes they’re nearly as large as the child!

First Day of School in Russia

To celebrate the beginning of a brand new year of learning, the first day of school in Russia is called the “Day of Knowledge.” On this day, children traditionally give colorful bouquets of fresh flowers to their teachers and receive balloons in return.

What’s YOUR back to school tradition? Tell us in the comments!

Explore more fascinating back to school traditions from around the world on our Pinterest board: http://bit.ly/1phq4mD

Aug
7
2014

Celebrating Family at the Obon Festival in Japan!

Join Sam & Sofia as they talk about their plans to celebrate Japan’s Obon Festival with friends!

Next week from August 13-15, the Obon Festival will take place in Japan. This is a special three-day Buddhist celebration during which Japanese families have reunions to honor their ancestors. This year our friend Nanami has invited us to join her family for the festivities!

Members of Nanami’s family will come from all over Japan to her home near Tokushima to take part in the tradition. Namani says her grandmother Amaterasu always decorates the house for Obon with beautiful flowers, special plates of delicious summer vegetables and fruits like suika (watermelon) and lots of decorative paper lanterns.

On the second day of Obon, we’ll head into Tokushima City for a traditional bon odori (folk dance). (In Tokushima the special name for the dance is awa dori). Nanami says there will be more than a million people there to celebrate!

Just like other traditional Japanese festivals, the streets of Tokushima will be lined with stalls called yatai which sell food like okonomiyaki (Japanese savory pancakes), cotton candy and chocolate-covered waffle stick. Plus we’ll get to play Japanese festival games like yo-yo fishing and bouncy ball scooping. There will be even be dancers and musicians parading through the streets until the sun goes down.

When the sun has set, the city center shuts down and becomes a huge dance stage. Hundreds of dancers, performing on multiple stages, will break into rhythm to the sound of gongs and drums.  For one dance, called the “Fool’s Dance,” they will chant something that translates to “the dancers are fools and the watchers are fools. Both are fools alike, so why not dance?” Just as they say, we in the audience may be invited to join the dance with them!

At the end of Obon, we will be able to participate in the toro nagashi, or floating of lanterns, which is a ceremony meant to remember our ancestors. We will walk from Nanami’s house to the Yoshino River where we’ll launch glittering paper lanterns on the surface of the water and allow them to float gently to the ocean.

It is truly amazing to think that the decorations, the dance and the festivities have been evolving into the current celebration for more than 400 years. But the most important part of Obon has remained the same, and that is celebrating the importance of relatives, home and the traditions of families.

Discover more about Japan and its culture with our World Edition

Aug
1
2014

Celebrate International Friendship Day

Did you know that International Friendship Day is celebrated on August 3rd in both the U.S. and India? During their travels, Sam and Sofia made a friend in India and like to share this holiday with him in a unique way. Every year, they send a special package filled with gifts traditionally exchanged in India during the celebration. The gift contains a flower, friendship band (called a bracelet in the U.S.) and a nice card. Follow the instructions below to share this day with your friends!

Dried Flowers

Materials:
*small flower
*book
*newspaper or paper towel
*time

Steps:

1. Pick a flower that you think your friend will enjoy. Smaller types work best and dry faster!

2. Open up a page of the newspaper or a thick piece of paper towel. Place the flower on your paper of choice and fold it in half.

3. Take a book and turn to the middle. Place the folded paper in-between the pages and shut the book.

4. Wait until your blossom dries. This step may take a few days, but this keepsake is worth the wait!

Friendship Band

Materials:
*3 pieces of embroidery string
*tape

Steps:

1. Pick your three colors of string and tie a knot at the top.

2. Tape the knotted area to a table.

3. Braid until you reach the desire length of the bracelet and tie another knot. Your gift is ready to wear!

Jul
30
2014

Make Fair Food at Home This Summer!

During the months of summer, fairs are held across the USA, and that means one thing: a delicious array of sweet and savory treats. The menu of fair food has exploded to include crazy items like fried Oreos and doughnut burgers, but the old classics continue to steal the show. One timeless staple is fried dough, served with honey, syrup or powdered sugar. 

Whip up your own rendition of this fair favorite with our recipe for Fried Dough with Maple Syrup. This treat was featured in our USA Edition’s Vermont State Journal, where of course they opt for syrup over honey!

For more creative and tasty fair food recipes, visit our Pinterest board: http://bit.ly/1kYC08H

Download the printable recipe PDF here: http://bit.ly/1tLbftK

Learn more about Vermont with a subscription to our USA Edition! Buy here: http://bit.ly/1nISvJk

 

Jul
22
2014

Creative Lunches for Kids with a French Twist!

Little Passports Blog Ambassador Wendy Copley is one creative mom! Even with two boys, she finds time to cook, write, and craft, and the artistic juices don’t stop there. Every day, she packs creative and healthy lunches for her sons with themes ranging from holidays to cute critters. Inspired by the world images on our Back to School lunch box, Wendy has created a French-themed spread just for Little Passports! Read on to learn more.

Send your child on a trip to France with this lunch inspired by traditional French treats! The centerpiece of this meal is a ham and butter sandwich on a baguette (called a “jambon-beurre” in French). It’s a simple, delicious street food that’s popular all over France. Accompany the sandwich with some sliced veggies, a French flag made of fruit, and a few madeleines and you have a fun lunch any child will love.

Ingredients:

  • baguette
  • sliced ham
  • butter or cheese
  • apple
  • blueberries
  • strawberries
  • cucumber
  • radish
  • madeleines

 

Equipment:

  • divided lunch box or insert
  • paring knife
  • toothpicks
  • decorative tape with a French motif

 

Putting it together:

We’re going to start by making the sandwich. Cut a piece from the baguette that will fit in the largest section of the lunch box, then cut the baguette in half horizontally. Spread each piece of the bread with a layer of butter, then top with ham and close the sandwich. (You can substitute cheese for the butter if you prefer.) Place the sandwich in the lunch box.

Next, we’ll make a French flag from fruit using blueberries, apple and strawberries. Cut a wide slice off the side of the apple, and then trim it so it fills about a third of one of the compartments in the lunch box. Slice it, then flip it over so the white side is up and center it in the middle of the compartment. If you are worried about it browning, you can dip the apple in a little water with a squirt of lemon juice in it.

Fill in the space to the left of the apple with blueberries, and add sliced strawberries to the right side of the box. Voila! The flag of France!

Slice the cucumber and radish. Layer the cucumber slices in another section of the lunch box, then top them with some radish slices.

Now let’s decorate the vegetables with some home made flag picks! These little guys are simple to make and you can whip three or four out in just a few minutes. Cut a piece of decorative tape (mine has the Eiffel Tower printed all over it) to a length of about one and a half inches. Wrap the tape around a toothpick and double it over onto itself. If you like, you can add a little je ne sais quoi to the flags by clipping a small triangle into the end with a pair of scissors.

Poke a few of the flags into the vegetables for a little extra decoration.

Finally, tuck a couple of madeleines into the last compartment for a little lunch time treat.

Voila! A lunch that will send you straight to the streets of Paris!

 

 

About Wendy Copley:

After receiving her first bento box as a Christmas gift, Wendy’s love of crafting unique and eye-catching lunches took off. Ever since, she has perfected her style and continues to make tasty bento boxes every day. This March, she released her book,  Everyday Bento: 50 Cute and Yummy Lunches to Go which is full of tutorials on how to make your own creative lunches at home! Check out more of her healthy lunch ideas: http://wendolonia.com