Feb
9
2016

Valentine’s Day Around the World!

It’s no secret that we love hearing about different holiday traditions around the world. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, we decided to take a look at how five different countries celebrate love. Keep reading, and maybe you’ll be inspired to bring some of these traditions into your own celebration!

Valentine’s Day Around the World

Australia
At the time of the Australian gold rush, thanks to a surge in cash, Australians were known to spend a pretty penny on Valentine’s Day presents. A popular gift among the Aussies? A satin pillow decorated with flowers and colorful seashells. How extravagant!

Denmark
A fun tradition among the Danish is called gaekkebrev (aka “joking letter”). Here’s what you do: write a silly limerick or rhyme and send it anonymously to your Valentine. Instead of signing the note, write a series of dots, one dot for each letter of your name. If the recipient is able to guess your name, you owe them an egg on Easter!

Italy
Valentine’s Day used to be celebrated as an outdoor Spring Festival where couples would often announce their engagements. However, this tradition is no longer observed. Don’t feel too bad, we hear that today, exchanging bon-bons and large amounts of chocolate is how Italians typically celebrate Valentine’s Day. Yum!

Japan
In Japan and some other Asian countries, the women turn the tables! On February 14th, women give chocolate to their male friends. The following month, on March 14th, men return the favor by giving white chocolate to the women. Everybody wins!

South Africa
On February 14 in South Africa, you may see young women wearing the name of their sweethearts pinned to their sleeves. The tradition is called Lupercalia, and comes from an ancient Roman festival. Often, this is how the wearer reveals her feelings for the first time. What a nice Valentine’s surprise!

Want more Valentine’s Day fun? See below!

Get the Little Passports Valentine’s Day Printable!

Valentine’s Day Bento Box!

Feb
3
2016

Co-Founder Stella Ma Shares Her Chinese New Year Traditions

Stella Ma, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of Little Passports, is excited to share her family’s annual Chinese New Year traditions!

Happy Chinese New Year and Year of the Monkey! I grew up in a fairly traditional Cantonese-speaking family, and Chinese New Year has always been a very special holiday for me.

As a young child, I knew Chinese New Year took place around the beginning of the year, but I didn’t fully grasp that the date was tied to the lunar calendar.  I recall my mom pulling out a large Chinese calendar book and flipping through the pages to find the exact date.

Our excitement built as the day approached and preparations were made.  We cleaned the house before the holiday because we didn’t want to risk “sweeping” out good luck after the New Year.  By the same logic, we observed not washing our hair on New Year’s Day for fear that we might wash away good fortune.

Lots of planning went into getting ready for the traditional New Year’s Eve family reunion dinner.  I particularly enjoyed the shopping trips my mom and I took to Chinatown to purchase the special ingredients.  The food we served was auspicious and symbolic, with the names of many of the dishes sounding like the Chinese pronunciations for “good fortune,” “happiness” or “longevity.”  Dishes and ingredients included chicken, roast pork, Chinese “hair” fungus, lettuce, dried oysters and fish.  My favorite dish, which involved a labor-intensive mincing of many ingredients, was the dried oyster lettuce cups (with the Chinese name of the dish sounding like “good business”). I would stand next to my mom and watch her take great care as she prepared all the ingredients.  When we got a food processor, I thought it would finally bring my mom some relief, but she still insisted on hand-chopping everything.

We always started New Year’s Day with a special vegetarian meal.  Because my dad left early in the morning for work, I would go to bed excited, knowing that my mom would wake us all up around 5 am so we could share the meal as a family.  In the morning, we would wish my parents a happy new year and good health for the coming year in Cantonese and then we would eat a piece of candy to ensure sweetness for the new year.  My mom would give us lycee (red envelopes) filled with lucky money.  After breakfast, we would dress in something red to symbolize good luck and head off to school.

The weeks following involved visits to my relatives where we would bring and exchange bags filled oranges, sweets and other treats.  It was a multi-week rotating house party!

When I moved out and got married, I appreciated the annual tradition of coming together as a family to celebrate even more.  Every year, I call my parents on the morning of the new year to wish them a happy new year.  It’s tradition that only married couples give out red envelopes, so I find myself always scrambling to get them prepared and feeling extra lucky if I managed to get brand new bills from the bank.  (I no longer observe the “no washing hair” tradition, and my mom looks the other way.)

As a mom myself now to two young boys, I cherish sharing and passing along the traditions.  On New Year’s morning, I give my sons each a piece of candy with their red envelopes. Being given candy for breakfast makes them feel like they have the best mom ever! They also love going to Chinatown and watching the lion dancing, and we’ve had many ad hoc lion dance performances at home using makeshift drums and lion costumes fashioned out of blankets.

Gung Hay Fat Choy (as we would say in Cantonese, or in Mandarin, Xin Nian Kuai Le) to the Little Passports community!

Stella

Want to know learn more about Chinese New Year? See below!

Learn Your Zodiac Animal

DIY Chinese New Year Fans

Feb
3
2016

DIY Chinese New Year Fans

Chinese New Year is just around the corner on Monday, February 8th!  In honor of this joyous occasion, we asked our crafty friend Brandy to share a fun and simple craft to celebrate Chinese New Year. What did she come back with? An adorable DIY fan activity! This is a great activity for little globetrotters to engage their crafty side, as well as a wonderful way for parents to showcase their kiddo’s artwork. 

DIY Chinese New Year Fans

In ancient China, fans came in various shapes and forms, and were made in different materials such as silk, jade, bamboo and even feathers. The most common forms were folding fans and round fans, which were thought to look like the full moon. For over 3,000 years they have been used as a fashion statement, a way to keep cool or provide shade, and a way to display art. Fans are also viewed as good luck charms and expressions of generosity.

Check out how we make paper fans using plain white paper (copy paper offers the best weight). You can either have the kiddos decorate their paper first or use solid colors. Better yet, do you have pages and pages of your child’s art and drawings stacked up in the kitchen? This is a great craft to turn that art into an object!

Supplies:
(3) 5×8″ pieces of copy paper
2 craft sticks
1 tiny hair band

Step 1: Score each paper on the 1/2″ mark. You can fold it without scoring, but scoring will help children get even folds all the way across.

Step 2: Accordion fold each piece of paper. Then fold each paper in half.

Step 3: Using a glue stick or hot glue, adhere each fan piece together until you have one seam left then glue a craft stick to each side. Close with a mini hair band and it is ready to travel with you!

Step 4:  Once dry, open up your fan and enjoy! Tip: use the mini hair band to hold the craft sticks together when your fan is open.

What a fun way to display all of those cute drawings that kids make!

Want to read more from Brandy? See below!

DIY Tissue Paper Globe

Northern Lights Activity for Kids!

Brandy  is a California girl married to an Alaskan boy. They’ve lived all over the country, moving where the Coast Guard sends them, and are parents to 4 children (and a black lab puppy). Brandy has been surrounded by creative influences her entire life. Her biggest mentors being her mother and grandmother. When she grew up and started to have a family of her own, her desire to create blossomed as she turned each new house into a home. Her blog, gluesticksblog.com, is a collection of some of her favorite kids activities, projects, recipes, and craft tutorials.

Feb
3
2016

Learn Your Zodiac Animal

Chinese New Year falls on Monday, February 8th! Traditionally, the evening before Chinese New Year Day families gather to have a delicious dinner.  Windows and doors are usually decorated with red paper cuts-outs and poetry so the new year is blessed with good fortune. Other traditions include lighting firecrackers and giving money in red paper envelopes. Did you know the color red symbolizes good luck?

Chinese New Year focuses around zodiac animals, each year represents a different animal.  According to popular Chinese belief, a person born under a certain animal year will have characteristics of that animal. Find out what animal you are according to the date of your birth! Use the chart below: find the year that you were born in; the row that it sits in will lead you to your zodiac ! Keep reading to learn about some of your zodiac characteristics!

Zodiac Chart

                                                                                                                                                                                     Zodiac Characteristics


Rat: Charming, imaginative
Ox: Dependable, confident
Tiger: Colorful, unpredictable, emotional
Rabbit: Polite, affectionate
Dragon: Strong, positive
Snake: Wise, graceful
Horse: Independent, hard-working
Sheep: Artistic, generous
Monkey: Inventive, clever
Rooster: Meticulous, talkative
Dog: Honest, faithful
Pig: Courageous, thoughtful

Want to keep celebrating? Learn more about Chinese New Year below! 

DIY Chinese New Year Fans

 

Jan
22
2016

Mississippi Mud Pie

Round up the kiddos to make a delicious Mississippi mud pie! The history of this dessert is a bit “muddy,” but we know that recipes for it began showing up in magazines and cookbooks in and around Mississippi in the 1970s. It is called Mississippi mud pie because its rich, chocolaty filling resembles the mud on the banks of the Mississippi River.

Follow the recipe below for 3 layers of pure deliciousness!

Total time: 3 hours

Active time: 40 minutes

Serves: 8-10 people

Layer 1: Crust

What You Will Need

  • 9 chocolate graham crackers
  • 1/3 cup chopped pecans
  • 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. With your hands or a food processor, combine the graham crackers and crumbs until finely ground.
  3. Combine the melted butter and crumbs with your fingers until the crumbs are completely moistened.
  4. Set aside 2 tbsp of the crumb mixture for the topping.
  5. Press the rest of the crumb mixture into the bottom and sides of a 9-inch pie plate.
  6. Bake for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a counter. Do not turn off the oven.

Layer 2: Filling

What You Will Need

  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tbsp light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs

Instructions

  1. Melt the butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly.
  2. When the butter and chocolate are melted, remove the saucepan from heat. Stir in the flour and salt until smooth.
  3. Stir in the sugar, corn syrup and vanilla.
  4. Add the eggs, one at a time, stirring the mixture until smooth.
  5. Pour the mixture into the cooled crust.
  6. Bake for about 30 minutes until the mixture is set and cracked on top like a brownie.
  7. Remove from the oven and cool for about 2 hours on a counter. The pie should be slightly warm.

Layer 3: Topping

What You Will Need

  • 1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream
  • 1 tbsp confectioners' sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • Optional: 3 tbsp finely chopped pecans and chocolate sauce for drizzling

Instructions

  1. Using a mixer, beat the cream, sugar and vanilla until peaks form.
  2. Spread the whipped cream mixture on top of the pie.
  3. Sprinkle with the reserved 2 tbsp chocolate crumb mixture.*

Notes

* If using nuts and chocolate sauce, sprinkle the nuts and drizzle the chocolate sauce on top of the crumb mixture.

Craving some more sweet treats? See below!

Warming Winter Recipe

The Most Decadent Pumpkin Pie Recipe!

Traditional Brazilian Brigadeiro Recipe