Dec
19
2014

Happy Holidays from Little Passports Co-Founders Amy Norman and Stella Ma!

Hello friends,

We often joke that we are “married” to each other. We own a business together, make decisions based on trust, could easily win a trivia contest about each others likes, dislikes and habits, and sometimes have to have “relationship talks.” Given all that, when our team asked us if we had a holiday tradition to share with the Little Passports community, we’re not sure why we were surprised to realize that we do have our own “family” tradition!

For the past five years, we  have jointly taken our sons to the San Francisco Symphony’s annual Deck the Halls holiday concert. Afterwards, we all go out for a special lunch together in the city. It’s one of our favorite days of the entire year, combining the pure joy of the holidays with education and family. For 45 minutes, our kids listen to holiday songs from around the world and sit patiently through a symphony concert. Afterwards, we take pictures with Rudolph and Frosty, enjoy games and activities, and write letters to Santa. Every year, it’s a special tradition that we share as a “family.”

It’s been an incredibly rewarding and successful year for Little Passports, and we wanted to take a moment to thank all of you for your support. Happy Holidays!

From our families to yours,
Amy and Stella

P.S. We would love to hear about the holiday traditions that you share with friends and family. Tell us in the comments!

 

Dec
19
2014

12 Days of Christmas Around the Globe

Day 12, Wales: Making Taffy

 

Once upon a time Christmas Eve was known to the Welsh as Noson Gyflaith, or toffee evening, an occasion when friends and families gathered to share a meal, tell stories and play games, as well as take part in a Northern Welsh Christmas tradition—making toffee, or taffy as it known more commonly called in the U.S.

The toffee, made from brown sugar and butter, was especially chewy. It was boiled and then pulled so it became nice and glossy. Many traditional foods of the Welsh were born out of hardship and a need to be practical. The holiday toffee is a good example of this. Because sugar was once very expensive, making toffee on Christmas Eve was quite a special event, and a way of providing a festive treat for Christmas. Though the tradition is rarely practiced today, toffee remains an important traditional part of Christmas history in Wales.

Dec
18
2014

12 Days of Christmas Around the Globe

Day 11, Mexico: Breaking the Piñata and Cutting the Rosca

Mexican Christmas celebrations begin on December 12th and end on January 6th (Epiphany). Children awake on the 6th of January to find gifts or toys that were left for them by the three kings. At midnight on Christmas Eve, fireworks, bells and whistles announce the birth of Christ. These sounds call families to Midnight Mass. Once mass is over, people return home to enjoy a traditional Mexican Christmas dinner. Many special dishes may be served, but some of the main traditional ones include tamales, bacalao (dried salted codfish), pozole (pork soup), menudo (beef soup) and atole (a hot, sweet drink made with corn).

On Christmas Day, blindfolded kids take turns trying to break open a clay piñata filled with sweets. Children who have been good will also receive gifts on Epiphany (January 6th). That is also the day when families take part in the  beloved tradition of cutting the rosca de reyes (“ring of kings”), a ring-shaped Christmas cake decorated with candied fruit and named for the three kings. The cake is often served along with corn tamales and hot chocolate. Hidden inside the rosca is a figurine of the baby Jesus, symbolizing a safe place where he could be born. Each person cuts a slice of the rosca, and whoever finds the figurine will be the host and invite everyone to celebrate Candelaria (also called Candlemas Day) on February 2nd.

Dec
17
2014

12 Days of Christmas Around the Globe

Day 10, India: Decorating the Mango Tree

 

Though the majority of Indians are Hindu, Christmas (called Bada Din, meaning “big day”) is still celebrated around the country by millions of people. A special tradition is attending Midnight Mass with family and friends. Churches in India are decorated with poinsettia flowers and candles especially for this important service. Afterward there will be a feast of different delicacies (often biryanis, a dish made with rice and meat), and gifts will be exchanged. Some families display small clay oil-burning lamps and decorate their homes with banana or mango leaves. Mango leaves are an important tradition because the mango tree is considered sacred, and its leaves are used to decorate for every special occasion.


Many people will start preparing for Christmas as early as a month ahead by cleaning their homes in preparation for guests. They will also make a traditional cake, or a sweet rice pudding called kheer, to be shared not just with family, but with neighbors as well!

Dec
16
2014

12 Days of Christmas Around the Globe

Day 9, Greece: Keeping the Kallikantzaroi Away

On Christmas Eve in Greece, children, especially boys, go out caroling, playing drums and triangles. Sometimes they will even carry small decorated boats, which is a very old custom in Greece. The boats honor St. Nikolas, the patron saint of sailors. The children go from home to home singing carols, and in return they are given dried figs, walnuts, candy and other small gifts.

Christmas trees are becoming more popular in Greece, but almost every house will have a shallow wooden bowl holding a little bit of water, with a piece of wire hanging across its rim. A wooden cross, wrapped with a spring of fresh basil, hangs from the wire. Each day for the twelve days of Christmas, someone in the household (usually the mom) will dip the cross and basil into holy water and sprinkle it in each room of the house. This is to keep Kallikantzaroi (bad spirits) away.  Having a fire burn through the twelve days of Christmas is also thought to keep the Kallikantzaroi away.

Typically on Christmas day, only a few presents are exchanged. Instead, it is an occasion to show generosity to those in less fortunate situations, like patients in hospitals or children in orphanages. Gifts are traditionally exchanged on January 1st, St. Basil’s Day.