Japan Celebrates Hina-Matsuri!

March 3rd is an exciting day for girls all over Japan—it’s Girls’ Day, or Hina-Matsuri, as it’s called in Japan.  Parents all over the country celebrate their daughters’ health, happiness and growth each year on this day by displaying traditional hina dolls and celebrating with family.

Hina-Matsuri (meaning doll festival) traces its roots back about 1,000 years to a time called the Heian Period. The festival is celebrated by displaying dolls, called hina ningyo (ningyo means doll), dressed in elaborate kimonos, like members of the ancient Imperial Court at a spring wedding. You won’t meet a Japanese family who doesn’t have some type of hina ningyo display during the month leading up to March 3rd.

Traditionally, the dolls are arranged on a seven-tiered stand which is covered in red fabric. It’s possible that a full-size tiered display can take up half the room!

The emperor and empress are always placed on the top tier, followed by three ladies of the court. That is followed by five musicians, two ministers and finally three servants. There are also tiers for food and drink at the bottom. These days, many families in Japan live in city apartments which don’t always have room for a large display. A smaller version with simply the emperor and empress is a very popular alternative.

When a baby is celebrating her very first Girls’ Day, many parents and grandparents take the opportunity to buy her first hina ningyo. Department stores and traditional doll stores set up elaborate displays before Girls’ Day. Once you buy a set, you’ll display it every year until the girls are all grown-up, so selecting the perfect set is a very important decision.

Girls help set up the displays in their homes, and families throw parties and prepare special dinners.  A traditional Japanese celebration will often include sakura-mochi, which are sticky rice cakes filled with sweet red bean paste and wrapped with a pickled sakura (cherry blossom) leaf. Hishi-mochi are also served. These are diamond-shaped rice cakes which have three layers in different colors, each representing something different. Pink represents chasing evil spirits away, white is for purity and green symbolizes health. Hishi-mochi (in real or plastic form) will often be placed on one of the tiers of the hina doll display.

Girls all over Japan feel blessed and special during this festive time, and it is often spent celebrating with extended family and friends. Happy Hina-Matsuri!


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Learn About Surfing in Australia!

How Did Australians Learn to Surf?

100 years ago, in the, summer of 1915 at Freshwater Beach, competitive swimmer Duke Kahanamoku wowed a crowd by showing them the art of wave riding. He skillfully cruised the water with a solid surfboard modelled after the one he used in his home country of Hawaii. This event officially brought surfing to Australia! Today, Duke’s board is still kept at the Freshwater Surf Club in Sydney, Australia.

After Duke’s demonstration, the news about surfing spread throughout the country. Soon the waters were filled with people wanting to give surfing a try, and it’s now a sport most commonly associated with Australia. There are several competitions annually and approximately 2.7 million Australians consider themselves recreational surfers!

Surfing comes natural to Australians since most of the population lives close to a coastline. The beach has always held a special place in their hearts.  Not to mention, the Australian coastline is where three of the world’s great bodies of water meet: the Pacific, Indian and Southern oceans!

Let’s  all grab our surfboards and head down under!

Want to know more about Australia? Learn with our World Edition

Want to know about sports in other countries? Play our free online Brazil Soccer Game


Amy Norman on Growing up in England!

As you may have heard, Little Passports was founded by two moms back in 2009. I’m Amy Norman, and I’m one of those moms, along with my best friend and partner, Stella Ma. Both Stella and I have international backgrounds; I grew up moving every 3 years between England and the US, and Stella grew up in a Chinese-American household in the melting pot of Oakland, CA.Those experiences were important to us, and we wanted to share that curiosity about world cultures with our kids and the larger community.

That’s why I was especially excited when Little Passports launched in the UK last fall. Some of my fondest memories are of my childhood in England, and it’s a place that’s close to my heart. Let’s take a moment to walk down memory lane!

Isle of Wight

During our first year living in England, my family and I took a holiday to the Isle of Wight. Take a moment to find it on your Little Passports World Map.  Here I am, sitting in one of my favorite dresses, with my dad and younger sister. I love this photo because I am eating yummy crisps (potato chips),  the first of many items that I would learn to translate over the years.

While living in Winchester, I went to school in a uniform every day. I even had to wear a tie, which I quickly learned to tie myself at the age of 3 (even I’m still impressed by that)!  We also had a uniform for gym class including plimsolls (a specific type of sneaker) which I am wearing in the photo below.  At this school I also met my first true best friend, who I am still friends with today.

In the photo below, I am at my  Grandfather’s allotment in London.  An allotment is a plot of land given to an individual for personal gardening and growing food.  I remember running through the allotment picking blackberries.  I also remember meeting many of my Grandfather’s friends and sharing food they had all grown. They would often use this fresh food in their Sunday roast dinner.

I was just about settled into my new life in Winchester. I had the start of a proper English accent, went to a great school, loved eating crisps with my friends… and then… it was time to move to America!  Although my time there was short, the memories are everlasting!

Thank you to all you globetrotters for believing in Little Passports and sharing our passion and curiosity about world cultures. A special shout out to our customers in the UK for making the Little Passports launch there such a success.

Want to know more about the Little Passports Co-Founders? Check out the links below for an inside look:
Meet the Little Passports Co-Founders!
Amy’s English Holiday Traditions



Winter Activities for Kids!

Winter gets a bad rep for being long and dreary… but it doesn’t have to be! There’s plenty of fun activities to keep you and the kiddos busy. Check out our round-up of winter activities below to help pass the cold days:

Make Knoephla Soup 

You’ll find this recipe and more  in the North Dakota state journal from our USA Edition. North Dakotans know how to make a winter warming soup!

Make an Ice Sculpture

Check out this fun winter activity that we found in the Minnesota state journal from our USA Edition.

Free Winter Songs and Rhymes for Circle Time

Check out this post from our Blog Ambassador, Deb Chitwood of Living Montessori Now, who shares her Free Winter Songs and Rhymes for Circle Time. Let your kiddos get down to the catchy songs and rhymes!

Want more winter inspiration? Check out our Winter Crafts for Kids board on Pinterest!



Valentine’s Day Bento Box!

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. Wendy has created a Valentine’s Day spread just for Little Passports! Read on to learn more.

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner but there’s plenty of time to plan a special lunch for the kids you love most. Add lots of hearts and plenty of naturally red foods to make an adorable meal that will tell them that they are your favorite Valentine.

havarti cheese
grape tomatoes
crackers (heart-shaped if you can find them)
red bell pepper
blood orange
raspberry yogurt

divided lunch box — I’m using an EasyLunchboxes box here
decorative paper napkin (optional)
small heart cookie cutter
medium heart cookie cutter
bamboo skewer
Valentine sprinkles
paring knife

Here’s how to make this lunch:
Cut four slices of havarti cheese about the same size as the small heart cookie cutter. You’ll want them to be fairly thick — between 1/4 and 1/2 inch thick — otherwise they’ll crack when you thread them on the skewer.Use the cutter to make four heart shapes.

Trim two skewers so they’ll fit in the larger section of the lunch box. Gather some grape tomatoes, sliced salami and the cheese hearts you just cut.

String the meat, veggies and cheese onto the skewers in this order: tomato, salami, cheese, salami, cheese, salami, tomato.

Place a decorative napkin at the bottom of the largest section of the lunch box. If you don’t use a napkin, the lunch will be fine, but it adds an extra splash of color to the lunch and it helps keep the food from moving around a bit too. Put the skewers on top of the napkin.

Next, cut a wide slice off the side of a red bell pepper, then cut a few heart shapes with the small cutter. If you are having a hard time getting the cutter through the skin of the pepper, remove it with a vegetable peeler.

Cut some thin slices of the harvarti cheese, then cut more heart shapes with the medium cutter.

Layer a slice of cheese and a red pepper on each cracker and place them in the box next to the skewers.

Slice the blood orange into wedges. If you are unfamiliar with blood oranges, they taste similar to naval oranges, though they are often a little less sweet. They are primarily grown in Italy, California and Texas and their flesh is an unusual dark red color.

Add the orange slices to one of the remaining smaller compartments in the lunch box. Spoon the yogurt into the other compartment.

Add sprinkles to the top of the yogurt for one last bit of Valentine’s flair!

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:

Read More:
See Wendy’s French-Inspired Bento Box.
Download our free printable Valentine’s Day cards.