Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas in China

Happy Holidays from Hong Kong
Photo Credit: Richard Cheung
With the exception of Hong Kong and Macau (being until the late 1990s colonized by Britain and Portugal respectively), I was thoroughly surprised to read about how much Christmas is celebrated in China. 

Wooden hearts with written wishes are hanging from a downtown Christmas tree in Fuzhou city.
Photo Credit: Caro Spark
Since the 1990's, a more commercialized version of Christmas has sprouted in China and has grown since. Christmas is less known in rural areas of China, however in major urban centers, many Chinese get into the spirit, especially among the younger generations. Though not a public holiday, from November onward, major cities are very festively decorated with Christmas displays found in shopping centers, banks and restaurants. Christmas trees abound, especially near shopping centers and hotels, though it is uncommon to have one in your home.

Christmas tree in Beijing
Photo Credit: Shi Zhao
Santa is known as "Sheng dan lao ren" which means Old Man Christmas. He is found at department stores, often with his sisters - young ladies, dressed in festive red attire to help him. He is also often represented with an instrument, especially the saxophone. 

Santas lined up as part of a display in Shanghai
Photo Credit: Dan Zelazo

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Our Weekend(s) in a Nutshell

Thanks to Grandma for taking this picture!
Last week, Elle spent the week home with a throat infection. Poor thing was sick for nearly seven days, and we spent a lot of time on the couch for her to recuperate and get some rest, reading books, felting and coloring when she was up to it. She is feeling much better now, and was in full form for Christmas tree picking over the weekend. 

In October, Elle made me sign a contract that we would decorate for Christmas on the first weekend of December - and since that was clearly my signature she was waving under my nose two weekends ago, we started decorating. Most importantly, Pea and Elle put up their Christmas trees in their bedrooms. This tradition started with me and Pea, when she was two. Of course at the time the pine tree was barely two feet high in a pot. The tree has grown with her over the years, and as our families joined, Elle has been enjoying one as well. They now each have a previously loved full size artificial tree in their rooms, which means Elle has to go the basement to use her desk and Pea had to take out anything she might use from her closet for the rest of the month. But it is worth it. 

The girls have received ornaments as Christmas gifts all of their lives, from us and various family members, which means they already, at 11 and 15, have enough ornaments to fill a full size tree. It's fun to see the different ones they received, reflecting their various ages and changing tastes. 

This past weekend we went to the New Ross Christmas festival to cut our Christmas tree, check out the craft fair, go for a hike, and enjoy hot potato pancakes at a German market. This is our third year (since we bought the house) that we have picked and cut our tree from Balsam Country Farms U-Pick, a family run farm that also offers (free) hot apple cider and cookies - I would very much enjoy a cup right now!

Our nephew is carrying on the tradition of having his own bedroom Christmas tree - bottom right
My mother and sister and family were joining us, however got lost. After nearly an hour of waiting, we went ahead without them since it was rather cold :) - just as we returned with our tree they had arrived and promptly found a tree of their own. We all warmed up together for lunch, and it was great having the chance to catch up and enjoy our nephew's shananigans. 

After our day out, we had the chance to spend time with Serge's brother and family. There was much screaming as the kids ran around the basement with hubby chasing them in an Einstein wig (clearly, the antibiotics have helped Elle), and the next day the girls shared our annual tradition of decorating gingerbread houses with their cousins. 

It was a lovely weekend, sharing Christmas traditions and activities with our family, a wonderful way to start the holiday season. 

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