One of my least favorite activities of the year is taking down my Christmas decorations. I love the holidays, so putting everything back in the tupperware bins feels like such a downer compared to all the joy, family, and food that comes with Christmas. So last year when I heard about Día de los Reyes (also known as Three Kings Day or Epiphany) and the opportunity to extend my holidays a little longer, I knew I wanted to add the celebration to our family traditions.
Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar are from my Aunt Ethel’s nativity set. They are some of my favorite Christmas decorations.
Held on January 6th, Día de los Reyes is officially the 12th day of Christmas. It celebrates the coming of the three wise men to worship the Christ child and give him the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Three Kings Day is widely celebrated around the world, particularly in Latin American countries. In Argentina, children put grass and water outside the door for the wise men’s camels. In Mexico, the three wise men are added to the nativity scenes on the eve of Día de los Reyes. And in Peru, they actually make taking down the Christmas decorations on Día de los Reyes a celebration in itself and call it Bajada de Reyes (Descent of Kings).
To celebrate Día de los Reyes at our house, we will be doing our own Bajada de Reyes tonight. In addition to taking down the Christmas decorations, we’ll also enjoy a modified Three Kings Cake, sing We Three Kings, and exchange small gifts between us. But most of all, I hope to remember that the season doesn’t really have to end just because the decorations come down. While maybe we can’t eat like we did during the holidays, the joy of Christmas, family, and friendships are things I don’t have to pack up with the ornaments.
Tradition calls for a porcelain baby Jesus to be put in the Kings Cake but we are improvising and I’ve put a paper one in the bottom of one of the cupcakes. Whoever gets the baby Jesus is supposed to make tamales on Candlemas (Feb. 2nd).
Unfortunately the real Three Kings Cake takes hours to make so we modified our version. These cranberry cupcakes will serve as our individual Kings Cake for tonight.
Click here for more country-specific Three Kings Day traditions and check out these other Epiphany blog posts:
2013 was a momentous year in our family. We moved into a new home, our little girl, Eleanor Grace was born in August, and I started a new part-time position as a study abroad advisor at a small university in Oklahoma City. With all that was going on, I decided to take a year away from blogging. But now that I’m finally getting my little one on a schedule, I want to bring “globalness” back into our household. I’m sure my posts will be a little less regular than before, but I really want my daughter to be exposed to the world beyond our little city and for this blog to be a record of all we do together.
Eleanor got a B. Global Glowball for Christmas from her Auntie Karen. Now she’s really got the whole world in her hands.
I’m excited to get Global from Home back up and running and can’t wait to see what adventures lie ahead for Hubby, Eleanor, and me.
What “global from home” adventures did you have in 2013?
As a child December 6th was one of my favorite days of the year. On St. Nicholas Day eve (December 5th) we would set our homemade slippers outside of our bedroom door with our Christmas wish lists inside. The next morning we would wake up to find that St. Nick had come for our list and left us candy, a new Christmas ornament, and a chocolate advent calendar in our bedroom shoes. To me, it always represented the beginning of the Christmas season.
What I didn’t realize as a child was that most of my American friends did not celebrate St. Nicholas Day. My mom, being Pennsylvania Dutch, brought this tradition and several others to our family. While my mother’s family never spoke Pennsylvania German, they did maintain many of the German traditions. My grandmother was definitely a Pennsylvania Dutch cook and made pickled beet eggs, scrapple, and hog maw. Personally, I rarely tried any of these dishes as a child, and at the mention of them my response was always “yuck”. My mom and my aunts still make some of the traditional meals but I think they’ve all let hog maw be a recipe of yore. Cleaning pig stomach just is not a pleasurable chore.
Now that I am older, I am so grateful for the traditions that have been passed down from my German ancestors and carried on my grandmother and mom. I know when Hubby and I have children we will be celebrating St. Nicholas Day too. If you missed St. Nick’s Day this year, I don’t think he’ll mind if you celebrate it on December 7th or 8th instead.
Happy beginning of the holiday season!
It was only 45 degrees outside but thousands of people still lined Main Street to watch the Czech Day Parade come through downtown Yukon, Oklahoma. To celebrate the immigrants from Czechoslovakia that settled in Yukon in the early 1900s, the town puts on quite the party each year. The two day festival blended traditional Czech culture with its Oklahoma setting.
Traditional dances were matched with the local high school cheerleaders.
The klobasy were sold as the cowboys rode on by.
The Czech ribbons and crafts could be found right across from the painted bull’s skulls.
But most of all, Czech and Oklahoma pride were blended into a great celebration for this little town.
I’m a coffee addict. I get up every morning, turn on the coffee pot, and sip my two cups. My mother, on the other hand, is a tea junky. If I ever want to show her I care about her, I could just go make her a cup of tea and she would be thrilled. She taught me how to make tea at a young age. Get out a cup. Drop in the tea bag and fill with water. Microwave for 90 seconds.
I think I may have just heard gasps from across the pond.
I remember reading a post from one of my students last year who was studying in the U.K. She had put her tea cup in the microwave and all of her British roommates looked at her like she had a second head. They could not believe she was not using a kettle. On the other side, Andy from Milk and Whisky faced a dilemma when he first arrived in the U.S. and discovered Walmart does not sell electric kettles.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that the choice between using the microwave or the kettle is a reflection of our cultures. As Americans, using a microwave is an indication of our values of ingenuity and efficiency. While for the Brits, the kettle is a symbol of quality and tradition. I’m sure both sides would argue which way is better, but in the end, I think I each society will choose the way that reflects what is important to them.
For me, who is attempting to be global from home, I’ve decided to start using the kettle. I tried it for the first time about a week ago and was so excited to hear it whistle when it was ready. Although it took a while longer, I have to say it was a delicious cup of tea.
What do you use? Microwave or kettle?
September is just a month full of festivals…and I love it. This past weekend we were invited by a friend to the Greek Festival in OKC. As a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, she knew everything about the food, dances, and traditions. Being escorted by a “local” definitely enhanced the entire experience. She taught me how to pronounce everything correctly, told us what we should try and what to avoid, and introduced us to a number of the people running the festival. I even got a picture with the pastor’s wife in her full costume.
We ate our way through the festival. With each ticket came two al a carte items or the Greek dinner so Hubby and I decided to get one of each. First we did the gyro and loukoumades. We both agreed that the gyro was one of the best we’ve ever had. The tomatoes and onions were diced small making it easier to eat and the flavor was delicious.
The loukoumades were equally good. Similar to a donut hole in appearance but not texture, the fried dough balls are very light, similar to a puff pastry. Covered in honey and cinnamon, we probably ate all of our calories for the day in just that one dessert.
But we were not done yet! Next came the dinner which was a choice of lamb, chicken or pasticcio (the Greek version of lasagna). We went for the pasticcio which was served with Greek-style potatoes, green beans, spanakopita, and pita. I loved the pasticcio but the potatoes were incredibly salty. Since Hubby is not fond of spinach, I ate most of the spanakopita and it was pretty good too.
And finally we were thoroughly entertained by our friend’s daughter and her dance troop, the Opa! Dancers. Ranging from age 4 to 9, these kids put on four performances in one night.
Raised in the suburbs of Atlanta, I was never exposed much to other cultures until I went to college. Although my alma mater is also in Atlanta, it draws students from around the U.S. and the world and prides itself on diversity. It wasn’t long before I realized that Emory’s Hillel was a whole lot bigger than the Baptist Student Union. With approximately 1/3 of the student population being Jewish, it was normal to see a guy walking on campus wearing his Yamaka or groups of students walking to Shabbat services on Friday night. There was even a student in my residence hall who had obtained Israeli citizenship and served in their army between high school and college. Judaism was part of the culture I was in.
By the time I graduated, more of my college friends were Jewish than not. And though I am a Christian, thanks to my friends, I had opportunities to celebrate Passover, attended several Jewish weddings, and even had the Hora at our wedding.
Yes, that is me screaming. The hora is scary!
My first Jewish holiday was actually celebrated while I was in Argentina. It was Hanukkah and my best friend was finishing up her culinary school exams when I first arrived in Buenos Aries. While there was a huge electric menorah outside of her apartment, she had nothing inside. So I researched all I could about the holiday while she was at school and made her a paper menorah. We hung it on the fridge and every night we added a lit yellow paper flame to celebrate the oil not running out. When she came home I bought her a real menorah and even keep Hanukkah paper in closet just for her.
Last night at sundown Jewish people around the world began their celebration of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year which starts the High Holy Days. While I won’t be joining any friends to celebrate this time around, I want to wish all my dear friends shana tovah umetukah, which is Hebrew for “a good and sweet new year.”
Start the sweetness of this new year with a Rosh Hashanah tradition of apples and honey. Find out about other green ways to celebrate at Greenopolis
On my last day in San Diego, a good friend returned home after working in Europe with a study abroad program for the summer. Most of her time was spent in the Netherlands but she was also able to go back to Denmark, where she had studied abroad several years ago. When I picked her up from the airport, not only was I the beneficiary of some great tales (falling off bikes, strange roommates, and watching the American Olympic basketball team in Spain), but also of two handmade candle holders from the Danish harbor.
In her note that accompanied, she explained their significance.
In Denmark they use a lot of little candles in the homes, esp. in the cold dark winters months. When I was studying there, I really treasured coming home, sitting around with all the lights & talking the night away with my host family. This cozy atmosphere is called “hygge” in Danish.
Hygge is a word that really doesn’t translate in English. But in addition to my friend’s explanation, I did find some Danes’ interpretations of hygge.
As I sit in our cookie-cutter apartment with rented furniture and dishes, I am ever so thankful for these two little candles. They remind me of San Diego and all the good friends and wonderful conversations I had there. They also give me hope that soon OKC will feel that way too. Thanks, KE, for sending a little hygge with me.
Whether you are at home or abroad, I hope all of you, dear readers, find a little hygge in your day.
This weekend my adorable niece turns two-years-old. Needing some creative stimulants to help select her birthday gift, I decided to research birthday traditions around the globe for some inspiration. The trouble was that I found plenty of traditions but very few images. And since I’m a visual person, I thought it might be nice see the traditions in addition to just reading abut them. Some of these were not easy to find, but here are 11 different global birthday traditions to try out:
Earlobe Tugs. Children receive a pull on their earlobe for each year.
Noodles for Lunch. Friends and relatives are invited to lunch; noodles are served to wish the child a long life. In addition, the child receives money from both parents.
Flying Flags. A flag is flown outside a window to designate that someone inside is enjoying a birthday. Presents are placed around children’s beds while sleeping.
Pink Dresses. When a girl turns 15, there’s a great celebration. She puts on a pink dress and her first pair of high heels and dances the waltz with her father. Fourteen girls and fourteen boys pair up and dance the waltz alongside them.
Fortune Telling Cakes. Certain symbolic objects are mixed into the birthday cake as it’s being prepared. If you uncover a coin in your cake, it’s foretelling of future riches.
Fortune Telling Cake Charms courtesy of Woof Nanny
Crown Years. Even (2, 4, 6, etc.) birthday years are called “crown years.” The child receives an especially large gift on the special crown year birthdays. In addition, the family decorates the child’s chair with flowers.
Birthday Bumps. The birthday child is lifted upside down and “bumped” on the floor for good luck. The child receives a bump for every year—and one extra for good luck.
Chair Raising. The child sits in a chair while the family raises and lowers it, corresponding to the child’s age, with one extra for good luck.
Pinatas and Mass. A pinata is filled with goodies and hung from the ceiling. While blindfolded, children take turns hitting it until it’s cracked open. Also, when a girl turns 15 in Mexico, a special mass is held to honor her.
Cakes and Noodles. Birthday cakes are baked in various shapes and sizes. The celebration includes noodles — representing a long life — balloon decorations, and pinatas.
Birthday Pies. Instead of a birthday cake, the child receives a birthday pie with a birthday greeting carved into the crust.
What other birthday traditions did I miss?
This post is adapted from FTD’s website.