December 5, 2011

Celebrate Globally

Celebrate Globally

Countries the world over celebrate winter holidays. Although much of Christmas has been commercialized, there are still many holiday traditions that remain unique to different nationalities, giving the world a special diversity. Many of these traditions utilize natural resources making them green by design. Mixing some of these worldly customs into your own traditions, not only adds flavor to your holidays, but can turn the season a bit greener.


The Salutations

Instead of sending holiday cards, which are a great tradition but use a lot of paper, people in parts of the British Isles go from house to house caroling. A tradition that was brought over to America in its early days, but has since fallen out of popularity, caroling parties are making a bit of a come back. Greeting neighbors with songs of joy and love for a happy holiday season is much more personal than cards and it can be a fun family or group activity. We were invited to a caroling party last year. The hostess created little song books and handed them out to all the kids and parents. We were served hot chocolate and cider and off we went a caroling. Everyone had lots of fun, and neighbors even joined as we strolled along.

Delivering of Sweet Treats

In the United States, many people exchange homemade baked goods like cookies, fruit cakes or bread, but delivering all these treasures means spending a lot of time driving from house to house and burning a lot of fuel. In Canada, they have a solution. Instead of delivering the cookies from house to house, one family hosts a cookie party. Each family brings ingredients for one type of cookie and the bowls and mixers necessary to make them. Then they meet at one house and spend the day chatting and baking cookies. A recent tradition is exchanging butter cookies for Chanukah, so this tradition can be incorporated as well. At the end of the party, each family goes away with a variety of cookies to enjoy at home or share with their neighbors. It saves gas and makes cookie-making into a fun, new family tradition.

Decorations

In Nigeria, they use palm fronds to decorate the house. In fact, many cultures use greenery beyond the evergreen to decorate. In Sweden, they use apples. In the desert, we have the benefit of having green plants through most of the winter. Using some trimmings after pruning live plants outside is easy on the environment and can make for a festive house. Last year, I trimmed the citrus and sumac trees and placed them in vases around the house just before our holiday party. I have to admit, I am a sucker for tradition when it comes to the fresh cut pine tree at Christmas. But, in some parts of South America, instead of decorating a fresh evergreen tree, they decorate a large, or cluster of medium sized, dried branches. They string it with lights, paper flowers and other ornaments. It reminds me of one of my favorite Christmas trees growing up. We had decided to spend Christmas in a cabin in Telluride, CO but didn’t arrive until late Christmas Eve night. The stores were all closed and because of a large snow storm, getting off-road for a live tree was out of the question. We found a large bare branch of an aspen tree and with some help from the extra clippings from our neighbor’s pine tree, which we tied to our branch, we created a homemade Christmas tree. It wasn’t the Norman Rockwell version of a Christmas picture, but it was the one our family remembers most. The point is, Christmas trees can come in all shapes and sizes, it’s more about the love that goes into it, then the color of its leaves. We could learn a few things from our neighbors to the south…the bare branch makes for an interesting display and is much easier on the environment than a fresh cut tree or something synthetic. In the desert, many people take it a step further and go native…decorating a live cactus.

Gifts

In many parts of the world, holiday gifts are handmade works of love. This tradition not only shows the gift recipient how much you care, putting in hard work and time, but it decreases the footprint of the gifts you give. If you think about store bought gifts, not only just the materials used, but the process to get the gift from raw form into its present form and the transportation to get the gift from the factory to you, and then multiply that by the number of gifts each person gives and the number of people giving gifts and you end up with a huge impact on the environment. While making your gifts won’t always be a good fit (I’m not saying no toys for the kids this year), it’s definitely something to think of when the children are giving gifts. Here are some ideas from other countries.

Plant a seed. In Malta, they plant wheat seeds weeks before Christmas, so that they sprout just in time for the big day. In that island country, they use the sprouts to decorate for the holidays, but it could just as easily make a good gift.

In Japan, they decorate with paper lanterns, which can easily be made using colorful tissue paper and small wooden rods. Painting on the tissue paper can make each gift unique.
Papier mache is always a good green project in that it uses old newspapers and water and flour for glue. In Venice, Italy, the papier mache mask is traditional and easy to make using a balloon as your form.

Homemade candles are a nice gift to give for Chanukah or Kwanzaa. You can make candles rolled from beeswax or get melting wax from a craft store and dip your own candles. You should make nine candles for Chanukah (eight for lighting and one shamus or lighter candle) and seven for Kawanzaa, three red, three green and one black.

For more information on holiday traditions from around the world, visit www.theholidayspot.com. For more information on our family travel television series, which immerses in cultures from around the world, visit TravelWithKids.tv or "LIKE" us on Facebook

7 comments:

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Kent said...

Absolutely fantastic blog on travelling with kids. You are truly pioneers of family travel. We need more parents off the work all the time grind and accumulating stuff for their kids and more of accumulating experience and cultures from world travels. Great blog.... thank you for all that you share

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