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A Multi-Cultural, Holiday Experience For The Whole Family

by Christina Katz

While you are gathering everyone together for holiday adventures, why not introduce some new cultural experiences? Nothing pulls the family together better than activities where everyone gets to pitch in. While traditions can be comforting and comforting during the darker months, introducing variety into your holiday routines can spice up future memories.

Carry Some Green Into The Gloom

Most people are familiar with Christmas tradition of bringing cut trees and evergreen tree branches into homes to symbolize the anticipation of earth’s re-greening at the conclusion of winter. Why not visit a tree farm this year, even if you have a plastic tree? You could always bring home a less-than-perfect tree and deconstruct it into boughs to deck your halls. Do your research online for the best match for your needs. Often tree farms close to town supply saws, so all you have to do is dress for the weather and pile in the car. Farms further from the maddening crowds might be a little more do-it-yourself, so be sure to check reviews about tree quality and selection. After your have happily picked a tree, cut it down, and secured it to your car roof, why not treat the family to a hot beverage? Don’t forget to take plenty of selfies!

Sparkle Up Your Feast

Most winter holidays and festivals have two things in common with our traditional Western Christmas—lighting up the space and feasting. Why not create a focus on both of these traditions on the Winter Solstice, the shortest, darkest day of the year? Choose one spot in your home, like a fireplace hearth, and gather all of your candles around it for an impactful display. Or scatter little lights and candles throughout a room or even throughout an entire floor of your home. When it’s time to eat, turn off most of the lights inside and enjoy your evening meals in the glimmer. Nothing turns up the winter magic like relaxing into the almost darkness. This is also a great way to recharge your batteries throughout the typically hectic holiday season.

Knock On The Door Of Enlightenment

Teaching your children how to meditate may be the single-best thing you can do to help them manage stress throughout their lives. In Japan every December eighth, Buddhists celebrate the moment when the Buddha reached enlightenment. This holy day is typically observed quietly with chanting and meditation. Give meditation a try at home. Invite your kids to sit on the ground with legs crossed comfortably, with a straight back, eyes closed and attention focused gently on the space just above the center of their eyebrows. The symbol of the famous Bodhi (fig) tree may be helpful in encouraging them to imagine they have roots reaching down from the base of their spines and branches reaching up into the sky from the top of their heads. Try ‘sitting like a tree’ as a family for just five or ten minutes at first. See how long the whole family can sit still in quiet inner contemplation and then increase the time gradually. I think most parents would agree that any amount of time holding completely still would constitute a small holiday miracle. Commemorate each successful session with a cup of herbal tea and a cookie afterwards.

Banish Some Darkness From The World

In India, Diwali, a five-day holiday of lights, usually happens in the middle of autumn, but the generous spirit of this holiday is perfect for families to imitate throughout the holiday season. Diwali celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and good over evil. Coming up with a way to celebrate this holiday gives families a unique opportunity to discuss real suffering in communities, regions and even throughout the world. When approached with a problem-solving slant, even very young children can feel inspired to help other children who lack adequate food, clothing or shelter. Families with older children may want tackle causes that bring up cautionary reminders. For example, a family with tween and teen daughters might choose to volunteer for an organization that works with endangered young people. Even making a donation to an organization with a crucial message can be a constructive conversation-starter. Help kids understand that some of the most concerning problems can be soothed when approached with a helpful, compassionate attitude.

Try A Taste Of Hanukkah

If you have never made and enjoyed fresh potato pancakes, your family is in for a treat! Latkes are tradition fare during Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival Of Lights. The story of Hanukkah involves lantern oil miraculously lasting much longer than expected, which is why oil-centric foods are featured throughout the eight days and nights of this holiday. But don’t take my word for it, whip up a batch of latkes with dinner tonight. You probably already have most of the ingredients on hand.


Potato Latke Recipe

Ingredients
• 2 cups coarsely grated and peeled baking potatoes
• 3 large eggs
• 1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
• 1 tablespoon grated onions
• 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
• 1/4 vegetable oil for frying

Directions
1. Mix all the prepared ingredients together.
2. Put frying oil in a flat skillet over medium-high heat.
3. Drop batter into oil in three-inch cakes about 1/4 inch thick.
4. Fry until browned on the bottom then flip and repeat browning until crisp.
5. Keep warm on a plate in the oven. Place paper towels between layers to drain.
6. Serve with organic applesauce and high-quality sour cream. Sprinkle lightly with salt.

Tips: Before mixing, wrap grated potatoes in a clean dishtowel and squeeze as much moisture out of them as possible. Up to a half cup of another grated root vegetable for potatoes may be substituted. If oil starts to scorch while frying, turn down the heat.

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