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Monday, February 16, 2015

Thank You, Ancient Egyptians... for big heads & pączki?

If you can believe everything you read on the internet, Carnival (which is the celebration leading up to Ash Wednesday, which is the day before Lent begins, which is the 40-day period before the day before Easter... with Sundays not counted as part of the 40 days... AGH!!!) traces its origins to pagan festivals of ancient Egypt.


I'm sure you can guess the story from there: Greeks and Romans took the customs to their respective empires, and later The Church magically transformed those customs into Christian practices. I imagine the Christian side of the event didn't stick for too many generations, and before long, it seems Carnival was full of pagan revelry again, albeit still timed with the Christian observance of Lent.

As Christianity spread throughout The New World, the pagan-yet-timed-with-Lent celebration of Carnival spread with it. And so today, countries all over Europe, North and South America, the Caribbean, and Australasia have various pre-Lenten festivals which incorporate a local flair. These can range from simple, like a single Mardi Gras treat in a typical Midwestern household, to extravagant, like the famous weeks-long Carnevale of Venice. Sometimes the festival develops an entirely new meaning, as is the case in Trinidad and Tobago, where, since 1838, Carnival has become a celebration of the end of slavery.

Because I love using holidays to learn about the world, I checked in with a few blogger friends to find out how pre-Lent looks where they live. Loved what I learned -and tasted!- along the way!

 pączki, POLAND photo: CZmarlin
Olga, a.k.a. The European Mama shared that Poland celebrates Tłusty Czwartek, or Fat Thursday five days before Fat Tuesday (a.k.a. Mardi Gras). A highlight of Tłusty Czwartek? Indulging in pączki, a jelly- or creme-filled donut which has apparently been eaten in Poland since at least the Middle Ages. (If it, too, has ancient Egyptian origins, I haven't discovered them yet.) Pączki is now a much-anticipated seasonal treat in Polish communities around the world! And yes, I had my first one, a creme-filled version, this year. Mmmm!

Giuliana of Washington, Dead Chef, actually grew up amidst the famous Venetian Carnevale. Guiliana reports that festivities begin weeks before Lent. Venice's Carnevale celebration became "official" more than 700 years ago, but it is thought to have been going on for a few hundred years before that!

Battaglia delle Arance, ITALY photo: Scrambled Nest
Today, Venice's Carnevale retains many early elements, such as costumes and masks, and copious numbers of deep fried dough treats. Check out Giuliana's post here to read more, including a recipe for her delicious-looking Frittelle di Carnevale!

Stefania at Scrambled Nest has a great character guide to those famous masks of Italy's Carnevale (here). The masks originated with an improvised style of theater popular in Italy from the 14th through 18th centuries, Commedia dell’arte, and remain a beloved part of Carnevale, more than 300 years later. Stefania also shares a quick guide to various other Carnavali around Italy, including the exciting and colorful Battaglia delle Arance (Battle of the Oranges) in Ivrea, Italy.

grosses têtes, FRANCE photo: Lou Messougo Blog
Claiming to be older than Italy's Carnevali, although shorter in annual duration, the Carnaval of Nice, France is also a worth-the-trip event! Phoebe of The Lou Messougo Blog has beautiful photos and descriptions of the flowers and the grosses têtes (big heads) that make up Nice's many Carnaval parades. Phoebe offers great tips, such as: be sure to go in costume, or you'll have to pay admission for the flower parades; and: watch the parades early in the week, before floats get covered in increasing amounts of spectator-sprayed silly string.

(If you're near Nice this time of year, you may as well check out nearby Menton's Fête du Citron, too. It's not related to Carnaval, but it is related to a whole lot of sunshine and citrus, so you can't go wrong! Phoebe will tell you all about it here.)

wooden masks, GERMANY photo: The Piri-Piri Lexicon
Not up for two-plus weeks of celebrating, but don't want to be limited to just this one Tuesday?

The Piri-Piri Lexicon's Annabelle says parts of Germany celebrate Fastnacht for about a week before Lent. Annabelle explains how scary pagan masks and costumes once frightened away winter and its evil spirits, but have since become characters responsible for distributing sweets and treats at the parade. Be sure to read to the end of Annabelle's post for your fun "ah, that's so German" moment of the day!

Of course, you might prefer a slightly more tame means of ushering in Lent. Why not join our friends of the British Commonwealth, and declare tomorrow to be Pancake Tuesday?! You can embrace the religious aspect of making pancakes to use up your rich ingredients before 40 days of fasting, or relive the pagan custom of consuming pancakes to tap into the power of the sun (which is round and warm, like a pancake, is apparently the reasoning). In either case, an excuse for a day of pancakes sounds yummy, and Eolia of La Cité des Vents has a great recipe for the French version, crêpes, here.

After checking out the world's celebrations, perhaps you'd like to get your students or children into the N'awlins Mardi Gras spirit. Then check out my latest facebook fan FREEBIE! This coloring page and open-ended writing sheet, in the typical N'awlins Mardi Gras style, will work for study in any language!


To access, click the image to get to my facebook page. Be sure to like the page, then look for the "Free downloads!" button in the left sidebar.

Et maintenant... laissez les bons temps rouler!

And however you celebrate, don't forget to thank an ancient Egyptian!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

"Todo sobre los Pingüinos" and my New Zealand penguin regret

You know what they say: Youth is wasted on the young. I don't know about you, but in retrospecting my own life, I see a degree of merit in that somewhat pessimistic catchphrase. Case in point: penguins!

During a short part of my teenage years, I lived in New Zealand. Those many years ago, I had no idea that there were just 17 species of penguins in the world, that they all lived in the Southern Hemisphere, and that 3 of those 17 species can be seen in New Zealand. Thus, I had no idea what a big deal it was to actually be seeing penguins. Live. In their natural habitat. Not on a tour. Not in the zoo. Just experiencing them naturally. I took nary a picture (well, maybe one or two), and let their sighting simply be a passing moment on my travels around The South Island.


Agh!!! If only I could go back and relive my youth; I would appreciate so many things more fully than I did at the time. Penguins included!

Well, recently I have been able to revisit my penguin encounter, in a sort of virtual sense, in the creation of my new favorite packet:

"Todo sobre los Pingüinos"

(Click image to view this packet in my TpT store.)

"Todo sobre los Pingüinos" is a 6-page, customizable fold-out penguin craftivity booklet, entirely in SPANISH. Customizable means it's perfect for classroom differentiation, or for homeschooling families who have children at different levels completing projects together. And of course, Spanish means it's perfect for Dual Language, Immersion, or Second Language programs, and multilingual homeschoolers.

By the time my daughter completes this packet with her class, she will know better than I did to appreciate the wonder of seeing a penguin in the wild... with the added benefit of an increased Spanish repertoire, too. What more could one wish for?!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Happy Birthday, MLK, Jr! ...and a fb fan freebie: mulitlingual coloring pages

Today Martin Luther King, Jr should have been celebrating his 86th birthday. In his honor, I have posted a FREE coloring page in four languages, remembering his famous "I have a dream" speech. Also included is an open-ended writing sheet, which you can use in any language.


To access, head to my facebook page, and look in the left sidebar for the "free downloads" button.

For more great ideas on honoring MLK, Jr with kids, check out Multicultural Kid Blogs' series, here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Lycklig Pepparkakans Dag!

Happy Gingerbread Day!

Christmas season in Sweden offiicially kicks off on Luciadagen (St. Lucia Day) on December 13… but one special day precedes the month of celebrations, setting the stage for the yumminess of the month-long Swedish Christmas: pepparkakans dag!

Pepparkakans dag literally means "peppercake day," but refers to Sweden's obsession with their beloved gingerbread cookies. It is thought that way back in the 14th and 15th centuries, these cookies were made with black pepper, thus the name… but there is every possibility this is a legend that has grown with the obsession. (More "stuff of legends" includes stories of nuns using pepparkakans to cure stomach ailments, and even a king being ordered to consume the cookies to improve his foul mood!)

Pepparkakans dag falls on December 9… today! On this day, Swedish families bake their gingerbread cookies for the season. Of course, many families opt to forgo the rolling pin and purchase their seasonal pepparkakar instead.

Want to make your own pepparkakar? There are plenty of recipes around the e-world… but an especially yummilicious recipe for pepparkakar is included in our Multicultural Kid Blogs' "Celebrate Christmas Around the World" packet.

Whether you're baking pepparkakar today, or making some other holiday favorite, I hope it is a yummy start to the celebrations ahead!

You can find lots more fun and yummy Christmas trivia and info on the MKB Christmas in Different Lands series.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving! and a fb fan freebie: "Any Language" Charades Game

In our family, growing up, the Thanksgiving turkey, however delicious, was always overshadowed by two things. One: the annual drive through horrendous weather up into central Minnesota, and Two: games!

Yes, a big part of every Thanksgiving weekend was dedicated to family game time, with the game du jour (or game d'année, as it were) often being the latest in family gaming... before "gaming" was ever a word, and of course before screens had any part of things. One year, it was Boggle, another Uno. In later years, maybe Scrabble, then Trivial Pursuit, and my favorite, Pictionary!

This year, Mag is suuuuuper into charades. (Fellow language lovers are probably getting excited at all the linguistic implications of this hobby, right?!) We have found that at Mag's age, charades with pictures work well... but have run out of picture cards, right before our big weekend of family game time. Ack!

And thus was born my latest facebook fan freebie, called "'any langauge' charades."


Would you like to play with your family this weekend? Or with your language class next week? To access, simply head to my facebook page - be sure to "like" and "follow" it! - and look for the "free downloads" button in the left sidebar. Then download, print, and play.

Perfect for family game time, and ideal for promoting use of your family's second (or third!) language. Also fun for foreign language classes, to keep students engaged in these final weeks of the semester.

I hope you enjoy! And Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Celebrate Christmas Around the World! with Multicultural Kid Blogs

I've not made a secret of how much I love globes and maps, and all things "world," I know. But have I ever mentioned my other love (well, besides clip art, food, and travel!)? CHRISTMAS!

Yes, I am one of those adults who just never outgrew the magic of the Christmas season. (I know, we really annoy the bah-humbuggers out there, don't we?!) And so, it has been my utmost pleasure to spend these past few weeks working with two fabulous fellow bloggy-packet creators from Multicultural Kid Blogs (Judith of Little Bilingues and Monica of Mommy Maestra), creating a "Celebrate Christmas Around the World" packet!


Just released today, "Celebrate Christmas Around the World" introduces the Christmas traditions and celebrations of six countries:

Brazil, France, Mexico, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Sweden

For each country, you will find:

♦ a cover page
The cover page features the country's flag and a Christmas greeting in the language of the country.

♦ a page of country facts
This page includes the country's official name and common name, its location circled on a world map, capital city, location, population, official language(s), and an interesting fact.

♦ 2 pages on Christmas celebrations
These two pages share the important and traditional celebrations of the country, and include cute graphics for students to color.

♦ a Christmas activity
The activities range from a word search to a DIY board game!

♦ a special holiday recipe
Make and taste a traditional holiday recipe from each country.


After completing the packet, students will have the opportunity to show what they have learned by answering 12 comprehension questions, 2 for each country.

We truly hope you and your students enjoy this peek into Christmas celebrations around the world! On behalf of all of us at Multicultural Kid Blogs, we wish you a wonderful and multicultural Christmas season!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Día de los Muertos: los altares

When Becky of Kid World Citizen recently reminded me that Chicago is home to the National Museum of Mexican Art, I mentally filed that under "check it out someday soon!" So when the NMMA's "Rito y Recuerdo" exhibit topped Aimee's (Raising World Citizens) list of Chicago's "must-do's" for Día de los Muertos, we were ready to go!

Wow!... or "¡Guau!" What an impressive display! More than 60 artists participated in the creation of this exhibit, which includes "altares y ofrendas," installations, and popular art. We maximized the exhibit by joining a guided tour, and learned so much more than the "altares" basics we knew upon arrival.  

Here are the highlights, for other Día de los Muertos neophytes like us:

An altar would traditionally be constructed in 3 tiers, each tier making an important representation: the underworld, earth, and heaven. Of course, in all things Día de los Muertos, the underworld is not depicted as a horrible place full of misery, and on Día itself, its residents are always seen celebrating!


Along with photos, personal mementos and trinkets, each of the 4 elements - earth, air, fire, and water - are commonly represented in the items chosen for the ofrenda. Fire and water are easy to spot in the candles and drink offerings. Fruits and grains, and even clay pots, can represent the earth. Air can be a bit of a stretch, at least in the "altares" we saw, where altar shawls and "papel picado" that blow in the wind symbolized air.


I imagine there was plenty more to learn, but 6 year olds don't necessarily enjoy the lengthy nature of guided museum tours, so that is the extent of our "altares de muertos" knowledge acquisition for this year.  Never mind, though: we have already decided on a return visit to the NMMA for Día de los Muertos 2015! (And next year, I have a feeling the then-7-year-old will bring enough money to buy a bigger sugar skull!)

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If you've enjoyed this peak into "altares y ofrendas" and are ready to try your own, MommyMaestra is running an Ofrenda Photo Contest. To make it more fun, one of my favorite books is included in the prize pack!

Excited to teach your kids or students more about Día de los Muertos? Be sure to check out my Día de los Muertos Bilingual Activity Pack, with a book, mini-books, and activity sheets, all in English and Spanish!