Kids love any reason to have a party, so why not celebrate some of the world’s major holidays this year? You’ll teach your child about different cultures and maybe pick up a few new family traditions.
January 26: Chinese New Year
During the Chinese New Year, grown-ups give children little red envelopes filled with chocolate coins, which symbolize wealth and good fortune. Why not slip homemade coupons (“Good for one hug”) into red envelopes for your kids?
February 24: Mardi Gras
Mardi Gras means “Fat Tuesday” in French. Get in the spirit by baking a king cake, a traditional treat (find a recipe at wholefoodsmarket.com). Don’t forget to hide a trinket inside, usually a tiny plastic baby. Crown whoever gets the prize king or queen for the day.
- King Cake Recipe from wholefoodsmarket.com
March 17: St. Patrick’s Day
Bring a little luck o’ the Irish into your home on St. Patrick’s Day. Start by coloring your kid’s cereal milk green. Blame it on those mischievous leprechauns! Then top things off by reading the classic St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning, by Eve Bunting.
- St. Patrick’s Day in the Morning, $6, available at www.amazon.com
April 22: Earth Day
Earth Day gives us a chance to reflect on what’s happening to our planet and do a little community service for Mother Nature. As a family, pledge to pick up every empty bottle or can you see in your neighborhood.
- More tips at earth911.org
May 5: Cinco de Mayo
Throw a Cinco de Mayo party for your kids and their amigos! Salute Mexican pride and heritage with mucho dancing, music, and fun. Don a sombrero, shake your maracas, serve guacamole (get a recipe at parentsmag.com), and watch Dora’s Super Silly Fiesta!
- Guacamole recipe from parentsmag.com
- Dora’s Super Silly Fiesta! DVD, $13, available at www.cduniverse.com
June 20: Midsummer Day
Scandinavians celebrate the summer solstice on Midsummer Day, the longest day of the year — it stays light way past bedtime! Get outside and enjoy the sunshine — play in the yard, fly a kite, or take a family hike.
- Visit goscandinavia.about.com to find out more
July 1: Canada Day
This Canada Day, surprise your family with pancakes and maple syrup for dinner. Explain the maple leaf — Canada’s most prominent symbol. At bedtime, teach them about our northern neighbors by reading M Is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet, by Michael Ilmer.
- M Is for Maple: A Canadian Alphabet, $20, available at www.powells.com
August 21: Ramadan
Ramadan, the holiest of Muslim holidays, lasts 30 days and teaches sacrifice and generosity through fasting and prayer. Ask your child to write down one nice thing he did for each day of Ramadan.
- Kids can learn about the Islamic faith at history.com
September 2: Onam
The Southern Indian state of Kerala celebrates Onam, a harvest festival that welcomes the spirit of the legendary ruler King Mahabali. A boat race is the highlight of the festivities, so rent some canoes and have your own competition.
- Learn more at onamfestival.org
October 4: Oktoberfest
On the last day of Oktoberfest, get your kids in the autumnal mood with cider, pretzels, and a cute German craft like the horse-chestnut critters at original-kids-crafts.com. Celebrations are held all over the U.S., so Google around to see whether there’s one near you.
November 15: Shichi-Go-San
Shichi-Go-San, a Japanese traditional rite of passage for children who are 7, 5, and 3 years old (believed to be lucky numbers), celebrates their good health and future.
- Log on to web-japan.org to see photos of Japanese children dressed in their finest holiday kimonos
December 26: Kwanzaa
Teach your kids the principles of Kwanzaa, an African-American holiday that celebrates family and culture, with a reading of Seven Spools of Thread, by Angela Shelf Medearis. Then dance to the music of Kwanzaa for Young People (and Everyone Else!).
- Seven Spools of Thread, $16, available at www.buy.com
- Kwanzaa for Young People (and Everyone Else!), $13, available at www.kidsfirstmedia.com
Originally published in the January 2009 issue of Parents magazine.