Category Archives: Holidays

3 Ways to Ease the School-to-Summer Transition (and Back)

transition to summer vacation

Not everyone feels the same about the start of summer break. Yes, there’s excitement over long days to play and a more relaxed pace. But there can also be sadness and anxiety about big changes to the daily routine, not seeing schoolmates, travel and the start of the next school year looming on the horizon. Adults and kids alike can be caught unprepared for this unique mix of emotions. Here, we offer 3 tips to ease your transition into summer break… and back again.

Keep to a Somewhat-Schedule

june sleeping in

It may be impossible to follow a strict schedule during summer break. There are so many fun things to do, fewer responsibilities and hopefully more relaxation.

Several consecutive days of pool parties and barbecues may be exciting, but can still be over-stimulating for sensitive little ones. Try to space out activities, even if that means you have to politely turn down an invitation or two.

While it’s tempting to let the kids sleep in until mid-morning and play until they run out of steam late at night, keeping consistent bedtimes throughout summer will keep kids (and their adults) from becoming over-tired and cranky.

Keep On Learning

hands reading bilingual book

Taking a months-long hiatus from learning might set your kids up for a rough transition back into the classroom come September. We’ve written about the dreaded “summer slide,” when kids lose some of the progress they made the year before, and how to avoid it. For bilingual learners, especially, a long break from consistent language exposure will erode much of their hard work.

Set aside some time in your schedule – it can be every day or a few days a week – for learning activities. Learning resources can come from last year’s teacher, your school, a local library and online. Don’t feel pressured to make headway into next year’s curriculum on your own. It’s ok to maintain the skill set they were working on last year.

Even when your family is on-the-go, there are plenty of fun summer travel activities to keep the learning alive.

Keep in Touch with School Friends

june playdate

For younger kids especially, it’s important to see familiar faces during the summer break. Setting up a regular playdate with school friends helps alleviate boredom, as well as any lingering anxiety from the change in their routine.

Fresh off the last day of school, the summer may seem to stretch out endlessly before you. But before you know it, you’ll be school supply shopping once again, and you’ll be glad you stuck to a somewhat-schedule all summer. 

What are some of your favorite summer learning activities? Comment below and share your ideas!

 

“Gulf Shores 2013” by rustydollar72 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/f2noUC

“Sickies.” by Monica H. via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/e2ugur

“playdate” by Krynop via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/bEEYva

Cinco de Mayo – History and Celebrations

In the US, we know that Cinco de Mayo is Spanish for “5th of May,” and is celebrated on that date. But most of us don’t know much else about this holiday. Below, our guest author provides some history and facts about Cinco de Mayo.

Not “Mexican Independence Day”

There is a common misconception that Cinco de Mayo is Mexican Independence Day. In fact, there’s an entirely different date – September 16th – known as Día de la Independencia, which is the date in 1810 that marked the start of Mexico’s war for independence from Spain.

The History of Cinco de Mayo

Cinco de Mayo, celebrated on May 5th each year, is a celebration of the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla in the Franco-Mexican War. Spanish, French and English troops invaded after Mexico stopped paying their debt to those countries. Although Spanish and English forces withdrew by April of 1862, French troops continued to fight to conquer Mexico as part of their empire.

On May 5 of that year, a poorly equipped Mexican army was able to defeat French troops at the Battle of Puebla. The French army continued to fight for another 5 years, but the Puebla victory became a Mexican symbol of resistance to foreign rule.

Cinco de Mayo Celebrations in Present Day

In Mexico, Cinco de Mayo celebrations are primarily held in the state of Puebla, with speeches, parades and battle reenactments. Puebla keeps the memory of its historic battle alive with a museum, and battlefield maintained as a park. Because it’s not recognized as a federal holiday, and businesses remain open, Cinco de Mayo isn’t celebrated as much in other parts of Mexico.

In the US, Cinco de Mayo has become a day to celebrate Mexican culture and history. Cinco de Mayo traditions include festivals and parades that feature traditional food and music from Mexico.

The author, Vineet Maheshwari from thepensters.com blog, enjoys learning about diverse holidays and cultures, making language learning much more enriching.  She encourages people to take up the hobby of learning new languages!

Holidays & Food: Celebrate with a Discount on Bilingual Children’s Books

bilingual childrens books food themed discount holidays

Think of any holiday celebrated in any part of the world, and there is sure to be at least one traditional dish associated with it. Thanksgiving turkey, curry on Boxing Day, or rice cakes for Chinese New Year… Food is the cornerstone of any celebration.

In an article that explores the relationship between food and culture, writer Amy S. Choi says, “Food feeds the soul. To the extent that we all eat food, and we all have souls, food is the single great unifier across cultures.” She says that to understand a culture’s food is to know the story of their identity, survival, status, pleasure and community.

Another article on parents.com delves into the oftentimes surprising history behind many traditional holiday dishes, like Christmas fruit cake and Hanukkah latkes. Did you know sweets are eaten during Diwali to symbolize the defeat of evil and the triumph of goodness and light?

To get your classroom and family talking about their favorite holiday dishes, Language Lizard is offering a 10% discount on these fun, food-themed bilingual children’s books:

Yum Let's Eat! Bilingual children's bookYum! Let’s Eat! – Meet children from around the world and explore their foods and eating traditions. This story explores the rich diversity of children’s lives and develops a worldwide perspective.

Grandma's Saturday Soup - bilingual children's bookGrandma’s Saturday Soup – Every day something reminds Mimi of Grandma’s special Saturday Soup and the tales her grandma tells. Delightful descriptions of Jamaica, accompanied by vivid illustrations, will make us all wish that we had a grandma like this!

Buri and the Morrow - bilingual children's bookBuri and the Marrow – In this famous Bengali story, an old woman travels through the forest to meet her daughter. On her way she meets a fox, a tiger and a lion, and she must come up with a plan to outwit them.

Alice and Marek's Christmas - bilingual children's bookAlice & Marek’s Christmas – It’s Christmas Eve and everyone is getting ready. This story explores the different ways people celebrate  around the world. There are recipes and activities in this beautifully illustrated book that takes us to the heart of Christmas in Poland.

Deepak's Diwali - bilingual children's bookDeepak’s Diwali –  This warm contemporary story is interwoven with beautifully illustrated images from Hindu mythology. The book is packed with recipes and activities for the whole family to enjoy.

Samira's Eid - bilingual children's bookSamira’s Eid – The first sighting of the new moon starts a day of celebration for Samira and her family. The Ramadan fast is over and now it is time for prayers and presents. A surprise visitor brings a mysterious present and has an unusual story to tell. Great for teaching children about Islamic holidays and culture.

Li's Chinese New Year - bilingual children's bookLi’s Chinese New Year – It’s nearly the New Year and Li can’t figure out what animal he’s going to be in the special school assembly. Will he be a fierce tiger or a strong ox? Find each of the 12 zodiac animals on your way through the story, and discover facts and activities relating to the festival at the back of the book.

The Giant Turnip - bilingual children's bookThe Giant Turnip – This traditional story is set in an inner-city school where the children have grown an enormous turnip! How can they pull it out? They all try together but the turnip will not budge. Who will save the day?

limasredhotchilliLima’s Red Hot Chilli – Take one hungry little girl, six different tempting foods and one shiny, delicious red hot chilli. One big bite results in a spectacular display of fireworks. Mom, Dad, Aunt and Grandad all come to help, but Lima’s mouth is still too hot. Who can rescue her?

Just enter code FOOD15 during checkout to receive 10% off these fun, holiday food-themed titles, now through December 31, 2015.

5 Ways to a Bilingual/ Multicultural Holiday Season

diwali multicultural bilingual holiday

If you feel like the school year is speeding by, you’re right: the holiday season is already upon us. There’s still plenty of time to work on that Christmas list. You may already be planning your big meal for Thanksgiving Day. Or, you may find yourself wondering how to get through another stressful holiday season with your sanity intact.

If you find this year’s holiday spirit is more ho-hum than ho-ho-ho, try adding a multicultural and bilingual twist to your classroom and family festivities. It will liven things up and refresh that holiday spirit.

Highlight the Spirit of Giving Thanks

hands holding words give thanks

The holidays are all about spending time with family and friends, which makes this is the perfect time of year to focus on gratitude, appreciation and thankfulness, both at home and in the classroom. In bilingual classrooms, the topic of thankfulness can involve language learning (learning to say “thanks” in many languages) and also cultural sharing (how different cultures show their appreciation).

Learn About a New Holiday

Ramadan decorations multicultural bilingual

When you learn about holidays from other cultures, you’re learning about new religions, customs and languages.  Kids also gain an appreciation for diversity when they see how other holidays are different and similar to the ones they celebrate.

Language Lizard offers a free, standards-based lesson plan that explores traditions from many different religions and cultures, including Christianity, Hindu, Islam, Judaism, and Sikhism. Kids will also love stories about children celebrating Diwali, also known as the “Festival of Lights,” and Chinese New Year.

Arts & Crafts from Around the World

mid-autumn festival lantern cultural diversity

Bring cultural diversity and international flavor to your holidays with these five easy kid crafts. The best part? They can all be made with materials you probably already have. Plus, they involve minimal mess, and are simple enough for most kids to complete on their own.

Celebrate with Holiday Foods from Other Cultures

International diversity foods pizza heart shape

Your little ones are home for winter break, perhaps stuck inside because of bad weather. Or you have out-of-town guests visiting, and many meals to plan. Don’t let holiday stress get you down! Take a culinary journey by trying out these winter holiday dishes from all around the world. Use it as a creative potluck theme, and everyone can join in the fun!

Engaging Bilingual Students

kid reading bilingual book

It’s easier to get kids to engage in conversation when they are inspired and excited about the topic. This is particularly true for bilingual students, especially if they are still mastering the English language. What better time to get your bilingual students talking with you and one another? Students’ minds are full of happy memories from holidays past, and they will want to share how their families celebrate at home. Check out our tips to help your students direct their holiday excitement into fun language opportunities.

 

“Diwali” by siddhu2020 via Flickr is licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/5LYfYm

The Last Book My Dad Read to Me

bilingual father reaching for book

by guest blogger Sue Kwon

For my husband, our two young girls and myself, reading a bedtime story together is a much-loved nightly ritual. On our busiest days, it’s our first opportunity to sit down with a single purpose and no distractions. My husband is the official story reader in our family. He has patience (that I lack) with even the longest, most repetitive children’s books. The girls sit still, listen with rapt attention, and gaze up at him with eyes full of love and admiration.

In our household, we all speak and read in English. It’s a commonality that’s easy to take for granted. It means story time is an experience shared equally by everyone. The family I grew up in was different: my parents and older sisters were Korean immigrants, and I was born in the US. They all spoke and read in Korean, and I almost entirely in English. My father and I had a nightly story time routine too, and I remember very clearly the last book he ever read to me.

My father was born and raised in a small town in South Korea. He served a mandatory time in the military, married young, and eventually emigrated to the US with his wife and young daughters, knowing no English whatsoever. Once here, he picked up the language quickly while working at a doughnut shop, where he biked to and fro each day. One night at work, he was held up at gunpoint, and he decided to make a big change: He opened a business installing windows, a skill he had learned as a young man in Korea. We were lucky – the new business grew fast. But that meant he worked very long, stressful hours. By the time he got home at night, he was so exhausted he only paused briefly to eat dinner before going to bed.

I got into the habit of waiting by the front door as soon as my mother started making his dinner. That way, as soon as he walked in, I could pounce on him with a book in hand. Although my father had very impressive verbal English skills, his reading skills were very basic. Still, he would sit and read to me, and it was the few precious moments we spent together each day.

One evening, when I was 5, he came home from work and we sat down right in the entryway, just like always. He opened the book and read the first line: “We like worms!” he said, his English heavily accented. “Not worms, Daddy!” I interrupted. “It says ‘rhymes!’ Why would they like worms?” I doubled over with laughter. I found it hilarious that my dad, the most grown-up person I knew, someone I thought was invincible, didn’t know the word “rhymes.” What was even funnier to me was the fact that we had read that book a hundred times before, and I had thought all along it was a story about worms. I laughed so hard, I didn’t immediately realize that he wasn’t laughing with me. The emotion on his face was so clear, I knew without a doubt I had embarrassed him. It must have been humiliating to be corrected and laughed at by his preschooler. He handed me the book, shrugged, and said it looked like I didn’t need his help anymore.

We never attempted story time after that. Partly because of my father’s embarrassment, but also because I had lost respect for him. I naively thought that if I could read better than he could, I must be smarter than him. Who knows, maybe on some level he thought the same thing. It didn’t occur to me then that his ability to read in English was not a true measure of his intelligence. We never tried reading a book in Korean. I think if we had, I would’ve realized right away how silly my assumption was.

It wasn’t until I was grown with kids of my own, years after his passing, that I realized the enormity of my father’s life. The amount of bravery it must have taken for him to leave his home country. The level of intelligence it must have taken to pick up a new language, and then grow a successful business from scratch. My dad came from such humble beginnings, but managed to achieve so much in his life.

Thirty years after that last story, and 10 years after his passing, I often think about all the knowledge, experience and wisdom my dad must have carried with him. I wish I had given him a chance to hand it down to me. Because we didn’t share a written language, and had no means to bridge that gap, we missed out on a lifetime of knowing each other.

Tonight, as I sat with my husband while he read to the girls, I thought about how lucky we are. Lucky to be able to share bedtime stories, but also lucky to live in a time and place where foreign language is no longer seen as a detriment, but a great asset. Parents don’t have to give up their home language for fear of hindering their kids’ development. Languages can mix, intermingle and live in harmony in the same household. Parents and kids can meet somewhere in the middle, and share bedtime stories that lead to life stories that lead to a lifetime of family togetherness.

Do you have more than one language in your home? Tell us your thoughts and experiences by commenting below.

“No substitute” by Patrick Feller via Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0 https://flic.kr/p/6jEJFb

Ramadan in the Classroom & At Home

Ramadan night photo multicultural bilingualThe Muslim holiday of Ramadan is the 9th and most sacred month in the Islamic calendar. Traditionally, it’s a time of fasting from sun up to sun down each day. Children aren’t required to fast until they’re teenagers, but may fast for part of the day to help them appreciate the significance of the holiday. Fasting is meant to help Muslims practice self-discipline, self-control, sacrifice, and empathy. Ramadan is a time of spiritual reflection, growth, and religious devotion.

Learning about Ramadan: Lesson Plan & Storybook

children's bilingual book Samira's Eid multiculturalLanguage Lizard offers a free, standards-based lesson plan that introduces students to Muslim customs and cultures, new languages and texts, and promotes acceptance of diversity. The lesson plan pairs with the bilingual storybook Samira’s Eid. Samira and her family get a surprise visitor during Ramadan who brings a special gift for them. The story teaches kids about the holiday’s traditions, and the meaning behind them, through Samira’s eyes.

Receive a 10% discount on the book Samira’s Eid now through July 17, 2015!  Simply enter Coupon Code Eid2015 during checkout.  Samira’s Eid is currently available with English and your choice of the following languages: Albanian, Arabic, Bengali, Farsi, French, Kurdish, Panjabi and Somali.

Experience the Food of Ramadan

ramadan meal multicultural bilingualEach night at sunset, families gather for the fast-breaking meal known as iftar. Get in the spirit by trying some traditional dishes served at iftar with your classroom or family. One quick and easy dessert that the kids can help make, and will love to eat, is this traditional mango, pistachio and cream dessert.

Ramadan Arts & Crafts Projects

Ramadan decorations multicultural bilingualRamadan can also be a time of beautiful decorations. Lanterns, in particular, have become symbolic of the holiday. Kids can make simple paper crafts, including lanterns, or try out more complex projects like this drum.

Online Ramadan Resources for Kids

child reading a book ramadan multicultural bilingualFind kid-friendly Ramadan photos online to look through together, and discuss how Ramadan is experienced by the littlest Muslims. The PBS Kids website offers a free, interactive book about Ramadan and its traditions. Or check out this multilingual Ramadan poster that includes illustrations of the call to prayer, fasting, sharing an evening meal, and family time.

Will you be learning about Ramadan with your classroom or family? Share your ideas by commenting below!

 

Celebrate “World Folk Tales & Fables Week” in the Classroom and at Home

IMG_3201This year, World Folk Tales and Fables Week is from March 16 through March 22. It’s a week dedicated to encouraging children and adults to explore the lessons and cultural background of folk tales, fables, myths and legends from around the world.

Reading folk tales is a great way for children to explore different cultures and enhance literacy skills. Learn more about why kids love folk tales and fables in a previous blog post that discusses why folk tales are such a great teaching tool for kids.

A folk tale is any story that has been passed down through generations by a group of people. A fable, one type of folk tale, is a short story that teaches a lesson, often features talking animals, and is directed particularly at children. The most well known creator of fables is Aesop, a Greek slave believed to have lived around 560 BC. Some of his most popular fables are “The Tortoise and the Hare,”  “The Goose that Laid the Golden Egg,” and “The Lion and the Mouse.” There are also more modern-day fables, like Dr. Seuss‘s The Lorax.

Resources for Teachers & Parents

If you’d like to introduce your class or family to folk tales, but aren’t sure where to begin, Language Lizard offers a series of blog posts dedicated to international folk tale characters. There, you can get an overview of characters from around the world, like the Monkey King from China, and Finn McCool of Ireland.

BURI-2

One of our favorite stories, the Bengali folk tale Buri and the Marrow, is used in the lesson plan entitled “Language, Customs, Culture in India,” which can be downloaded at no cost from our website. Don’t hesitate to use any of our lesson plans to help you explore different cultures and folk tales with your students.

Or try another great folk tale, Yeh-Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella. This Chinese version of Cinderella is similar to, yet delightfully different from, the more recognized European or Disney interpretations of the story. Children will be inspired by Yeh-Hsien, a strong character who takes her destiny into her own hands.

posters

We also offer the Myths and Legends collection (Pandora’s Box, Isis and Osiris, Beowulf, The Children of Lir), which can be a good starting point for older children to explore various cultures and classic stories.

We hope you have an exciting World Folk Tales and Fables Week, exploring new characters, adventures and cultures from far away lands!

Get 10% off two entertaining world folk tales – Buri and the Marrow and Yeh-Hsien: A Chinese Cinderella – by entering Coupon Code FOLKTALE2015 at checkout! This discount is valid now through March 31, 2015.

Comment below and share with us your favorite folk tales and fables!

Chinese New Year & Dental Health Month: Discounts & Resources

bilingual chinese new year dental health monthPlan early – the month of February brings two great events to enjoy with the kids: Chinese New Year and Dental Health Month. Read on for discounts and free resources that will add a bilingual twist to your celebrations! (Read about other New Year celebrations around the world here.)

Chinese New Year

chinese dragon international holidays diversity

Chinese New Year is on February 19, 2015. Also known as Spring Festival, Chinese New Year is the country’s most important social and economic holiday. Traditionally, it is a time to renew and honor family bonds through elaborate rituals and feasts.

Celebrate this special holiday, at home and in the classroom, with the bilingual children’s book entitled Li’s Chinese New Year. Available in English and your choice of 10 different languages, the story follows Li, who is trying to decide what animal costume to wear to the school’s big New Year assembly. Will he be a fierce tiger or a strong ox? And what year will his new cousin be born in? Readers can find all twelve of the zodiac animals throughout the story, and discover facts and activities relating to the holiday at the back of the book.

Now through February 28, 2015 get 10% off Li’s Chinese New Year by entering discount code CNY2015 at checkout!

If you’re planning to teach your students about Chinese New Year, be sure to check out our FREE standards-based lesson plan that includes this holiday’s history, traditions and the many languages spoken in China. This great resource was created by our friends at West Chester University of PA.

Dental Health Month

nd strupler dental project

In February, the American Dental Association (ADA) sponsors Dental Health Month. This year’s slogan is “Defeat Monster Mouth!” The goal of Dental Health Month is to promote oral health by establishing good habits early and getting regular dental check ups. The ADA offers free resources for parents and teachers, including a Planning Guide and activity sheets.

To help kids prepare for a trip to the dentist, Language Lizard offers the bilingual children’s book Sahir Goes to the Dentist. It tells the story of Sahir, who has lost a tooth, and Yasmin, who has a cavity. Both children visit the dentist and learn valuable lessons about how to properly care for their teeth. The book is available in English and your choice of 23 different languages.

Now through February 28, 2015 get 10% off Sahir Goes to the Dentist by entering discount code DENTIST at checkout!

Also, check out our post for 5 ways to turn kids’ post-winter break excitement into fun language opportunities!

Leave a comment below and tell us how you will be celebrating Chinese New Year and Dental Health Month with your students and family!

Dragon photo by Kenny Louie via Flickr, some rights reserved.

Toothbrush photo by ND Strupler via Flickr, some rights reserved.

A New Year’s Resolution for Language Learners

kid reading bilingual bookIf your plans for the new year include learning a new language with your kids, or passing on your native language to them, there is one New Year’s resolution that will help your kids learn faster and also make the process more fun for the whole family.

Bilinguals: “Brain Bodybuilders”

Using Music to Help Children Learn Languages

In addition to the many and varied benefits to being bilingual, new research has found something new: bilinguals have more efficient brains that filter out important information from a mass of data faster than brains of monolinguals. This amazing brain benefit is seen as early as infancy. Babies exposed to more than one language have faster image recognition compared to their peers.

Increase Their Language Exposure – And Don’t Give Up!

Parents can become frustrated that their kids aren’t picking up the second language “automatically.” Aren’t their minds supposed to be like sponges? It may be that they need broader language exposure, in more areas of their lives. It’s estimated that kids need to be exposed to a language at least 30% of the time before they begin internalizing it.

There is a growing movement in Europe that disperses foreign language instruction throughout the entire curriculum, instead of keeping it isolated in a single language class. In the US, language immersion schools are becoming more popular, and their students are showing very promising results. True internalization happens when a new language reaches into all different corners of a child’s life.

Make a Resolution to Add a Self-Motivating Activity

In order to learn a new language, your child must learn its essential vocabulary. While this may sound like an enormous task, the bulk of any language is made up of a few hundred words, so you don’t have to know the majority of its words to communicate effectively. Knowing filler words like “and,” “but” and “so” are essential because they buy a few moments to think what to say next. It also helps to practice answers to the most commonly asked questions, like “Where are you from?” and “What do you like to do?” because it boosts a new speaker’s confidence.

To help your kids learn vocabulary faster, try practicing it in a way that is fun and self-motivating! By weaving language into activities they already love, new words will quickly become a real part of their lives. We know, of course, that kids of all ages benefit from the simple act of reading with their parents. Little ones also respond well to singing in a new language. Or, try turning a kids’ treasure or scavenger hunt into a language learning game!

springtime language learning: scavenger and treasure hunts

Parents can find a wealth of kid-friendly content online by using Google or websites like Youtube. Older kids might be interested in foreign kids’ TV shows, foreign music, kids’ blogs in foreign languages, cartoons, recipes, or even video games.

It’s also great to get your kid’s friends involved. You could have a foreign language movie night, or foreign language-themed party with word games like Pictionary and karaoke singing. If you can, set up a play date with other kids who speak fluently. Being in the midst of a foreign language play date can give your child a new appreciation for the language, and greater motivation to participate in the conversation.

Whatever fun, motivating activities you decide to take on in 2015, be proud that you’re making the effort to give your kids the gift of language and culture. Rest assured, it’s a gift they will benefit from every day of their lives.

What kind of language-themed activities do your kids love doing? Post below and share your ideas!

 

Classroom kids photo by caseywest via Flickr, some rights reserved

Scavenger hunt photo by Umair Mohsin via flicker, some rights reserved.


Celebrate with Holiday Foods from Around the World

International diversity foods pizza heart shape

photo by Anderson Mancini via Flickr

Your little ones are home for winter break, perhaps stuck inside because of bad weather. Or you have out-of-town guests visiting, and many meals to plan. Don’t let holiday stress get you down! Take a culinary journey by trying out these winter holiday dishes from all around the world. Use it as a creative potluck theme, and everyone can join in the fun! Follow up each meal with a storybook from the same part of the world, and your kids will have an experience that nourishes the body and mind.

India – Gulab Jamun

gulab jamun

photo by Premnath Thirumalaisamy via Flickr

In India, Diwali is the winter holiday known as the Festival of Lights. One tradition is to give sweets to friends and neighbors. (Find a great Diwali storybook here.) Gulab Jamun, which translates to “rose berries,” are deep fried dough balls covered in rose water-scented syrup. Here is a step-by-step recipe with photos.

Japan – Udon Noodle Soup

international diversity foods udon noodlesbowl of Japanese udon noodlesphoto by Kamatama via Flickr

It’s believed that udon noodles were first brought to Japan from China in the 800s by Buddhist monks. Udon noodles, made from wheat flour, are thick and chewy. They can be served in a variety of ways: cold or hot, with sauce or stir-fried. Its neutral flavor matches well with a variety of ingredients.  In Japan’s cold, winter months, hot udon noodle soup is a popular comfort food. If you want to eat your udon the traditional way, don’t forget to use chopsticks, and you can show your appreciation with an enthusiastic slurping sound! Martha Stewart has a recipe for Udon Noodles with Shiitake Mushrooms in Ginger Broth.

Mexico – Tamales

lucianvenutian via Flickr

photo by lucianvenutian via Flickr

Tamales have been eaten in what is now known as Central America since before 5,000 B.C. They quickly grew in popularity due to their portability and the way they can fill the belly. Made from masa dough that is filled with meats, cheese or vegetables, tamales are wrapped in a corn husk, then steamed or boiled. They are traditionally made during the holidays, because tamales take many hands to assemble, and are cooked in huge batches. Here is a great pork tamale recipe, courtesy of PBS.

Germany – Speckknoedel

international foods spekknodelspeckknoedel in a bowl

photo by Christian Allinger via Flickr

Speckknoedel are the dumplings of Europe’s mountainous Alpine region. They were probably invented and then gained popularity as a winter food because they enabled people to stretch ever-dwindling meat and bread supplies in the cold months. Give this recipe for speckknoedel soup from Food Network a try.

Mongolia – Buuz  

Mongolian Buuz

photo by Аркадий Зарубин via Wikimedia Commons

Mongolian Lunar New Year, known as Tsagaan Sar, is considered one of the culture’s most important holidays. It is a time of year dedicated to family and feasts. (You can find a great storybook about Chinese New Year here.) Warm meat- and vegetable-filled dumplings called Buuz are a popular and delicious holiday treat. Here is a buuz recipe you can try at home.

Finland – Glögg

GlöggGlögg

photo by Mr. Choppers via Wikimedia Commons

During Yule, Finland’s midwinter holiday season, Glögg is a very popular alcohol drink that is served hot. It is made from red wine and a combination of spices, and can be combined with raisins, blanched almonds or ginger biscuits. This traditional glögg recipe it is sure to warm the spirits of your adult guests.

Give these international holiday foods a try this season, and your family can get a taste of life in another land. Don’t forget to check out our tips to having a Bilingual Staycation, or learn how people celebrate New Year’s around the world.

Comment below and share your favorite winter holiday foods and recipes!

 

Photo Credits

Pizza in heart shape photo by Anderson Mancini via Flickr, some rights reserved

Gulab Jamun photo by Premnath Thirumalaisamy via Flickr, some rights reserved

Udon noodle soup photo by Kamatama via Flickr, some rights reserved

Tamales photo by lucianvenutian via Flickr, some rights reserved

Buuz photo by Аркадий Зарубин via Wikimedia Commons, some rights reserved

Speckknoedel photo by Christian Allinger via Flickr, some rights reserved

Glogg photo by Mr. Choppers via Wikimedia Commons, some rights reserved