Learning Ahead: Spring Traditions & Celebrations

Exploring Culture through Food, History & Art:
Easter & Passover

The reemergence of flora and fauna in the outdoor world gives cause for celebration as the months turn warmer and new life abounds. For many, it is a time of celebration linked to spring’s seasonality as reflected in the types of food prepared in holiday celebrations, including Easter and PassoverRead the rest of this entry »

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2016

Volunteer & Cultural Opportunities to Honor Veterans on Veterans Day in Western MA

Volunteer & Cultural Opportunities to Honor Veterans on Veterans Day in Western MA

November 11th is the perfect chance to honor our Veterans, and there are many opportunities to do so.

When someone has lots of experience in a profession, we call them a veteran in their field – veteran teachers likely have years and years of experience, and veteran nurses have spent decades in healthcare. When we hear the word “veteran” without the name of a profession attached to it, however, it usually means only one specific thing – military veterans. While the term “veteran” is frequently associated with those former military members who have fought in wars, it actually applies to all honorably or medically discharged former military members who served for at least two years – regardless of whether or not they engaged in combat.

Veterans Day, a national holiday celebrated every year on November 11th, provides communities with the opportunity to learn about and offer appreciation for the service provided by military veterans. While many veterans fought in wars, many others served during times when the United States wasn’t engaged in combat and supported the country by participating in community projects, offering assistance during national disasters, and offering security to important government officials and locations. Regardless of your views regarding US participation in wars, Veterans Day serves as a time to thank those who have dedicated a part of their lives to serving their country.  Read the rest of this entry »

Memorial Day as a Catalyst for Placemaking, Historical Learning, and Acts of Kindness

Memorial Day as a Catalyst for Placemaking, Historical Learning, and Acts of Kindness

For some, Memorial Day is a deeply personal holiday, a day for remembering those who have served the people of our country. Participating in these Memorial Day celebrations and ceremonies can also be a form of placemaking, strengthening ties to community spaces and encouraging social interaction between generations. These events also offer a chance to personally thank local veterans and recognize them for their bravery and service.

Ceremonies to honor veterans on this holiday often take place in outdoor, common spaces such as Main Streets, sidewalks, and town commons.

As friends, neighbors, and community members gather in these areas, opportunities for small acts of kindness arise. For example, families can bring a bouquet of daisies or loaves of fresh baked bread to a Memorial Day parade to share with veterans as small tokens of gratitude.

Memorial day parades thus invite people to engage with their communities in placemaking. Participating in parades by marching alongside an organization or viewing the parade from a common space thus supports individual health and well-being by strengthening a connection to place. Read the rest of this entry »

Boxing Day: Extending Festive Generosity

Boxing Day: A Day of Gratitude

Drawing inspiration from the holiday’s roots, use the day after Christmas to show some appreciation for those in service positions who you see regularly. Kids can make thank you cards for the workers who stock shelves and bag your groceries at the local co-op, bake and deliver cookies to the farmers at a local CSA, or make prayer flags covered with messages of thanks and gratitude for the doctors and nurses working at a local community health center.

Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s Day, Day of the Wren, Second Christmas Day, Day of Goodwill – known by many names in countries around the world, December 26th brings a second day of celebration. Following the traditional Christmas Day, the holiday most commonly known as Boxing Day is a bank holiday – a day when banks and other similar service-based industries are closed, allowing workers an extra day off. Though the holiday has evolved over time, its roots are quite similar to its modern manifestation. Boxing Day gets its name from the practice of giving Christmas boxes filled with food and gifts to servants and tradesmen – something that took place after the members of the upper class had enjoyed a day filled with celebrations (during which many of the service workers hadn’t had a day off)…

Read the rest of this entry »

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2015

Halloween Math: Counting Kit Kats & Charleston Chews

Masking Math in Halloween Adventures

Before Halloween, think of a question that you could research as a family, something that leads to collecting some basic data on Halloween night, and mask informal math studies with collecting and counting candy and costumes!

Of all of the subjects that are taught in elementary school, math can be the hardest one to explore creatively at home. Simple exercises in counting and basic addition and subtraction can be integrated into daily routines, and math concepts arise in cooking and baking projects, but more challenging and content-specific math concepts can be difficult to weave into day to day activities at home.

However, the candy collecting done on Halloween presents an opportunity for some informal at-home math studies! Even kids who are too old to trick-or-treat (or those who don’t collect candy) can use the holiday as an opportunity to practice what they know about basic logic, data collection, and statistical analysis…

Read the rest of this entry »

Symbols & Rituals of Rosh Hashanah

Symbols & Rituals of Rosh Hashanah

From our archived column, “Not Your Grandparents’ Shtetl: Exploring Jewish Culture in Western MA,”  Amy Meltzer shares different symbols and rituals of Rosh Hashanah.  Also known as the Jewish New Year, or the first day of the traditional Jewish lunar calendar, this year Rosh Hashanah takes place sunset, September 13 – nightfall, September 15, 2015.

SWEETNESS OF ROSH HASHANAH

One of the themes of Rosh Hashanah is sweetness. (A traditional greeting is “May you have a good and sweet new year.”) Apples and challah (Jewish egg bread) dipped in honey symbolize that sweetness. Before Rosh Hashanah, we make a trip to a local apple orchard to collect several varieties of local apples. On the holiday we sample the apples, and sweet recipes made from the apples…

Read the rest of this entry »

2014: New Year’s Eve Celebrations for Families in Western MA

  • An all ages New Year’s Eve celebration takes place at Cowell Gymnasium from 6pm-8pm. The event features an inflatable bouncy house, dancing, music, crafts and games, refreshments, and a New Year’s countdown – early in the evening and for all ages! 413-625-0305. Maple Street. Shelburne Falls, MA (FREE)
  • Welcome the New Year at First Night Northampton! This annual event is a 12-hour party from 12noon-12midnight, featuring live music, performances, fireworks, activities, food, and so much more! There will be something for all ages at the exciting, 30th-annual event! 413-584-7327. Downtown. Northampton, MA. ($$)
  • New Year’s Eve is Holyoke’s 18th Annual First Night Jr. from 10am-4pm. There will be tons of kid-friendly activities at the Children’s Museum, the Merry Go Round, the Volleyball Hall of Fame, and the Heritage State Park Visitor’s Center. Activities include juggling, face painting, magic shows, balloon shows, music, dancing, crafts, and much more! 413-536-7048. Holyoke, MA. ($)
  • Why should the grownups get to have all the fun? Kids can celebrate New Year’s Eve at Chandler’s Restaurant at Yankee Candle Village from 11am-1pm. There will be a countdown to 12noon with interactive live entertainment by guitarist Tom Carroll. Full kids menu and lunch menu will be available. Noisemakers will be handed out and there will be an apple cider toast. Please RSVP. 413-665-1277. South Deerfield, MA ($)
  • Orange’s 19th Annual Starry Starry Night is on December 31 from 6pm-9pm. Come for performances, hay rides, ice sculptures, a puppet parade, and fireworks. Performers include singers, storytellers, mimes, magicians, musicians, puppeteers, and others. Performances take place all around town – see here for the schedule. Orange, MA. (FREE)
  • The New Year’s Eve celebration is a tradition at Jiminy Peak. A Torchlight parade will wind down the mountain shortly after the close of the lifts at 10pm and will be immediately followed by a fireworks display. Families can then make their way into Christiansen’s Tavern to watch the ball drop and ring in the new year! 413-738-5500. 37 Corey Road. Hancock, MA.

 

Behind the 12 Days of Christmas

Christmas Classic is a Literary & Cultural Symbolism Goldmine Where Learning Just Keeps Coming!

There is just so much to the 12 Days of Christmas song beyond the 2 turtle doves.

By the end of the popular Christmas carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” the lucky (and truly loved) gift recipient has accumulated quite a holiday haul – nearly 400 gifts have come their way, and with quite a stunning amount of variety, too! Items as varied as gold rings, dancing men, and partridges have been given in bulk in the name of Christmas – but why?

Families can discover the roots and possible hidden meanings of the gifts described in “The Twelve Days of Christmas” with local author Dr. Thomas Bernard! On Saturday, December 13th at 2:30pm, the Jones Library in Amherst, MA, will host a talk by Dr. Bernard, who will lead participants in an exploration of the possible secondary symbolic meanings of each of the gifts described in the song’s lyrics. A professor Emeritus of Psychology at Springfield College, Dr. Bernard’s work on the subject grew simply out of sheer curiosity about the odd combination of items described by the song, and he is the author of The Twelve Days of Christmas: The Mystery and The Meaning. Read the rest of this entry »

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2014

Community Rises to Honor Veterans in Western MA

Volunteer & Cultural Opportunities to Honor Veterans on Veterans Day in Western MA

November 11th is the perfect chance to honor our Veterans, and there are many opportunities to do so.

When someone has lots of experience in a profession, we call them a veteran in their field – veteran teachers likely have years and years of experience, and veteran nurses have spent decades in healthcare. When we hear the word “veteran” without the name of a profession attached to it, however, it usually means only one specific thing – military veterans. While the term “veteran” is frequently associated with those former military members who have fought in wars, it actually applies to all honorably or medically discharged former military members who served for at least two years – regardless of whether or not they engaged in combat. Read the rest of this entry »

Cinco de Mayo: A Celebration Mexican Heritage

Cinco de Mayo: A Celebration Mexican Heritage

Cinco de Mayo dancers in Washington DCOften thought to be a traditional Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo is celebrated much more widely in the United States than anywhere else in the world. Despite its lack of authenticity as a major Mexican holiday, Cinco de Mayo serves as an opportunity for families to explore Mexican culture, making for a day of delicious food, great music, and interesting hands-on activities. Read the rest of this entry »

Valentine’s Day Tips for Dads and Daughters

Don’t let Valentine’s Day be just one more chance for Dad to feel like a walking, talking (and unappreciated) checkbook. These Dads & Daughters Tips will help fathers and stepfathers to show daughters that they care on Valentine’s Day and beyond.

  • ❥ Remember, a Daughter hungers for healthy involvement and attention from Dad (even if she doesn’t always show it).
  • ❥ A Daughter wants assurance that her Father and/or Stepfather really knows her and cares about her.
  • ❥ A Daughter wants to feel that Dad is proud of her and that he loves and understands her.
  • ❥ A Daughter wants these intangibles far more than she wants a box of candy or any other present or card.
  • ❥ Daughters sometimes feel that Dads only know how to show their love by buying something. So supplement this year’s store-bought Valentine’s card and candy with your unique message of love.
  • ❥ Give her a hand-written note or personal email — in your own words — telling her how proud you are of her, what you admire about her, how much you enjoy your time together, etc.
  • ❥ Give her the greatest gift of all: your time. Listen to what she has to say and what’s important to her.
  • ❥ Spend 1-on-1 time together on Valentine’s Day or the next available weekend. See a movie, take a walk, go out for coffee or ice cream, play catch. There are a million possibilities (for more ideas, see The Dads & Daughters Togetherness Guide: 54 Fun Activities to Help Build a Great Relationship).
  • ❥ Remember that she only gets one chance to have you as her Dad or Stepdad while she’s still a girl.
  • ❥ Out of the thousand things you do every day, make sure you always give attention, thought, time, and affection to your Daughter — and your Son.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day with your children! Read the rest of this entry »

Chinese New Year: The Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year: The Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year 2014 is the year of the Wood Horse, ushered in on January 31st. Take this opportunity to discover the cultural traditions, folk stories and history of the Chinese New Year with your kids and have fun!

If New Year’s Eve was actually a full two weeks worth of celebrating, what things would you add to it? Besides ringing in a new calendar year, we often spend a little bit of time reflecting on the past year and making plans for bettering ourselves during the coming one. But what else would you want to celebrate if you had fifteen days to fill? What parts of your history and culture would you include?

After a family brainstorm of your ideal two-week New Year’s celebration, explore the traditions of the Chinese New Year and compare. Celebrations of the Chinese New Year do, in fact, cover a full fifteen days. And it’s second name – the Lunar New Year – explains why it takes place after our own calendars have already rolled over to the next year. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, meaning that the date indicates both the current moonphase and the time of the solar year. Because of this, the Chinese New Year takes place on a different date on our own calendars each year, and is always held between a month and a month and a half after our own January 1st New Year’s celebration. This year, the Chinese New Year will be celebrated beginning on January 31st, 2014, and will honor the year of the horse.

There are lots and lots of ways to explore the traditions surrounding the Chinese New Year with kids…

Boxing Day: A Day of Gratitude

Boxing Day: A Yuletide Tip

Drawing inspiration from the holiday’s roots, use the day after Christmas to show some appreciation for those in service positions who you see regularly. Kids can make thank you cards for the workers who stock shelves and bag your groceries at the local co-op, bake and deliver cookies to the farmers at a local CSA, or make prayer flags covered with messages of thanks and gratitude for the doctors and nurses working at a local community health center.

Boxing Day, St. Stephen’s Day, Day of the Wren, Second Christmas Day, Day of Goodwill – known by many names in countries around the world, December 26th brings a second day of celebration. Following the traditional Christmas Day, the holiday most commonly known as Boxing Day is a bank holiday – a day when banks and other similar service-based industries are closed, allowing workers an extra day off. Though the holiday has evolved over time, its roots are quite similar to its modern manifestation. Boxing Day gets its name from the practice of giving Christmas boxes filled with food and gifts to servants and tradesmen – something that took place after the members of the upper class had enjoyed a day filled with celebrations (during which many of the service workers hadn’t had a day off)…

Read the rest of this entry »

Holiday Events for Families in Western MA: 2013

Community Service: An Alternative to Halloween Candy

Community Service & Hands-On Learning as Alternatives to Candy Consumption

Halloween candy can be donated or repurposed for educational and scientific value by donating to members of the military deployed overseas to candy science experiments…

After the magic of Halloween has ended and bits of costumes have been strewn about the house, kids are left with fond memories and gigantic piles of candy. While the candy can be of moderate educational value, it primarily serves as an unnecessary dietary supplement that, if well-rationed, can hang around the house for months to come. As much as most children love to eat candy, health-conscious parents may not want the collected treats to hang around and be consumed. Never fear! There are lots and lots of alternatives to Halloween as it is most often celebrated…

Read the rest of this entry »

Christmas by Candlelight: A Celebration of the History on Holiday Traditions

Old Sturbridge Village hosts Christmas by Candlelight
Celebration of favorite holiday traditions, music & food
Nine evening events set for Dec. 7-9; 14-16; 21-23

The legend of Santa has complex origins, blending diverse tales of magical gift givers with Christian beliefs. Dutch settlers in 17th-century New Amsterdam (New York) brought with them the legend of Saint Nicholas (Sinter Klaus), a 4th-century Christian saint from Turkey known for his generosity to children.

Take a break from the overwhelming wave of commercialized holiday “spirit” that the post-Thanksgiving season brings – visit Old Sturbridge Village for Christmas by Candlelight, which offers an incredibly wide variety of family-friendly holiday activities, performances, demonstrations, readings, crafts, and more!  Villagers dressed in period costume will share holiday traditions from early New England – many of which formed the foundation upon which modern day holiday celebrations have been built!  Families can learn about the roots of traditions such as yule logs, roasting chestnuts over a fire, building gingerbread houses, and even having a Christmas tree!

Friday-Sunday evenings from 4-9pm through December 23rd, the village will come alive with performances by Victorian carolers, Celtic music groups, handbell choirs, chorus groups and fife and drum corps.  Visitors can view an exhibit of exquisite handmade gingerbread houses or see a miniature New England village decorated for the holiday, a model train show, or a 100+ piece nativity scene.  There will be hands-on ornament making (using tin, and utilizing basic skills used by early New England metalworkers), as well as other holiday crafts.

A visit to the village can become a new holiday tradition for families, and is also a fantastic way for families to learn about history – hands-on!  Each of the traditions being practiced and/or demonstrated throughout the village is specific to a particular period in American history, and families can work together to place each of their activities into a broader historical context.  Visitors can actually see “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” and hear why they were a favored treat in early New England. They can also learn the origins of candy canes, mistletoe, fruitcake and how poinsettias were introduced to this country.

For more information on Christmas by Candlelight, call Old Sturbridge Village at 800-733-1830 or visit www.osv.org.  Admission includes a free second visit within a 10-day period and any guests of second-day visitors receive a 25% discount on their admission. You could also inquire with your local library to see if they have a museum pass to OSV to lend.  Monson Free Library,  Westfield Athenaeum Library and Wilbraham Public Library all have passes to lend.  Check with the nearest library near you too.

Did You Know?

The old folk tale of Hansel and Gretel, made famous by the brothers Grimm, inspired many Germans in the early 1800s to create model witches’ houses from hard gingerbread. Building fanciful gingerbread houses at Christmastime spread to America by the late 1800s.

  •  Most early New Englanders did not celebrate Christmas.  They saw Christmas celebrations as dangerous foreign (pagan) perversions of pure Christianity and an excuse for sinful behavior.
  • Yule logs began as a pagan reminder of the light and warmth of the sun on cold mid-winter nights. The word “Yule” is derived from the old Anglo-Saxon word “hweol,” which means “wheel” – a pagan symbol of the sun. The burning of a Yule log originated with the Druids, The modern practice of decorating trees and buildings with flashing electric lights seems to be a logical extension of the lighting of candles and bonfires at Christmas time.
  • Christmas trees were pretty much only a German tradition until the 1840s, when Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, gave her a Christmas tree surrounded by gifts, and the custom began to catch on in the English-speaking world.

 (Source of Facts & Photos: Old Sturbridge Village)

Music Trekking: The Chinese New Year

Happy New Year and Happy Chinese New Year!

Along with the January 1st ringing in of the new year, there are several other types of new year celebrations that are marked by different cultures, countries and other religions. For instance, on January 23rd, Chinese New Year celebrates the arrival of a new year – the year of the Dragon!

What’s a Chinese New Year celebration like? Great fun and lots of festivities. I’ve chosen this video from Sydney, Australia’s Chinese New Year celebration because they’ve boiled a huge amount of the city’s activities into a short video. Take a look and you’ll see awesome parades, music, martial arts, dragon boat races, and much more — plus they’ve even added some of their own Australian Aboriginal music. In this video, you can see a short segment of people playing the didgeridoo and the bilma (Australian clapsticks) making it a truly multicultural celebration:

What is Chinese music like when a big celebration is not in full swing? Check out this video of a popular group of traditional musicians from China called the 12 Girls Band (女子十二乐坊). In this video you can see them playing some really unique instruments such as a Chinese fiddle called an erhu, a pear shaped lute called a pipa, a hammered dulcimer as well as several types of flutes and zithers. Although this group was formed to play Chinese folk music, they also do some amazing versions of folksongs from other cultures such as “El Condor Pasa” and even versions of songs written by modern artists such as Coldplay and Enya. I chose this video because it allows you to get a close look at the 12 girls in the band and the instruments that they play:

Until next month … Happy New Year(s) to you!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

A free copy of this month’s song can be downloaded on Daria’s Monthly Song Page.

If you’d like to check out more about instruments from this region of the world, Daria will be sharing Chinese New Year customs, the Tibetan Singing Bowl and a “Make-Your-Own” Chinese Gong craft this month at Making Multicultural.

Music Trekking: Games and Music for Hanukkah

Watch a Little Dreydl Spin!

December is such an exciting time of year as folks prepare for holidays such as Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa. For those who are celebrating Hanukkah or the Festival of Lights, there are goodies to prepare, a menorah to light with it’s eight special candles, relatives to greet and a wonderful little game to play based on a top that spins, called the dreydl (or dreidel).

So why is it called a dreydyl? The word “dreyen” in Yiddish means “to spin” so the name makes perfect sense. The dreydyl song talks about a toy made out of clay and it is certain that the first dreydls were made this way. If you have one today – it is probably made from either wood or plastic. And it will have four Hebrew letters on it. What does each letter mean? Well, it tells the tale behind Hanukkah, how a very small bit of oil that should have lasted only a short time was miraculously able to burn in the Temple for 8 days! It spoke volumes to the Jewish people about how God was able to provide for those who were faithful. If you watch the video, the letters will appear and you can see their meaning as well as how they relate to playing the game.

If you’d like to play the dreydl game at home, you’ll need a pile of goodies. You can use walnuts, candies, pennies or special chocolate coins called Hanukkah gelt (literally, Hanukkah money). Everyone takes a turn spinning the top and they either pass their turn, add a treat to the pot, take half of the pot or take it all. What fun!

Is this a custom your family does around the holidays? If so, why not share it with some friends and teach them about the things you do. If not, what are the special customs that mean the most to your loved ones? Can you share them with your neighbors or friends so they can enjoy them as well.

Whatever holidays you celebrate – may they be bright, beautiful and full of love!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

A free copy of this month’s song can be downloaded on Daria’s Monthly Song Page.

The Heart of Chanukah Comes to the Hilltown Family Variety Show

Mama Doni Brings The Heart of Chanukah
to the Hilltown Family Variety Show
On Saturday, Dec 17th, 9-10am

Chanukah is about hope and spiritual light, and it's a time to be with friends and family and celebrate the light in our lives. We eat lots of fried food on this holiday, like latkes (pictured here) and jelly donuts (called sufganiyot) to remember the miracle that happened with the oil, and we play a game called dreidel with Chanukah gelt (small coins, either real or chocolate)!! So much fun!'

Hot on the heels of a tremendously successful summer tour, the fall/winter Mama Doni National Tour has begun! Parents’ Choice Award winner, Mama Doni is thrilled to come home for the holidays, highlighting the Chanukah season with a number of festive concerts in December, and she’ll also be “Guest DJ” for a  special “Heart of Chanukah” radio broadcast of Hilltown Family Variety Show on Northampton radio station WXOJ-LP (Valley Free Radio)  on Saturday, December 17 at  9am and Sunday, December 18 at 7am. 

Looking forward to conveying the joyous spirit of Chanukah in a fun and warm-hearted way on her Hilltown Family Variety Show segment, Mama Doni explains, “The Jewish holiday of Chanukah literally lights up our homes! Chanukah is also called ‘The Festival of Lights,’ referring to the flames that we light on our menorahs on each of the holiday’s eight nights. The story of Chanukah is a celebration of the victory of the Maccabees and the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple. It also commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days when there was only enough for one day.

Mama Doni plans a lively program of songs and stories for Chanukah, including musical selections from Sha Na Na, The GrooveBarbers, and Woody Guthrie, along with Mama Doni Band originals, including “Chanukah Fever,” “Latke Man,” and “Honey. This Ain’t Money.”   She’ll also read a Chanukah story,  offer some great family activities for the holiday, and share some of her favorite Chanukah recipes, such as Judah Mac-N-Cheese and Choco-latkes.

Podcast and playlist will be posted to www.HilltownFamilies.org immediately following Saturday’s airing on Valley Free Radio at 10am on Dec. 17th, 2011.

ABOUT DONI ZASLOFF THOMAS

Doni Zasloff Thomas, a.k.a. Mama Doni, is the lead singer/songwriter of The Mama Doni Band, honored with a 2011 Parents’ Choice® Award for their recent release, Shabbat Shaboom, and winner of the Simcha Award for “Inspiring Joy Through Music” in competition with more than 100 bands from 15 different countries at the 2008 International Jewish Music Festival in Amsterdam. The band celebrates Jewish culture with irrepressible zest in its interactive family rock concerts filled with catchy pop songs that break the mold of traditional Jewish music. Quirky, offbeat, and unpredictable, The Mama Doni Band offers up a contagious and unexpected blend of reggae, rock, disco, Latin, klezmer and “Jewgrass” – all woven together with a hip Jewish sensibility. Enthused the Miami Herald, “Not since Woody Allen’s Radio Days has American Jewish youth culture been celebrated with such a sublime mix of silly and substantive.”

Mama Doni’s recordings are available nationwide, as CDs and digital downloads.  Find out more at www.mamadoni.com.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Joshua Bousel)]

Norman Rockwell and the Ghost of Dickens in the Berkshires

Norman Rockwell Museum Celebrates the Spirit of the Season with “Norman Rockwell and the Ghost of Dickens”

"Merrie Christmas: Couple Dancing Under Mistletoe," Norman Rockwell, 1928. Oil on canvas. Cover illustration for "The Saturday Evening Post," December 8, 1928. Collection of Bank of America. ©1928 SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

“Charles Dickens provided a great lexicon of human experience and personality types for Norman Rockwell to explore,” notes Joyce K. Schiller, Ph.D, who curated the exhibition. “He also inspired the artist’s portrayal of Dickensian characters throughout his career. Norman Rockwell Museum is pleased to present this lively visual exploration in celebration of the anniversary of Dickens’ birth, on February 7, 1812.”

Celebrate the holidays as well as the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens with a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum!

As a child, Rockwell’s father read him Dickens’ work, and it greatly influenced his painting later in life.  The museum is currently displaying an exhibit titled, “Norman Rockwell and the Ghost of Dickens,” which is made up of artwork from both private collections and the museum’s collection.

Highlights in the show include some of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers and the famous Readers Digest painting, “A merry Christmas to everybody!  A happy New Year to all the world!”

From the exhibit, kids can learn about art and older kids who have read or learned about Dickens’ writing will see his influence on Rockwell’s paintings.

The museum is open from 10am-4pm on weekdays and 10am-5pm on weekends.  For more information, visit the museum’s website at www.nrm.org. To find out which local library has free OSV museum passes for borrowing, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page.

Christmas by Candlelight: Non-Commercial Way to Celebrate and Discover the Holidays

History and the Holidays Come Alive at Old Sturbridge Village

Father Christmas at OSV. (Courtesy photo)

Is your family craving a simultaneously delightful and non-commercial holiday adventure? Old Sturbridge Village has just the thing- Christmas by Candlelight! The event will take place during three weekends in December (Fri-Sun from 4-9pm), and the activities and learning opportunities featured emphasize history, tradition, and the spirit of the holidays.

Activities include horse-drawn sleigh rides, listening to Victorian carolers, hands-on art activities (Christmas ornaments and other keepsakes), visits from Father Christmas and Santa, and live music, puppet shows, readings, and more!

OSV also hosts a yearly gingerbread house contest, and visitors can view the entries and vote for their favorite entry. Christmas by Candlelight is a fantastic way for families to learn and celebrate together- start a new holiday tradition!

For more information visit www.osv.org. To find out which local library has free OSV museum passes for borrowing, check our Educational Support & Local Resources page.

Holiday Help Available For Families in Need in the Hilltowns

Turkey dinners, gifts for teens, cords of wood, help with payment of a utility bill are examples of some of the unique offerings that have come out of the community to help out other local residents.

Hilltown Social Services writes:

The Gateway National Honor Society will again be working with Hilltown Social Services to help families with lower incomes by providing holiday gifts for children, newborns up through age twelve, who live in the towns in the Gateway School District. This will be the eighteenth continuous year for this community service project. Local residents, businesses, churches and other organization also donate to this effort.

Wish Lists will be available for families with young children, through age twelve, at Hilltown Social Services, 9 Russell Road located across from the fire station on Route 20 in Huntington through Monday November 21, 2011. Each eligible household and child will be assigned and identified by a number to maintain confidentially. The gifts will be ready for pick up on Thursday, December 15, 2011 from 1 ­-4pm at Hilltown Social Services.

In past years there has been a variety of other generous gift offers that Hilltown Social Services and the Gateway Family Center have directed to appreciative recipients. Turkey dinners, gifts for teens, cords of wood, help with payment of a utility bill are examples of some of the unique offerings that have come out of the community to help out other local residents. Hilltown Social Services, a program of Hilltown Community Health Centers, Inc., coordinates this project. If you or your organization is interested in contributing please call Diane Meehan or Kim Savery at 413-­667­-2203.

[Photo credit (ccl) Frank Tellez]

Annual Day of the Dead Community Altar & Celebration in Williamsburg

El Diá de los Muertos Honored at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, MA

Day of the Dead Altar at the Meekins Library in Williamsburg, MA

Bring your Day of the Dead mementos to add to the community altar at the Meekins Libray in Williamsburg, MA between Oct 22- Nov 10. Day of the Dead is November 1st & 2nd. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Between October 22nd-November 10th, community members are invited to join in the celebration of the traditional Mexican holiday, El Diá de los Muertos, by bringing mementos in memory of friends, family and pets to add to the Meekins Library annual community altar. Photos, cards, sugar skulls and real or paper marigolds are welcomed.

On Monday, October 31st, the library will be open for treats and authentic Pan de Muertos (Day of the Dead Bread).

The Meekins Library is located at 2 Williams Street (Route 9) in Williamsburg and is opened Tues. 12Noon-5pm; Wed. 10am-8pm; Thurs. 3pm-8pm; and Sat. 9am-3pm. For further information, call the Meekins Library at 413-268-7472.

Find out more about the Day of the Dead (known as El Diá de los Muertos in Spanish) at El Diá de los Muertos (Video & Resources).

Valentine’s Day Links

Valentine’s Day Tips for Dads and Daughters

Dads & Daughters Valentine’s Day Tips
By Joe Kelly

Dad and Daughter Sledding in Northampton, MA

Spend 1-on-1 time with your daughter. Take her sledding, to the museum, visit the library... (photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Don’t let Valentine’s Day be just one more chance for Dad to feel like a walking, talking (and unappreciated) checkbook. These Dads & Daughters Tips will help fathers and stepfathers to show daughters that they care on Valentine’s Day and beyond.

  1. Remember, a Daughter hungers for healthy involvement and attention from Dad (even if she doesn’t always show it).
  2. A Daughter wants assurance that her Father and/or Stepfather really knows her and cares about her.
  3. A Daughter wants to feel that Dad is proud of her and that he loves and understands her.
  4. A Daughter wants these intangibles far more than she wants a box of candy or any other present or card.
  5. Daughters sometimes feel that Dads only know how to show their love by buying something. So supplement this year’s store-bought Valentine’s card and candy with your unique message of love.
  6. Give her a hand-written note or personal email — in your own words — telling her how proud you are of her, what you admire about her, how much you enjoy your time together, etc.
  7. Give her the greatest gift of all: your time. Listen to what she has to say and what’s important to her.
  8. Spend 1-on-1 time together on Valentine’s Day or the next available weekend. See a movie, take a walk, go out for coffee or ice cream, play catch. There are a million possibilities (for more ideas, see The Dads & Daughters® Togetherness Guide: 54 Fun Activities to Help Build a Great Relationship).
  9. Remember that she only gets one chance to have you as her Dad or Stepdad while she’s still a girl.
  10. Out of the thousand things you do every day, make sure you always give attention, thought, time, and affection to your Daughter — and your Son.

Have a wonderful Valentine’s Day with your children! Read the rest of this entry »

Swedish Paper Hearts For Valentine’s Day

Hilltown Families Valentine Social: A Look Back

(c) Hilltown Families - Making Swedish Paper Hearts

Weaving Swedish Paper Hearts (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

With classroom rosters in hand, several hilltown families set to work on making Valentines during a Hilltown Families Valentine Making Social on Sunday, Feb. 11, 2007. Families from Ashfield, Chesterfield, Cummington, Plainfield, and West Chesterfield gathered together with red and pink construction paper, glitter glue, white doilies and an assortment of stickers to set forth on the venture of making Valentines for friends, family and classmates.

Making 20 Valentines can seem daunting. Making nearly 50 seems unreasonable. But when you have two children in school, that’s what the tally can add up to. Never mind having more than two children attending the same school! Some might say, “That’s what Hallmark’s for,” but we’re talking about hilltown families – motivated, creative and expressive folks who take on the task of Valentines with excitement and enthusiasm, letting the glitter fly!

Preceding the cutting, glueing and glittering, children were shown a five-minute video which demonstrated how construction paper was made. Narrated by Fred Rogers, children took a video tour through a construction paper factory, illustrating how red construction paper is made – from log to shrink wrapped product. This video tour can be found as an extra feature on the DVD Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood: What Do You Do with the Mad That You Feel?

As the Valentine social progressed, and the kids finished their little love-notes, running off to play, the parents settled into their own projects and conversations. Over discussions on education, winter sports and safety, parents made heart-shaped mobiles, steamers of doilies and Swedish Paper Hearts. And when the kids tummies started to rumble, muffins donated by Bread Euphoria were served with tea and fruit.

WEAVING SWEDISH PAPER HEARTS

Weaving Swedish Paper Hearts can seem difficult at first, but once a rhythm is discovered, it is a pleasant activity to unwind with while relaxing with friends and community.  These paper hearts were traditionally made as ornaments filled with goodies that went on the Christmas Tree, but they also  make a wonderful Valentine’s craft. Learn how to make Swedish Paper Hearts for your loved ones.

(Originally posted: 2/13/07)

The Year of the Rabbit

Celebrating the Year of the Rabbit

Happy Chinese Lunar New Year! 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Chinese Lunar New Year is on February 3rd this year. If you’re considering celebrating this year’s Chinese New Year for the first time, there are many web sites to guide you on decorations, food, activities, and crafts, and to learn how the day is determined.The libraries have several titles to lend for your family to discover the cultural traditions of the Lunar New Year. There are also a variety of supplemental social study curriculums that take a closer look at these traditions, superstitions and customary foods from Asian countries.

SUPERSTITIONS

The Lunar New Year is full of superstitions. Cutting your noodles on this day is said to shorten your life, and cleaning your home the day of the Lunar New Year is a big no-no, for it’s customary to clean in the days prior. Discovering these superstitions can lead to an exploration of their history with your children; opening up discussions on why they originated.

TRADITIONAL FOODS & DECORATIONS

There are many traditional foods you can serve on this day, or popular dishes from your local Chinese restaurant, along with a New Year’s Cake (Neen Gow) and fortune cookies. Decorating your home with paper lanterns, colorful dragons, Red Couplets, bowls or oranges and arrangements of flowers can be fun too.

LENGTH OF CELEBRATION

The Lunar and Chinese New Year can be celebrated for up to 15 days, depending on the culture that is in observance. The Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days (from the first full moon to the next new moon), but the Vietnamese Lunar New Year is celebrated for only half that time. A single evening of celebration to discover more about this culture is perfectly okay too.

SUGGESTED READINGS AVAILABLE THROUGH YOUR LOCAL MA LIBRARY

Everybody Cooks Rice (By Norah Dooley)
A child is sent to find a younger brother at dinnertime and is introduced to a variety of cultures through encountering the many different ways rice is prepared at the different households visited.

Lion Dancer : Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year (By K. Waters & M. Slovenz-Low)
Describes six-year-old Ernie Wong’s preparations, at home and in school, for the Chinese New Year celebrations and his first public performance of the lion dance.

Look What Came from China (By Miles Harvey)
Describes many things, both familiar and unfamiliar, that originally came from China, including inventions, food, tools, animals, toys, games, musical instruments, fashion, medicine, holidays, and sports.

Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes (By Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz)
A great book that gives reviews the history of and supplies recipes, crafts and legends of five different Chinese holidays, including: Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

China (DK Eyewitness Books) (by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore)
I love Eyewitness Books!  Their China book takes a look at Chinese culture with “eye-popping” images!

The Wishing Tree (By R. Thong)
Ming’s wishes at the tree on Lunar New Year with his grandmother always seemed to come true, but one year the tree does not help, and he alone must make peace with the loss of his grandmother and the spirit of the tree.

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