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Holiday Celebrations from Around the World

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?

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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!

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

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.

 

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!).

 

Originally published in the January 2009 issue of Parents magazine.