Monthly Archives: December 2010

December 3, 2010

We [heart] Old World Hungary Holiday Traditions

I can’t believe it’s December already. Really starting to feel like the holidays around here. Wanted to share some beautiful crafts and traditions from our current destination, Old World Hungary (which includes Croatia and Romania too).

From Croatia

images from:  Rina Travel (2nd row left), eLanguages (3rd row left), Licitar (all other images)

Licitar is a beautifully decorated, edible ornament that most commonly comes in a heart shape. The heart shape is a traditional symbol of the city of Zagreb – it represents the warmth of the city and its people. They are given as a symbol of love for Christmas, birthdays, weddings, Valentines Day and other holidays.  Making the ornaments is highly involved and extremely time consuming (it can can take over a month). The tradition dates all the way back to the 14th century.

From Hungary


images from:  Crossroads Trade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Sandor Collection

Traditionally, Hungarian women used reverse felt applique to decorate clothing. Eventually they adapted the technique to make beautiful applique ornaments. Ornaments have a variety of motifs which can represent different regions. Learn to make your own appliqued heart ornament here.

From Hungary

images from:  Hungarian Folk Art (top left),  Lmntl Crafts (bottom left), diffuse Flickr (top right), Hungarian Folk Art (bottom right)

Heart ornaments are a traditional Hungarian ornament around the holidays. Matyó Ornaments use originated in the Matyó region in Northern Hungary and use their embroidery techniques.

sources and further reading:

Croatian Tourism, Zagreb, Croatia
Great site about licitar, Licitar
more info on licitar, Wikipedia
more info on licitar Hearts,
Croatian Souvenier, Rina Travel
Info on Matyó Embroidery:  Hungarian Embroidery and Folk Arts
About Reverse Felt Applique:  National Geographic

Holiday Fun Around the World… same or different?

Guest Blogger Julia Pimsleur Levine, founder of Little Pim

I think the holidays are a great launching pad to ask my kids to imagine what children in other countries are doing during this special time. Are they counting down to Hanukkah or Christmas in December? Is “The Big” day December 25th or a different day? At the holidays you can teach your kids about traditions around the world, and you can play the “same or different game” by telling them about foods, stories and festivities in other countries and asking how they compare to your family’s traditions. You will likely find that all around the world kids are eating special foods, exchanging gifts and making traditional treats.

Buche de Noel

Buche de Noel

In FRANCE families eat a special holiday dessert called Bûche de Noël (pronounced “booche de no-el”), which means “Christmas log”. It’s a very sweet cake, shaped like a log from the fireplace! It’s made of layers of sponge cake and sweet chocolate icing wrapped into a cylinder.  Want to make your own? Here is the recipe for Bûche de Noël.

In SPAIN, The Three Wise Men bring gifts to children on Christmas morning, but celebrations continue long after December 25th. On January 5th, The Eve of Epiphany, children fill their shoes with straw and place them on the doorstep. Legend tells that the Magi traveled through Spain in the dead of night to reach Bethlehem. On the morning of January 6th, the holiday Epiphany, children wake to find presents in their shoes.

Dun Che Lao Ren, Chinese Santa Claus

Dun Che Lao Ren, Chinese Santa Claus

In CHINA, as most Chinese people are not Christian, the main winter festival is The Chinese New Year, which takes place toward the end of January. Kids decorate their houses with beautiful paper lanterns. Many Chinese children also hang stockings and wait for Santa Claus, whom they call Dun Che Lao Ren (dwyn-chuh-lau-oh-run), which means “Christmas Old Man.” Santa Claus is also called Lan Khoong-Khoong, “Nice Old Father.”

In RUSSIA, the chief winter holiday is New Year’s Eve.

Russian New Year Tree

Russian New Year Tree

Families decorate a New Years tree and make Salad Olivier, a delicacy composed of diced meat, veggies and potatoes all slathered in Mayo. Grandfather Frost (‘Dyed MOR- oz”) delivers presents to good children, aided by The Snow Princess (“Sneh-GU-ratch-ka”).


We have made our own traditions for the holidays. One of them is that we always make yummy butter cookies with my mother, and even more fun making them disappear! We celebrate Hanukah by lighting candles and giving each other gifts on seven nights, but on one of the eight nights, we give away a toy to less fortunate children. My 6-year-old son really loves this now, and talks about what toy to give away for weeks leading up to the big night! I don’t know how well my two-year old will do with this, given that his favorite word is still “mine!”

Do you have a special family tradition? Have you ever spent the holidays in another country and had a totally different experience from the holidays in America? If so, share those experiences with your child and have fun exploring, baking, and learning about other cultures.

About Little Pim:

The Little Pim: fun with languages series provides materials for parents who wish to introduce their children a foreign language at the time they learn best, which is before the age of six. Go to for samples of all ten languages available, free tips, printables and games.

December 2, 2010

Stomp for Joy (and wrap your gifts with love).

Perhaps you received our email today? We’re stomping with joy and excitement as the holidays draw closer. In fact, Hanukkah just started last night. So for everyone who’s in the shopping or gifting mood, it’s time to think outside the (paper) box for wrapping ideas.

Have you ever thought about wrapping gifts in something other than paper? From The Green Spot, we learned that during the winter holidays, 4 million tons of wrapping paper and shopping bags are thrown away. The Daily Green also has lots of great green wrapping tips too.

At Tea, we created our signature Furoshiki Gift Wrap not only to be beautiful, but to be reusable. We were inspired by the artful Japanese tradition of wrapping gifts in beautiful swaths of cloth.

Furoshiki Gift Wrap

Other fun ideas:

– Turn your paper shopping bags inside out and inside out and add a bit of artistry with holiday-themed sketches or rubber stamps

– Use pages from old magazines – Katy likes to do a different color scheme for each person on her list: in shades of green for one person, shades of pink for another. They usually look really pretty and have a nice cohesive feeling.

– We like to use our own graphics and prints and print them out as wrapping paper. You could even use some of the Old World Hungary inspired coloring pages we’ve been publishing on the blog throughout the fall and holiday seasons. Or simply take any of your kids’ artistic creations and turn them into wrapping paper. Wouldn’t it be fun to get a present wrapped in your own artwork? Pretty cool.

Happy wrapping! We’d love to hear about some of your creative or eco-friendly gift wrapping ideas.