Pauline Kids Blog

Traditions     Recipes     Decor     Faith   


Germany
 
The Christmas Pickle


A tradition among German families is to hang a pickle ornament deep in the branches of the Christmas tree, hidden among the greenery. Then children and guests make a game of spotting the pickle – and the one who finds it first gets a small prize such as a plate of goodies or a little gift. Traditionally, the pickle ornament is made of glass but you can make your own out of felt or craft-foam sheets and it’s just as much fun!

Supplies
Green felt or craft-foam
Scissors
Silver marker or silver glitter-glue
Green ribbon

  • Draw a small pickle on your felt or craft-foam sheet (or trace   your thumb and ‘round it off’ at the bottom for a great pickle shape.
  • Cut out your pickle and use the end of the scissors to put a small hole about ½” from the top.
  • Dot your pickle with silver marker or glitter glue and allow to dry completely.
  • Lace a 4” green ribbon through the hole and tie to use as a hanger for your ornament.
  • The German Pickle makes a great gift idea --- give a pickle ornament along with a card explaining how the game works to friends, family and neighbors to share this fun tradition


Nativity Tray


A custom with roots in medieval Europe offers special blessings for anyone who takes care of nature’s creatures on Christmas Eve. Peasant farmers would set out a tray containing bread, figs, nuts, berries and hay to feed any wayward animals that might visit during the long dark winter’s night.

You can offer your own Nativity Tray and customize it for your area and the types of ‘critters’ that are likely to come by hungry and looking for a snack. Possible items for your tray include birdseed, breadcrumbs, raisins, nuts, maybe even some cat or dog food!

Be sure to check to see what furry or feathered friends have come to enjoy your buffet, and be sure to clean up whatever is left over!

Belize 

A Clean House for Christmas
Feliz Navidad!

One tradition shared throughout the nation is the custom of cleaning the house from top to bottom for the holidays. Christmas is a special time for visiting family and friends and so everyone wants their home to be fresh and inviting for the visitors. The preparations take weeks, as Belizeans scrub, dust, wash, shine and polish everything in the house. Many families even hang new curtains and put in new flooring (called marley) for the occasion. Each person in the family helps, from grandparents to small children, with the goal of making everything ‘like new.’ This flurry of cleaning is followed by an equally frenzied burst of cooking for the coming company --- everything from spice cakes to roasted meats to coconut ice cream.

Back to Top   

Czech Republic
Waiting for the Golden Pig

An old legend from the Czech Republic says that people should fast on Christmas Eve and not eat anything until Christmas dinner. Children who keep the fast on Christmas Eve will be rewarded for their sacrifice by seeing a vision of the “Golden Pig.” Some say the pig will appear on the dining room wall above the holiday table set with food for the feast, others say it can come to you at any time between dawn and dusk on Christmas. Seeing the Golden Pig is a lucky sign, showing that the child is worthy of praise and good fortune!

France
Santons at the Manger
Joyeux Noel!

Santons is a French word that means “little saints” and refers to special nativity figures popular in France.  At Christmastime, families set out manger scenes, but in addition to Mary, Joseph, Jesus, angels, the 3 Kings and shepherds, the nativities include ‘santons’ --- small clay figures of everyday people. The ‘little saints’ are dressed in work clothes and sometimes are specially made to resemble members of the family or local leaders. The tradition dates back to the 13th century, when traders from Italy, Spain and other Mediterranean countries carved figures of wax or wood and exchanged them along their routes.

In 1803, artists and crafters began holding a “Nativity Fair” in the city of Marseilles to sell their santon figures. People loved the idea of different ‘faces’ at the manger, and craftsmen began creating figures representing farmers, hunters, shopkeepers, bakers, fisherman, priests and other town folk as well as French royalty. The Nativity Fair --- and the santon tradition --- continue to this day.

Collecting santons has also become very popular. Some older figures are quite valuable because of their age and artistry. Museums routinely display vintage santon figures at Christmastime and offer  ‘stories’ for each figure that describes each character’s background and what gifts they brought to the manger. Typical santons include fishermen holding their nets, a housewife preparing the Christmas goose, a farmer carrying a little piglet, the town mayor in his fine clothes and the parish priest blessing the townspeople. There would also be musicians playing instruments and carolers singing with the angels. And of course, the animals gathered at the manger would include dogs, cats, rabbits and birds in addition to the traditional stable creatures.

Back to Top   

Greece
Forget the Tree – Decorate the Boat 
Kala Christouyenna!

Since Greece is an island nation, the boat is a very important symbol. Many families --- especially in small fishing villages along the coastline --- don’t decorate trees at Christmastime, but instead adorn a boat with bright colored ornaments and lights. The boats are usually made of wood or paper and set up beside the fireplace or near a door that leads outside. Gold coins or other golden objects are put inside the boat to represent riches and good fortune and to remind family members of how lucky they are to appreciate what they have. (In Greece, the custom is to exchange only small presents with family and friends during the Christmas holiday season and instead give large gifts to hospitals, orphanages and charities that help the poor.) 

Decorating a ‘Christmas ship’ is also becoming more popular in larger cities, where a grand boat glowing with electric lights often replaces the Christmas tree as the town’s main holiday display. Other cities include both a tree and decorated ship in the town square to celebrate the Christmas season.


India
Banana Trees and Mango Leaves
Bade Din ki Mubarak (Hindi / Urdu)
Krismasasya shubhkaamnaa (Sanskrit)
Christhu Jayanthi Nalvaalthukal (Tamil)
Barodiner shubhechha janai (Bengali)

In some regions of India, instead of evergreens, banana trees are often used as Christmas trees. The trunks are wrapped with lights and tiny ornaments are hung from hooks in the thick, sturdy leaves. Small presents are often placed among the leaves too, to be given out and opened on Christmas morning. To add even more color to the celebration, some people also use the long, shiny, bright green leaves of Mango trees as decorations. They look beautiful during the holiday season, and are eco-friendly!

Kenya

Christmas under African Skies
Kuwa na Krismasi njema!

In Kenya, people who live in cities usually travel to visit relatives living in the country during the Christmas season. Traveling to the shamba (family farm) reminds Kenyans of the 3 Kings following the star to the manger in Bethlehem.  The holiday becomes a big family reunion where family members share songs, play games and enjoy a big feast together. A favorite Christmas menu item is pilau, a tasty dish of spiced meat over rice.

Lebanon

New Life Sprouting Up
Milad Majeed!

Lebanon, a country located in the Middle East, has Christmas traditions that date back centuries. One of the most popular customs is the practice of planting beans, lentils and chickpeas in cotton a few weeks before Christmas to use the sprouts as decorations. The seeds are placed in small containers and watered every day. The children watch the tiny plants grow, their excitement about the coming holiday growing with them! By Christmas Eve, some of the green shoots are six inches tall. They are then placed around figures made out of brown paper that represent Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds, kings and manger animals. The green sprouts give a look of ‘new life’ to the scene and add some color to the display.



Traditions     Recipes     Decor     Faith 




Canada
Sweet Spicy Nut Munch 


This Canadian treat can be enjoyed at parties or put in decorative jars to  use as gifts for neighbors and friends.

  1 cup pecan halves
1 cup walnut halves
1 cup almonds
2 ½ Tbsp sesame seeds
       2 tsp Sea salt
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
3
p light co Tbsrn syrup
 

Mix nuts together in large bowl with sesame seeds, salt and pepper until well blended. Drizzle corn syrup over mixture, stirring gently until nuts are evenly coated.

Spread mixture onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper or foil. Bake at 350o for 15 minutes, turning nuts every 5 minutes to ensure even heating.

Serve warm as a party snack, or let cool and place in glass jars to give as gifts.

Note: You can also substitute peanuts, cashews or your favorite nut to make this recipe extra special!

Back to Top   

Ghana 
Fufu

Fufu is a beloved side dish served at formal dinners in Ghana, on Africa’s west coast. At Christmas, families make fufu to go with whatever main course will be offered at dinner. It is especially tasty paired with stews or meats with gravy.

Serves 6

  3 lbs. yams (use only
large white or yellow
yams --- not sweet
potatoes!) 
       1 lb. plantain bananas
1 tbsp. butter
 

Peel yams and plantains and remove all thick core material. Cut into chunks and place in a large pot, fill with water and bring to a boil. Cook at medium boil until yams are soft enough to mash with a fork (approx. 30 minutes.) Drain under cold running water and return cooked mixture to pot. Add butter and mash, stirring mixture until it is smooth and has no large lumps. (This works best with 2 people --- one to hold the pot and one to stir with spoon. Add a little water if necessary to keep the mixture pliable.)  Remove mixture 1 cup at a time and form into balls. Serve hot with meat or stew (anything that has a sauce or gravy.)

Back to Top   

Guatemala
Buñuelos

These delicious fried dough balls are a tasty treat at Christmas or any time!

Makes about 24

  1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup water
      ¼ cup butter (½ stick)
3 large eggs
Vegetable Oil for deep frying
 

Topping: Confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, honey and / or chocolate syrup

Mix flour, baking powder and salt. In large saucepan, combine water and butter and bring to boil. Remove from heat and stir in flour mixture using a wooden spoon. Fold in eggs one at a time and stir until thoroughly blended. Heat oil in large skillet or deep fryer on medium heat setting. Roll the batter into golf-ball sized balls and put into heated oil (if using a skillet, allow enough room that dough balls can roll without touching each other.) Turn dough balls with spoon, rolling them so they are evenly cooked throughout. When entire ball is golden brown, remove from heat and place on paper towel to drain excess oil. Serve warm with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or cinnamon, or with chocolate syrup or honey for dipping.

India

Prawns Balchao

A favorite Christmas dish in Goa, India features prawns (similar to shrimp) cooked with vegetables and spices. Try this recipe for a spicy addition to your holiday menu.

Serves 8

  10 dry red chilies
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 cinnamon stick, approx. 2’-3’
8 cloves
2 lbs. prawns, cleaned and deveined
2 cups onions, finely chopped
2 cups tomatoes, finely chopped

      2 tsp garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1 Tbsp water
½ cup vinegar
4 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp salt 
 

Roast chilies, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cloves and cinnamon stick over low heat, approximately 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

Mix ginger, garlic and water until well blended, then stir into roasted chilies and spices mixture. Add in the vinegar, stirring gently until a smooth paste forms.

In wok or shallow pan, heat oil over medium heat. When oil is heated, add in the prawns and cook until they go from ‘clear’ to ‘opaque’ and color is uniform. Spoon them onto a paper towel, careful to leave any oil in the pan. Return the pan to medium heat, adding in chopped onions. Cook until they become an even brown, then add in tomatoes. Cook for 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until tomatoes are soft and mixture is well blended. Slowly add in the spice mixture, sugar and salt. Fry until oil begins to separate. Stir in the prawns and cook for 3-5 minutes.

Note: Serve with white rice for a delicious taste of Christmas on the beach!

Japan

Christmas Cake

Here’s a recipe for creating an authentic Japanese Christmas cake, which is essential to celebrating in the Land of the Rising Sun. Enjoy it with your family!

Cake

  ¾ cup all purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp milk 
       3 eggs
1 ½ Tbsp butter
 

Topping

  1 ½ cups heavy cream (can
substitute whipped cream or
non-dairy topping) 
       4 Tbsp sugar
16 whole strawberries
(stems removed)
 

Whisk eggs in bowl and add in sugar gradually. When thoroughly blended (mixture should be light yellow and have no lumps) fold in flour. Melt butter and blend with milk, then add this to the mixture. Stir gently until well blended. Great 2 round cake pans then pour 1/2 batter into each pan. Bake at 350o for 20-25 minutes. Let cakes completely cool before topping.

Whip heavy cream and sugar in bowl until it becomes light and fluffy. Chop 8 strawberries into small pieces. Ice 1 cake round with whipped cream, using about half. Spread the chopped strawberries over the whipped cream, then place the 2nd cake round on top. Cover top layer and sides with the remaining whipped cream. Garnish with 8 whole strawberries placed in a ‘ring’ pattern around cake’s edges.  You can also dust with sprinkles or finely chopped nuts and add Christmas decorations to finish off the look.

Kenya
Pilau

Pilau is a traditional Christmas favorite among families in Kenya. There are many variations --- some include goat meat or chicken, or are vegetarian dishes --- but this savory beef stew is among the most popular. It is a staple of the holiday in Kenyan homes and no Christmas dinner would be complete without it.

Serves 6

  1 lb. stew beef, cut into chunks
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup coconut milk
1 can (16 oz.) cooked chopped tomatoes
       1 cup cooked green beans
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground coriander (or minced coriander leaves)
1 cup long grain rice
1 cup peanuts
 

Heat cooking oil in large pan, brown the beef and save all drippings. Remove cooked beef from pan and set aside. Add onion and garlic to pan drippings and grill until slightly tender. Return meat to the pan and simmer on low heat until mixture is well blended. Drain fat. Add in coconut milk, tomatoes, salt and coriander. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat and cover. Simmer for 1 hour. Stir in beans, rice and peanuts. Continue to heat on low for 30 minutes, stirring often, until rice is tender.

Note: you can also season to taste: add a pinch of curry, cinnamon, or season salt for extra flavor!

Lebanon

Kibbeh

Kibbeh --- dubbed the ‘national food’ of Lebanon’ --- is a tasty dish of spicy beef or lamb and smooth dipping sauce. It’s a delicious meal any time but is especially beloved during the holidays.

Serves 6

Meat

  ¾ cup crushed wheat (bulgur)
1 lb. finely ground lean beef
1 cup grated onion 
      ¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
1 Tbsp melted butter
 

Filling

  2 Tbsp Oil
¾ cup finely chopped onion
8 oz. minced veal
 
      ½ cup pine nuts
½ tsp Allspice 
 

Dipping Sauce

2 ½ cups plain yogurt
3 gloves garlic, crushed
1 Tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped

Rinse wheat in strainer and press out excess water. Combine beef, onion, salt and pepper until well blended. Fold in bulgur wheat. Set butter aside.

Make filling by heating the oil in large pan and frying onion until it turns golden brown. Stir in veal until meat is evenly heated, then add in pine nuts and allspice. Set aside.

Grease a large baking dish and spread half the meat / crushed wheat mixture evenly across the dish. Spoon the filling evenly on top of the meat. Top with the rest of the meat / crushed wheat mixture and press down firmly. Coat the top with the melted butter. Bake at 375o for 45 minutes or until top is browned.  To serve, cut the kibbeh into squares (like lasagna.)

Make the dipping sauce by blending yogurt and garlic in a serving bowl until evenly mixed.  Top with chopped mint and serve.

Note: Kibbeh is usually served with cooked rice but it’s also great with flatbread!


Russia 
Spiced Tea

Hot, spiced tea is a MUST at Russia’s popular Festival of Winter --- and a delicious addition to any holiday celebration!

  2 quarts tea (basic
blend – do not use
flavored teas)
3 lemons 
      3 oranges
2 Tbsp whole cloves
2 cups pineapple juice
2 cups granulated sugar 
 

Using juicer, squeeze oranges and lemons and remove any pits. Fill a small pan with water, bring to a boil and add the cloves. Remove from heat and let cloves steep for 10 minutes, then strain. Combine orange and lemon juice, strained cloves, pineapple juice and tea and mix well. Add in sugar, stirring until thoroughly blended. Bring mixture to a boil and serve hot.

Back to Top   


Samoa
Poi (Whipped Fruit Smoothies)

Serves 10

  3 cups watermelon,
chopped into cubes 
½ ripe Pawpaw, peeled
and seeded, and cut into cubes
2 bananas, peeled and sliced 
       1 can (400 ml) coconut milk
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
6 strips lemon rind,
finely ground
1 tsp vanilla 
 

Blend watermelon, pawpaw, bananas, coconut milk and lemon juice in mixer until smooth. Stir in lemon rind and vanilla. Refrigerate until ready to use. Pour into glasses and serve chilled.

Back to Top   

Ukraine
Kutya 

Kutya is a traditional Christmas dish enjoyed in Russia. The main ingredient --- whole wheat berries --- represent the promise of new life.







Serves 6


1 ½ cups shelled
wheat berries
¼   tsp  salt
¼  cup  all-purpose flour 
      ¾  cup   sliced almonds
½  tsp  ground cinnamon
¾  cup   sugar
1  cup golden raisins
 

Rinse the wheat berries in a strainer under hot running water for 2 minutes, let all remaining water drain out completely.

Put 5 cups water and the salt into saucepan and bring to boil over medium heat. Add in the wheat berries and return to boil. Reduce heat, skim off any foam and simmer on low heat, uncovered, for 35 minutes or until grain is tender. Rinse cooked wheat berries mixture under cold water for 1 minute and set aside.

In a non-stick skillet, toss flour and almonds gently over medium heat with wooden spoon, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until the mixture is golden brown.

Put toasted almonds in large bowl and add cinnamon, sugar and raisins. Mix until well blended. Add in the cooked wheat berries and blend thoroughly. Garnish with sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar or top with circle of dark raisins.


Venezuela
Hallacas

Hallacas are Venezuelan tamales, and they are THE national food of Christmas! They can be served as appetizers or as the main dish. (In Venezuela, hallacas are cooked in banana leaves, but you can use foil or parchment paper.) Add them to your holiday fare for a delicious and exotic menu.

Makes 24

Meat filling:

  1 lb. beef, cut into ¼ inch cubes
1 lb. lean pork, cut into ¼ inch cubes
¼ lb. cooked bacon strips,
cut into ½’ lengths
3 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 large onion, peeled
3 garlic cloves, skinned
1 tsp salt
2 tsp marjoram
1 medium leek, diced
       ¼ cup capers
1 tsp mustard relish, pickle, minced
¼ cup red wine vinegar
1 large bell pepper, diced
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 ½ Tbsp dark brown sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
½ cup raisins

 

Dough

  2/3 cup vegetable shortening
1 tsp annatto seeds
2 cups masa harina flour
(treated corn flour)
       1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/3 cups warm water
 

Preparations

  24 dried plantain leaves
(available at Spanish groceries,
or substitute parchment paper
or tin foil cut into 9” squares)
1 lb. shredded cooked chicken
       4 hard boiled eggs, sliced
¼ cup blanched almonds
2 ounces pimentos, diced
5 ounces green olives stuffed
with pimentos, cut in half
Tabasco sauce 
 

Meat filling – put beef, pork and bacon in large pan. Puree tomatoes with peeled onion and garlic. Add mixture to meat in pan, then add salt, marjoram and leek. Cover and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and cook until all meat is tender (about 2 hours.) When meat is tender, add capers, mustard pickles, vinegar, bell pepper, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, salt and pepper. Cook on high heat and stir until most liquid has cooked off (about 10 minutes.) Add raisins and set filling mixture aside.

Dough – Over low heat, melt 1/3 cup shortening and annatto seeds. Simmer 3 minutes, then strain and discard seeds. Whip remaining 1/3 cup shortening until fluffy. Fold in masa harina (corn flour,) salt, cayenne pepper and water. Mix in melted strained shortening. Form dough into 24 balls.

Final preparations – for each Hallaca, place dough ball on center of plantain leaf (or parchment paper / tin foil square) and flatten to 1/8 inch thickness. Top with equal distribution of meat mixture, shredded chicken, sliced hard boiled egg, almonds, pimentos and olives. Sprinkle on Tabasco sauce to taste (careful, this stuff is spicy hot!) Fold each square to completely encase filling and tie tightly with kitchen string. Steam Hallacas for 1 hour and serve hot.

Note: Hallacas can be frozen or refrigerated --- just steam them when ready to eat!


Traditions     Recipes     Decor     Faith 


Decor



Lebanon
New Life Sprouting Up


Lebanon, a country located in the Middle East, has Christmas traditions that date back centuries. One of the most popular customs is the practice of planting beans, lentils and chickpeas in cotton a few weeks before Christmas to use the sprouts as decorations. The seeds are placed in small containers and watered every day. The children watch the tiny plants grow, their excitement about the coming holiday growing with them! By Christmas Eve, some of the green shoots are six inches tall. They are then placed around figures made out of brown paper that represent Mary, Joseph, the baby Jesus, the shepherds, kings and manger animals. The green sprouts give a look of ‘new life’ to the scene and add some color to the display.

  Traditions     Recipes     Decor     Faith  






France
Santons at the Manger

Santons is a French word that means “little saints” and refers to special nativity figures popular in France.  At Christmastime, families set out manger scenes, but in addition to Mary, Joseph, Jesus, angels, the 3 Kings and shepherds, the nativities include ‘santons’ --- small clay figures of everyday people. The ‘little saints’ are dressed in work clothes and sometimes are specially made to resemble members of the family or local leaders. The tradition dates back to the 13th century, when traders from Italy, Spain and other Mediterranean countries carved figures of wax or wood and exchanged them along their routes.

In 1803, artists and crafters began holding a “Nativity Fair” in the city of Marseilles to sell their santon figures. People loved the idea of different ‘faces’ at the manger, and craftsmen began creating figures representing farmers, hunters, shopkeepers, bakers, fisherman, priests and other town folk as well as French royalty. The Nativity Fair--and the santon tradition--continue to this day.

Collecting santons has also become very popular. Some older figures are quite valuable because of their age and artistry. Museums routinely display vintage santon figures at Christmastime and offer  ‘stories’ for each figure that describes each character’s background and what gifts they brought to the manger. Typical santons include fishermen holding their nets, a housewife preparing the Christmas goose, a farmer carrying a little piglet, the town mayor in his fine clothes and the parish priest blessing the townspeople. There would also be musicians playing instruments and carolers singing with the angels. And of course, the animals gathered at the manger would include dogs, cats, rabbits and birds in addition to the traditional stable creatures.

   Back to Top   


Kenya
Journey to the Shamba

In Kenya, people who live in cities usually travel to visit relatives living in the country during the Christmas season. Traveling to the shamba (family farm) reminds Kenyans of the 3 Kings following the star to the manger in Bethlehem.  The holiday becomes a big family reunion where family members share songs, play games and enjoy a big feast together. A favorite Christmas menu item is pilau, a tasty dish of spiced meat over rice.