Tag Archives: christmas

Surviving and Thriving in the Holiday Season

The fall/winter holiday season is most often a time of joy and excitement. However, it can also be a time of stress and disappointment for both host families and au pairs. The pandemic will add its own complexities to the holiday season.

Here are some ideas and insights that will hopefully help you avoid stress and disappointment and share more of the joy and excitement.

Holiday Work Schedules

Miscommunication over the schedule is the #1 issue for host families and au pairs over the holidays. As a reminder to assist with scheduling, program guidelines state an au pair can work up to 45 hours per week and no more than 10 hours per day. Hours cannot be carried from week to week. Please take the time to discuss your schedules and expectations.

The au pair program regulations do not have requirements for au pairs to be given holidays off. However, in the spirit of the program and since most parents will be at home spending time with their children, the majority of host families give au pairs some or all of the winter holidays off Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day. Please discuss this so that everyone is clear about the schedule when making holiday plans.

Religion

For au pairs with religious beliefs different from your own, you may choose to encourage her to share the associated traditions with your family. If you are not comfortable with this aspect of cultural exchange, your au pair may need your help as well as appropriate time off to participate in her own holiday traditions. Enabling her to do this is very important. Her holiday or her time to celebrate the holiday may not be the same as yours; try to take this into consideration if you can when you make her work schedule. You may find that there is no conflict in giving her time off if her traditions are different, and it can relieve a great deal of anxiety to take her preferences into consideration. If you do need your au pair to work during the holiday, please tell her way in advance so that it is not a surprise. Help her to see this as a positive aspect of the cultural exchange if she will be actively sharing in the holiday celebration.

Changes to Routine

The dynamics of established relationships and routines change during the holiday. The high emotions and energy of the children (compared to their more reasonable behavior during the rest of the year) may seem like craziness to the au pair. Assure her that this new set of behaviors is temporary and the household will be back to normal soon. In the meantime, suggest specific things she can do to help. Encourage her to roll with the punches and enjoy the craziness. Also, the number of gifts, food, decorations, etc., can be unfamiliar and overwhelming. Try to include the au pair in some quiet, meaningful time together when the true spirit of the holidays is shared.

These are important days ahead. This is perhaps the greatest opportunity of the year to respect and learn about cultural differences, which is, indeed, one of the basic elements of the Au Pair in America program. There will be fun-filled memories. This should be a time of love and understanding. Please do your part to make that happen.

Wishing you every happiness of the season!

Photo: Sean Hobson

Winter Fun for DC Kids

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Brr! In need of some ideas to keep the kids entertained this winter? Here’s a roundup of several great local blogs full of suggestions for spending the day exploring DC both before and after the holidays.

Indoorsy DC

KidFriendly DC

Our Kids

  • Don’t miss this comprehensive list of the DC area’s local seasonal activities.
  • Wondering if it’s worth taking the kids to one of the many local happenings? Read the reviews before you go!

Red Tricycle

And last, but not least…

Capital City Au Pairs

Fun with Gingerbread

Gingerbread boys and girls and a history of gingerbread cookies. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Gingerbread boys and girls and a history of gingerbread cookies. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Gingerbread is an important part of many cultures’ holiday celebrations. Gingerbread men, gingerbread houses, and even gingerbread-flavored coffee are just a few of the yummy treats available this time of year. DC-based cookie guru Meaghan Mountford details the history of gingerbread cookies on her fabulous website, The Decorated Cookie.

Gingerbread Books

The story of the Gingerbread Boy has been retold in many versions.  Head to your local library and check out a few of these fun books:

  • Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett.
  • The Cajun Gingerbread Boy illustrated by Berthe Amoss
  • The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski
  • The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone
  • The Gingerbread Man: An Old English Folktale illustrated by John A. Rowe
  • The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Karen Schmidt
  • The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Pam Adams
  • The Gingerbread Man by Eric Kimmel
  • The Gingerbread Man retold by Jim Aylesworth

Make Your Own Gingerbread Cookies

A gingerbread man gift card holder adds a bit of homemade love to standard gift cards. Source: The Decorated Cookie

A gingerbread man gift card holder adds a bit of homemade love to standard gift cards. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Excited to make some of your very own gingerbread? Below is a recipe for gingerbread cookies. (Don’t forget to use American measurements and temperature settings!)

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large bowl, sift together:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

In a smaller bowl beat together:

  • ¾ cups brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup of molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out cookies.  Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes.  Place on a rack to cool.  Decorate.

Gingerbread Fun Without the Baking

If you aren’t a baker, head to almost any store (Target, 5 & Below, Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter are just a few) to buy a kit to make a gingerbread house, It will include everything you need ~ just add your imagination!

Even More Gingerbread Ideas

Quicker and easier to make than gingerbread cookies, try gingerbread man marshmallows for Christmas. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Quicker and easier to make than gingerbread cookies, try gingerbread man marshmallows for Christmas. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Or if you’re ready to take your gingerbread to the next level, The Decorated Cookie has loads of fun ideas. If you decide to try any of these projects out, be sure to post pictures on our cluster group page on Facebook.

 

Christmas

We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some of our host families celebrate Christmas, some celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Kwanzaa, and some celebrate more than one holiday or none at all. If you’re an au pair living with a host family who celebrates Christmas and you do not, I encourage you to take part and experience it with them. This can be a great opportunity for learning and culture sharing. I also encourage host families to ask their au pairs to share their holiday traditions and customs. 

 

History

Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

In the United States, popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. (Source: History.com)

Christmas Traditions in the US

Infographic: History.com

Infographic: History.com

In the US, Americans celebrate Christmas with traditions that have been introduced from different cultures as well as some uniquely American celebrations.

  • The period of time in the US from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is called “the holidays.”
  • Decorated Christmas trees begin lighting up windows in homes, and shops and outdoor plazas shortly after Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas tree ornaments can be found in almost every store, but many families have boxes of treasured ornaments made by children out of paper and other crafts which are lovingly hung year after year.
  • Christmas lights decorate trees indoors as well as the front lawns and porches of houses. Many parks have special holiday light displays.
  • Children write letters to Santa Claus requesting gifts. Shopping malls, parties, churches, and some schools host events where children can have their photo taken with Santa Claus and ask him for gifts in-person.
  • Christians remember the birth of Christ with nativity scenes displayed on church lawns, Christmas pageants performed by children in churches and some schools, and delicate, often handcrafted manger scenes set out among the Christmas decor at home.
  • On December 24, Christmas Eve, many families have special traditions and often attend Christmas Eve church services. Children hang Christmas stockings, leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus, and try their best to fall asleep so Santa can deliver their presents.
  • On December 25, Christmas Day, children wake up early to see the gifts Santa Claus left them. Families exchange gifts, which have been wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree.
  • Americans mail Christmas and holiday cards (often with photos of the family) throughout the holiday season. In 2010, Americans mailed 1.5 billion holiday cards.
  • Source: Moo.com

    Source: Moo.com

    Many Americans view the same beloved Christmas movies year after year. Some classic favorites include, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “Elf” and “A Miracle on 34th Street.”


The 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree (Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo)

Celebrating Christmas in Washington, DC

A very Merry Christmas to all!

Winter Fun for DC Kids (2017-2018)

Brr! In need of some ideas to keep the kids entertained this winter? Here’s a roundup of several great local blogs full of suggestions for spending the day exploring DC both before and after the holidays. Continue reading

Fun with Gingerbread

Gingerbread boys and girls and a history of gingerbread cookies. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Gingerbread boys and girls and a history of gingerbread cookies. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Gingerbread is an important part of many cultures’ holiday celebrations. Gingerbread men, gingerbread houses, and even gingerbread-flavored coffee are just a few of the yummy treats available this time of year. DC-based cookie guru Meaghan Mountford details the history of gingerbread cookies on her fabulous website, The Decorated Cookie.

Gingerbread Books

The story of the Gingerbread Boy has been retold in many versions.  Head to your local library and check out a few of these fun books:

  • Gingerbread Baby by Jan Brett.
  • The Cajun Gingerbread Boy illustrated by Berthe Amoss
  • The Gingerbread Boy by Richard Egielski
  • The Gingerbread Boy by Paul Galdone
  • The Gingerbread Man: An Old English Folktale illustrated by John A. Rowe
  • The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Karen Schmidt
  • The Gingerbread Man illustrated by Pam Adams
  • The Gingerbread Man by Eric Kimmel
  • The Gingerbread Man retold by Jim Aylesworth

Make Your Own Gingerbread Cookies

A gingerbread man gift card holder adds a bit of homemade love to standard gift cards. Source: The Decorated Cookie

A gingerbread man gift card holder adds a bit of homemade love to standard gift cards. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Excited to make some of your very own gingerbread? Below is a recipe for gingerbread cookies. (Don’t forget to use American measurements and temperature settings!)

Preheat oven to 350F

In a large bowl, sift together:

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg

In a smaller bowl beat together:

  • ¾ cups brown sugar
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup of molasses
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Stir the dry ingredients into the creamed mixture.  Cover and refrigerate for one hour.  Roll out on a lightly floured surface and cut out cookies.  Bake on a greased cookie sheet for 8-10 minutes.  Place on a rack to cool.  Decorate.

Gingerbread Fun Without the Baking

If you aren’t a baker, head to almost any store (Target, 5 & Below, Safeway, Giant, Harris Teeter are just a few) to buy a kit to make a gingerbread house, It will include everything you need ~ just add your imagination!

Even More Gingerbread Ideas

Quicker and easier to make than gingerbread cookies, try gingerbread man marshmallows for Christmas. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Quicker and easier to make than gingerbread cookies, try gingerbread man marshmallows for Christmas. Source: The Decorated Cookie

Or if you’re ready to take your gingerbread to the next level, The Decorated Cookie has loads of fun ideas. If you decide to try any of these projects out, be sure to post pictures on our cluster group page on Facebook.

 

Christmas 2017

We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some of our host families celebrate Christmas, some celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Kwanzaa, and some celebrate more than one holiday or none at all. If you’re an au pair living with a host family who celebrates Christmas and you do not, I encourage you to take part and experience it with them. This can be a great opportunity for learning and culture sharing. I also encourage host families to ask their au pairs to share their holiday traditions and customs. 

 

History

Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

In the United States, popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. (Source: History.com)

Christmas Traditions in the US

Infographic: History.com

Infographic: History.com

In the US, Americans celebrate Christmas with traditions that have been introduced from different cultures as well as some uniquely American celebrations.

  • The period of time in the US from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is called “the holidays.”
  • Decorated Christmas trees begin lighting up windows in homes, and shops and outdoor plazas shortly after Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas tree ornaments can be found in almost every store, but many families have boxes of treasured ornaments made by children out of paper and other crafts which are lovingly hung year after year.
  • Christmas lights decorate trees indoors as well as the front lawns and porches of houses. Many parks have special holiday light displays.
  • Children write letters to Santa Claus requesting gifts. Shopping malls, parties, churches, and some schools host events where children can have their photo taken with Santa Claus and ask him for gifts in-person.
  • Christians remember the birth of Christ with nativity scenes displayed on church lawns, Christmas pageants performed by children in churches and some schools, and delicate, often handcrafted manger scenes set out among the Christmas decor at home.
  • On December 24, Christmas Eve, many families have special traditions and often attend Christmas Eve church services. Children hang Christmas stockings, leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus, and try their best to fall asleep so Santa can deliver their presents.
  • On December 25, Christmas Day, children wake up early to see the gifts Santa Claus left them. Families exchange gifts, which have been wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree.
  • Americans mail Christmas and holiday cards (often with photos of the family) throughout the holiday season. In 2010, Americans mailed 1.5 billion holiday cards.
  • Source: Moo.com

    Source: Moo.com

    Many Americans view the same beloved Christmas movies year after year. Some classic favorites include, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “Elf” and “A Miracle on 34th Street.”


Photo: www.GlynLowe.com (Flickr)

Photo: www.GlynLowe.com (Flickr)

Celebrating Christmas in Washington, DC

A very Merry Christmas to all!

Christmas 2016

We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some of our host families celebrate Christmas, some celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Kwanzaa, and some celebrate more than one holiday or none at all. If you’re an au pair living with a host family who celebrates Christmas and you do not, I encourage you to take part and experience it with them. This can be a great opportunity for learning and culture sharing. I also encourage host families to ask their au pairs to share their holiday traditions and customs. 

 

History

Christmas is both a sacred religious holiday and a worldwide cultural and commercial phenomenon. For two millennia, people around the world have been observing it with traditions and practices that are both religious and secular in nature. Christians celebrate Christmas Day as the anniversary of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, a spiritual leader whose teachings form the basis of their religion.

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

Image: Alan Cleaver (Flickr)

In the United States, popular customs include exchanging gifts, decorating Christmas trees, attending church, sharing meals with family and friends and, of course, waiting for Santa Claus to arrive. December 25–Christmas Day–has been a federal holiday in the United States since 1870. (Source: History.com)

Christmas Traditions in the US

Infographic: History.com

Infographic: History.com

In the US, Americans celebrate Christmas with traditions that have been introduced from different cultures as well as some uniquely American celebrations.

  • The period of time in the US from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is called “the holidays.”
  • Decorated Christmas trees begin lighting up windows in homes, and shops and outdoor plazas shortly after Thanksgiving.
  • Christmas tree ornaments can be found in almost every store, but many families have boxes of treasured ornaments made by children out of paper and other crafts which are lovingly hung year after year.
  • Christmas lights decorate trees indoors as well as the front lawns and porches of houses. Many parks have special holiday light displays.
  • Children write letters to Santa Claus requesting gifts. Shopping malls, parties, churches, and some schools host events where children can have their photo taken with Santa Claus and ask him for gifts in-person.
  • Christians remember the birth of Christ with nativity scenes displayed on church lawns, Christmas pageants performed by children in churches and some schools, and delicate, often handcrafted manger scenes set out among the Christmas decor at home.
  • On December 24, Christmas Eve, many families have special traditions and often attend Christmas Eve church services. Children hang Christmas stockings, leave cookies and milk for Santa Claus, and try their best to fall asleep so Santa can deliver their presents.
  • On December 25, Christmas Day, children wake up early to see the gifts Santa Claus left them. Families exchange gifts, which have been wrapped and placed under the Christmas tree.
  • Americans mail Christmas and holiday cards (often with photos of the family) throughout the holiday season. In 2010, Americans mailed 1.5 billion holiday cards.
  • Source: Moo.com

    Source: Moo.com

    Many Americans view the same beloved Christmas movies year after year. Some classic favorites include, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “The Christmas Story,” “Home Alone,” “Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas,” “Elf” and “A Miracle on 34th Street.”


Photo: www.GlynLowe.com (Flickr)

Photo: www.GlynLowe.com (Flickr)

Celebrating Christmas in Washington, DC

A very Merry Christmas to all!