Three of our DC/Maryland clusters did a tour inside of the Washington Monument for their May cluster meeting. This was our first Washington Monument tour since before the pandemic! We were very happy to have a great turnout and gorgeous weather.
The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual event that celebrates springtime in Washington, DC as well as the 1912 gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the people of the United States and Japan. This year’s festival will be MARCH 20-APRIL 17! This year the events are back in-person.
The predicted peak blooming period of the cherry blossoms for this year is MARCH 22-25.
Here are some of the highlights:
Blossom Kite Festival – Saturday, March 26, 2022 – (Christine’s cluster will be participating in the Kite Festival for our March Cluster meeting. Check Facebook and WhatsApp for details.)
Washington Monument Grounds (Smithsonian Metro)
10 am-4:30 pm
Petalpalooza Festival & Fireworks – Saturday, April 16, 2022
Capitol Riverfront at the Yards (Navy Yards-Ballpark Metro)
1-9 pm, Fireworks around 8:30 pm
Cherry Blossom Parade – Saturday, April 9, 2022
Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets, NW
10 am-12 pm
The one-mile length of the Parade route is accessible from multiple Metro stations. Spectators who are standing along the free & accessible portions of the route from 9th to 15th Streets should utilize the following Metro stops:
- To stand on the north side of Constitution Avenue – Archives-Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter (Green/Yellow lines), Federal Triangle (Blue/Orange/Silver lines) or Metro Center (Blue/Orange/Red/Silver lines)
- To stand on the south side of Constitution Avenue – L’Enfant Plaza (Blue/Green/Orange/Silver/Yellow lines) or Smithsonian (Blue/Orange lines)
There are many more great events, visit the festival website for more information.
Cherry Blossom Festival Website
National Park Service Bloom Watch
Metro Website (use the trip planner feature on this website to find the metro options, taking the metro is much better than driving for the festival events)
Photo & Video: National Cherry Blossom Festival
Looking for a change of scenery?
Want to get out DC’s concrete jungle for the day?
Or maybe you just want to try a fried Oreo?
All of these dreams can come true over the next few weeks at one of the many area county and state fairs.
What is a Fair?
Usually held in late summer or early fall, county and state fairs often include agricultural exhibits or competitors, carnival amusement rides, and games, displays of industrial products, automobile racing, and entertainment such as musical concerts (adapted from Wikipedia).
Maryland and Virginia Fairs
The Montgomery County Agricultural Fair and the Arlington County Fair are held in August; The Prince George’s County Fair takes place in September. KidFriendly DC and NBCWashington have details about some of the most popular county fairs throughout Maryland and Virginia.
The DC Public Library is the place to check out books and other materials for free for both yourself and your host kids. There are many branches located throughout the city. Also, there are more than 15 million free online movies, eBooks, music, and more available online for cardholders.
Ready to Get Started?
Free Classes for Kids and Adults
The DC Public Library offers loads of free classes for kids and adults including yoga, adult coloring, ESL conversation circles, kid crafts and many special seasonal activities. (They offer a lot more kid-friendly activities during the summer when kids are on vacation.) Check out the library event calendar for classes throughout the city. And don’t forget- they’re free!
ESL Conversation Circles*
- Shaw (Watha T. Daniel) Library’s English Conversation Circle: A drop-in group for adult speakers of other languages to improve their oral skills in English and gain more confidence in speaking is held on Mondays and Wednesdays at 10 am.
- Georgetown Library’s English Conversation Group: The Washington English Center offers free English Conversation Classes to adults by on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 am to 12 pm and Tuesdays from 7 to 8:45 pm.
- Tenley-Friendship Library’s Conversation Circles: Volunteers from the Washington English Center facilitate practice sessions on Saturdays at 10 am.
Library Branches Located Near Our Cluster Area
Chevy Chase Library Upcoming Events
Cleveland Park Library Upcoming Events
Georgetown Library Upcoming Events
Lamond-Riggs Library Upcoming Events
Mt. Pleasant Library Upcoming Events
Petworth Library Upcoming Events
Shepherd Park Library Upcoming Events
Takoma Park Library Upcoming Events
Tenley-Friendship Library Upcoming Events
West End Library Upcoming Events
*Please note that DC Public Library classes are for fun and do not count towards an au pair’s academic class requirement.
March 20th is the first official day of Spring, and the city is alive with so much to do. Take advantage of longer days and warmer temperatures to get outside and explore the city with your host kids. From cherry blossoms on the Potomac to Easter egg hunts at Hillwood or even Madame Tussauds, there truly is something for children of all ages.
Activities from Some of Our Favorite DC Blogs
- The Best Family Events to Celebrate the 2018 Cherry Blossom Season in DC
- Tips for Families Viewing the Cherry Blossoms (2019)
- Easter 2019 (2019 coming soon)
Red Tricycle DC
- Full Bloom: 10 Ways to Celebrate the Cherry Blossoms
- 10 Festivals That’ll Put Some ‘Spring’ Into Your Step (2018)
Capital City Au Pairs (That’s right- don’t forget that this blog has plenty of ideas too!)
About Travel DC
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.
- This local blog is a great source for indoor activities and events with the kids with posts on visiting Mount Vernon and the National Postal Museum and Badlands.
- Where to Play on the Weekdays and The Weekend Round-Up are updated weekly with suggestions on local events and fun places to take the kids.
- Seasonal suggestions include The 2018 KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC, Where to Enjoy Live Entertainment with Kids this Winter, The 2018 KFDC Holiday Gift Guide
- The Great Indoors will help you entertain the kids when it’s too cold to play outside.
- 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!
- The Family Events Calendar is a great source for events.
- Looking to have your picture taken with Santa?
- Early sunsets mean there’s even more time to see the best holiday lights.
And last, but not least…
Capital City Au Pairs
- Life in DC is a comprehensive list of all of the many blogs, people, places, and activities that make living in DC so wonderful.
- DC Winter Lights will get you exploring DC at night.
- Want to entertain the kids at home? Don’t miss our monthly posts with calendar ideas and seasonal activities.
Looking for something fun to do on a cold winter night? Check out these free events designed to help you enjoy DC ~ even with the earlier sunsets.
Dec 7 to Jan 4 | 6 – 10 PM
#LightYards has two must-see, worldwide traveling light installations:
- The Pool (by Jen Lewin Studio) invites visitors to hop, skip, and jump across 106 interactive circular pads of light.
- Angels of Freedom (by OGE Group) aims to reveal the inner beauties of everyone by visually turning visitors into real-life angels.
Nov 23 to Jan 1 (except Dec 24, 25 and 31) |5 – 9 PM
#DCZooLights includes live music performances, tasty winter treats and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. More than 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland complete with two dazzling laser light shows set to music.
New this year:
- Gingerbread Village
- Reindeer Game Fun Zone
- Interactive Light Display
- Grump Holiday Market (Dec 6, 7, 8)
Nov 29 to Jan 1 |10 am-10 pm weeknights/11 pm weekends
The National Christmas Tree will be lit every day starting from approximately 4:30 p.m. as part of the “America Celebrates” display at President’s Park (White House). The walkway surrounding the National Christmas Tree features 56 state and territory trees decorated with handmade ornaments that are unique to each tree. Please visit the National Park Service website for the most up-to-date information.
Dec 7 to Jan 1 |Nightfall-11 pm
This year’s 80-foot-tall #uscapitolchristmastree traveled over 3000 miles from the Willamette National Forest in Oregon to Washington, DC, aboard a 106-foot-long truck and trailer. Seventy smaller companion trees from Oregon also decorate government buildings and public spaces around Washington, DC. Oregonians contributed 10,000 handmade ornaments celebrating the state’s cultural history and people, landscapes, natural resources, and fish and wildlife. Click here to learn more.
Dec 1 to Jan 6 | 5 – 10 PM
#GeorgetownGLOW invites visitors to reimagine the season of light through outdoor public art. Click here for more information about this year’s art installations and to download a map.
Looking for more fun ways to celebrate the holiday season in DC?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
Celebrating Christmas in Washington, DC
- Winter Wonderland: Your Guide to the Holiday Season in Washington, DC
- The 2018 KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC
- TripSavvy’s Guide to Christmas in Washington, D.C.: Lights, Parades, and Festivals
- TripSavvy’s Guide to Christmas in Washington, D.C.: Kids’ Events and Attractions
A very Merry Christmas to all!
We have host families from a wide variety of backgrounds and faiths; some host families celebrate Hanukkah, some celebrate Christmas, 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 Hanukkah 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.
Hanukkah is the Jewish Feast of Lights or Feast of Dedication. The Hebrew word Hanukkah means dedication. The holiday begins on the eve of the 25th day of the Hebrew Month of Kislev and lasts eight days. Hanukkah usually falls in the month of December, but occasionally can start in November. This year Hanukkah begins at sundown on Sunday, December 2, 2018, and ends the evening of Monday, December 10, 2018
How Do You Spell Hanukkah?
According to Judaism 101, the process of writing Hebrew words in the Roman (English) alphabet is known as transliteration. Transliteration is more an art than a science, and opinions on the correct way to transliterate words vary widely. This is why the Jewish festival of lights (in Hebrew, Cheit-Nun-Kaf-Hei) is spelled Chanukah, Chanukkah, Hanuka, and many other interesting ways. Each spelling has a legitimate phonetic and orthographic basis; none is right or wrong.
The books of the Maccabees tell the story of Hanukkah which occurred in 165 B.C. After three years of struggle, the Jews in Judea defeated the Syrian tyrant Antiochus. The Jewish people held festivities in the Temple of Jerusalem and rededicated it to God. After removing all Syrian idols from the Temple, the Jews found only one small pot of oil to light their holy lamps. Miraculously, the small pot provided oil for eight days. Judas Maccabaeus, the Jewish leader, then proclaimed a festival to be observed by Jewish people. (Source: www.apples4theteacher.com)
Hanukkah Traditions (Source: www.bhg.com)
- The Menorah
The centerpiece of the Hanukkah celebration is the Hanukkah or menorah, a candelabra that holds nine candles. Eight candles symbolize the number of days that the Temple lantern blazed; the ninth, the shamash, is a helper candle used to light the others. Families light one candle on the first day, two on the second (and so on) after sundown during the eight days of Hanukkah while reciting prayers and singing songs. The menorah — either store-bought or homemade and crafted of metal, wood, papier-mache, or clay — is filled from right to left, but lit left to right so each new candle is lit first. (Source: www.bhg.com)
- Singing Songs
Hanukkah — one of the most family-oriented of Jewish holidays — comes with its own set of carols sung around the glowing menorah. These celebrate everything from the glory of God and the ancient Temple of the Jews (“Maoz Tzur”) to the simplicity of a dreidel (see below), as in “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel/I made it out of clay/And when it’s dry and ready/Dreidel I shall play.”
- Yummy Treats
There’s nothing low-fat about Hanukkah – many of the traditional foods of the holiday are deep-fried. In honor of the oil-y miracle people celebrating Hannukah like to eat foods that are fried in oil like latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly-filled doughnuts) and different fried breads. Want to have a go at making something? There are lots of recipes for yummy treats here.
- Spinning Tops
It’s customary to play with dreidels (spinning tops) during the holiday, even wage gambling games in which players guess which side of the top will fall face up. Legend has it that during the Greek-Syrian dictatorship in Israel of yore, Jews got around the ban on reading the Torah by bringing spinning tops to study sessions so their oppressors would think they were just playing around. The Hebrew characters carved into the four sides of today’s dreidels are the first letters of “Ness Gadol Haya Po/Sham,” which roughly translates to “Great Miracle Happened Here/There” (depending on whether you’re in Israel or not).
Celebrating Hanukkah in Washington, DC
- National Menorah Lighting: Sunday, December 2, 4 pm on the National Ellipse
The lighting of this menorah – the world’s largest – is attended by thousands every year and seen via media by tens of millions across the nation and around the world. Along with the lighting, there will be live entertainment and menorah kits and dreidels to take home. Tickets are free but must be ordered in advance.
- TripSavvy’s Guide to Hanukkah in Washington, D.C.: Festivals, Events, Things to Do
- KidFriendlys DC’s list of Chanukah events in DC
A very Happy Hanukkah to all!
Looking for ways to get outside and enjoy the beautiful weather with the kids? Here’s a round-up from several great local blogs, Red Tricycle, KidFriendly DC, and Our Kids. Continue reading