Tag Archives: washington dc

Celebrating the 4th of July in DC (2019)

The 4th of July celebrates the date American colonists declared independence from Great Britain in 1776. Also called Independence Day, the 4th of July is commemorated throughout the USA with fireworks, parades, concerts, family gatherings, and cookouts.

As the nation’s capital, Washington, DC, is the perfect place to celebrate this truly American holiday. Here are just a few of the many celebrations in DC:
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Amazing Cluster Meeting at US Capitol

More than 700 Au Pair in America au pairs from 30 DC/Maryland/Virginia area clusters came together on Saturday, March 9 to tour the US Capitol. We were joined by Au Pair in America director, Ruth Ferry. We had a wonderful time and an amazing photo.

Au Pair in America au pairs from the DC/MD/VA area, their Community Counselors and APIA director, Ruth Ferry

Touring the US Capitol is a highlight of any visit to Washington, DC. The Visitor Center offers free online tickets and a limited number of same-day tickets. The tour starts off with a brief and engaging video with some history on the Capitol Building and the US in general. The tour guides are knowledgeable and will take you to some of the building’s most iconic locations.

Touring the US Capitol is a highlight for our cluster every year.

National Cherry Blossom Festival 2019

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual event which 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 14!

The predicted peak blooming period of the cherry blossoms for this year is APRIL 3-6.

Here are some of the highlights:

Smithsonian Kite Festival – Saturday, March 30, 2019
Washington Monument Grounds (closest metro Smithsonian)
10 am-4:30 pm

Petalpalooza Fireworks Festival – Saturday, April 6, 2019
The Wharf (closest metro Waterfront or L’Enfant Plaza)
12-9:30 pm
Fireworks at 8:30 pm (weather permitting)

Cherry Blossom Parade – Saturday, April 13, 2019
Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets, NW  (closest metro Smithsonian)
10 am-12 pm

There are many more great events, visit the festival website for more information.

Helpful links:
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 metro is much better than driving for the festival events)

Photo: National Cherry Blossom Festival 

DC’s Winter Lights

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.

Light Yards

Light Yards DC

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.

ZooLights

Photo: Jim Jenkins, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

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)

National Christmas Tree

The 96th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting at The Ellipse in President’s Park on November 28, 2018, in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi)

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.

US Capitol Christmas Tree

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the Capitol Building in Washington DC, December 6, 2018. (Forest Service photo by Cecilio Ricardo)

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.

Georgetown GLOW

Image: Bekah Richards (Flickr)

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?

Christmas 2018

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!

Hanukkah 2018

You can visit the world's largest menorah on the Ellipse in Washington, DC. Photo: Ted Eytan (Flickr)

You can visit the world’s largest menorah on the Ellipse in Washington, DC. Photo: Ted Eytan (Flickr)

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.

History

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
Photo of Sufganiyot (Donuts): Avital Pinnick (Flickr)

Photo of Sufganiyot (Donuts): Avital Pinnick (Flickr)

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 

    Photo: Marina Shemesh (Flickr)

    Photo: Marina Shemesh (Flickr)

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).

Directions to play the Dreidel game

More fun and educational Hanukkah activities for children


Celebrating Hanukkah in Washington, DC

 

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.

A very Happy Hanukkah to all!

Celebrate Labor Day 2018

This year, we will celebrate Labor Day on Monday, September 3rd. Labor Day Weekend is a new holiday for many au pairs. Here is a brief history of this American holiday (from Holiday Insights), ideas of ways to celebrate with your host children, and DC-area events.

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Summer Fun for DC Kids 2018

Image: anokarina (Flickr)

In need of some ideas to keep the kids entertained this summer? Here’s a roundup of several great local blogs full of suggestions designed to keep whining to a minimum. 

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, our very own cluster blog…

Capital City Au Pairs

National Cherry Blossom Festival 2018

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is an annual event which 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 17-APRIL 15!

The predicted peak blooming period of the cherry blossoms for this year is APRIL 8-12.

Here are some of the highlights:

Smithsonian Kite Festival – Saturday, March 31, 2018
Washington Monument Grounds
10 am-4:30 pm

Petalpalooza Fireworks Festival – Saturday, April 7, 2018
Waterfront Park – 600-900 Water Street, SW
1-9:30 pm
Fireworks at 8:30-9:30 pm

Cherry Blossom Parade – Saturday, April 14, 2018
Constitution Avenue from 7th to 17th Streets, NW
10 am- 12 pm

There are many more great events, visit the festival website for more information.

Helpful links:
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 metro is much better than driving for the festival events)

Photo & Video: National Cherry Blossom Festival