Tag Archives: Christmas

La Befana!

Hello there! I just can’t seem to let go of Christmas so I wanted to share with you a tradition from Italy that can be traced all the way back to the thirteenth century. It is the legend of La Befana.

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The legend of La Befana is that of an old witch lady with a big red nose and slight hunch, dressed in a jacket of colorful patches and she is often pictured with a broom. 

Legend has it that on the 12th night of Christmas (January 5th) the 3 Wise Men, on their search for the baby Jesus, asked La Befana to join them in their quest.   She initially declined, stating she had too much housework to do.   She later changed her mind and went looking for the 3 Wise Men and the baby Jesus, but was unable to find them.
Each year, on the night of January 5th, La Befana will travel on her magic broom to every house in Italy in search of the baby Jesus. She brings candy (“caramele”) or fruit to the children that were good and black coal (“carbone”), onions or garlic to the children that were naughty by climbing down chimneys much like that other guy we know ;-).   The children will leave out their stockings, and even their shoes, hoping to awake on the morning of January 6th to some “caramele”.   Similar to the Santa Claus tradition, many of the children will write notes to “La Befana” and even leave out food and wine for her, even sausages and broccoli in some parts of Italy.

It is a tradition that is still strong in Italy with many stores selling stockings, mostly red, but sometimes even sand-colored, for the children to leave out for “La Befana”.   It is a fairy-tale story of the good witch / bad witch, depending on how you behaved during the past year.   After her arrival, there are many parties and Italians will celebrate going from house to house celebrating the bonds of family and friends.

Here is an Italian nursery rhyme that the children will sing for La Befana

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La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
col cappello alla romana
viva viva la Befana!

Rough Translation

The Befana comes at night
wearing old broken shoes
dressed in Roman (hat) style
long live la Befana!

There have been many children’s books written about La Befana, however if you are looking to add one to your child’s library I recommend this one by Tomie DePaola.

La Befana

Here is a Pinterest page if you would like to have some fun with this with your kids tomorrow night. Enjoy! http://www.pinterest.com/dawndelz/befana/

Until next time,

Traveling Sam xo

Traditional Christmas Farm Visit

Hello Everyone!

Today I’m writing to you from Mike’s Farm in Back Swamp, North Carolina. It is a very popular local spot despite being pretty far away from the main roads. It is open year round and my host usually goes several times a year, however Christmas time is when most folks around here and even some from far away come to eat the food and take a hayride into a colorful winter wonderland but first things first!

We arrived early so we could spend some time visiting the animals before dinner. Here I am with the goats and a llama:

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I got to feed them, they were quite friendly!

We then moved on to see the rabbits. They often like to hide. Do you see them in this photo with me?

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There are also chickens, turkeys, pheasants, and a pretty majestic rooster to feed:

pheasant

  pheasant

chickens

chickens

rooster

rooster

My favorite guy to visit was the donkey though. Much larger than I expected and *quite* adorable.

awe

   awe

My friend is feeding him, he was very friendly!

My friend is feeding him, he was very friendly!

Schools take field trips here in the fall and they visit the pumpkin patch. They also grow strawberries and Christmas Trees. Here I am with their Christmas Trees:

So many Christmas trees!

So many Christmas trees!

Time to eat! Wait…

They aren't even open yet!

They aren’t even open yet!

As you can see, it is a VERY popular place. This is the line and they aren’t even open yet! By the time we we went in the line was three times as long behind us as well. Crazy!

I took a few minutes to explore the little bakery/Christmas shoppe they have while my friends were kind enough to save the spot in line:

wow!

wow!

You can come here at any time of year to feel the holiday spirit. It’s a lovely store with lots of great Christmas and non-holiday items for sale as well as a bakery with some mouth watering fudge in all kinds of flavors!

The food is served family style and the price gets you all you can eat. Here is the menu:

Yum!

Yum!

Everything is brought to the table and they bring you seconds as you request them. No one leaves here hungry, that’s for sure! Check out this spread!

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I decided I should try a bit of everything since I might not ever make it back here:

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Then of course you HAVE to have dessert! Should I have cheesecake with a chocolate drizzle or banana pudding? Hmm…

cheesecake

  cheesecake

banana pudding

banana pudding

All done!

my belly is so full!

my belly is so full!

*burp*

Now for the main event! Oh my… and I thought the line for the food was long!

They all want a hay ride!

They all want a hay ride!

Here I go!

Finally, it's our turn!

Finally, it’s our turn!

This is the Christmas hayride because I am here in December, however, there are several throughout the year. At Easter time kids ride to get to an Easter Egg Hunt, in the summer they ride to the strawberry fields to pick their own strawberries and in the fall they ride to pick their own pumpkins. The fall also brings another night time hayride, for those brave enough to try it out! It is the Haunted Hay Ride! I am not that brave so I will stick to the Christmas themed ride. I tried to take a little video, but it is really no comparison to seeing these lights in person. Unfortunately the video saved sideways to the computer but posted just fine to Instagram so please find your way over to my IG page to see a little video!

www.instagram.com/trvlingsam

Here are a couple of pictures as well:

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I hope you enjoyed the visit to Mike’s Farm as much as I did! Here is a link to their website, I highly recommend checking them out if you find yourself nearby!

http://mikesfarm.com/

I may not have a chance to post on the blog tomorrow because I will be, well, traveling! Look for a picture from the trip, however, on my Instagram page!

Until next time,

~Traveling Sam

Family Traditions in Wilmington, North Carolina

Merry Christmas (Eve) to everyone!

My friends in Wilmington, North Carolina were kind enough to share their Christmas tradition of taking the family Christmas card picture at the beach! Wilmington is a port city known more locally for it’s festivals and movie studio. I wanted to take a moment to share with you some of the things there are in Wilmington because it is a unique little “big” city.

In the spring it is home to the Azalea Festival which is a showcase for the community’s rich array of artwork, gardens, history, and culture through recreational, educational and family-oriented events. The Festival encourages volunteerism and civic participation as it contributes to the region’s economy and promotes the unique qualities of Wilmington’s river-to-the-sea community. The flowers are gorgeous and EVERYWHERE! Here is a link if you would like to learn more:

http://www.ncazaleafestival.org/

In the fall you will find Riverfest which is located in the same spot in downtown Wilmington as the Azalea Festival. This festival came about out of a desire of locals to bring people back to the downtown area. You can read more about the annual Riverfest here:

http://www.wilmingtonriverfest.com/history.html

At both you will find amazing one of a kind, hand crafted items, a variety of foods, music, and activities for the kids that people come from miles around to experience.

Wilmington is also home to a movie studio! Hard to believe, but shows like One Tree Hill, Under the Dome, and Sleepy Hollow aren’t filmed in Hollywood, they are filmed right here on the Crystal Coast! I understand there is a tour… I will have to take that the next time I am in town! Here is a link if you would like to learn more:

http://studios.euescreengems.com/nc/

There is also an aquarium right down the road in Fort Fisher and a rich history in the downtown area but yeah yeah yeah, who needs all that stuff when there is a beautiful beach?? When you live so close to such a beautiful coastline, there really is no other way to take your annual Christmas photos. Here are a few of them now:

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expecting a baby sister…

She's here!

She’s here!

These pictures are from quite a while ago, here are some more recent shots:

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Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas Everyone! I hope you are all with loved ones and enjoying some well deserved time off of work.

xo

~Traveling Sam

Fröhliche Weihnachten!

Hello Friends!

Tonight I come to you from Hamburg, Germany. My host family has a couple of items on display in celebration of the season that I had some questions about and I would like to share what I learned with you now.

First up is something I’ve seen before, however I didn’t know too much about them until tonight. In German it is called adventskalender and in English it is known as an Advent Calendar.

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I’m sure that you have seen them around here and there, but did you know the idea for the Advent Calendar has it’s origins in Germany? It is a very common way to celebrate the season here! Let me share how it works:

Advent is the four-week period of time leading up to Christmas. It begins each year on the first Sunday after November 26th, however the calendar generally begins on December 1st and goes until the 24th to help children count down the days until Christmas. As you see in the above picture, there are 24 little doors on a Santa designed adventskalender. There are many different designs, but the concept of opening doors is a part of all of them. Each day the next door is opened and inside you will find a little treat in the form of a small toy or chocolate candy. Behind the “prize” is usually a picture or sometimes a bible verse all leading up to Christmas Eve. The picture or Bible verse could also be found on the door once it’s opened, or they may be blank. There are many different kinds of Adventskalenders!

What started out in the 19th century as making a chalk line for every day in advent leading up to Christmas evolved into what you can find in stores at this time of year pre-made with a heavy paper and chocolates already inside. In Germany, however, where most homes have an Advent Calendar, you will find more permanent structures such as the adorable Santa above that are refilled each year with small chocolates or trinkets. Here is a couple of links if you would like to learn more:

http://www.sellmer-verlag.de/shop2/about-advent-calendars.php

http://www.aboutgerman.net/AGNwords/advent-facts-01.htm

If you would also like to learn more about Advent you can find some information here:

http://www.christianity.com/christian-life/christmas/what-is-advent.html

Onto the second item. This is Adventskranz:

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Here I am with an Adventskranz or, in English, an Advent Wreath,  sometimes referred to as an Advent crown. It is a Christian tradition that symbolizes the passage of the four weeks of Advent in the liturgical calendar of the Western church. Beginning with the first Sunday of Advent, the lighting of a candle can be accompanied by a Bible reading, devotional time, and prayers. An additional candle is lit during each subsequent week until all the candles are lit on the last Sunday before Christmas.

The concept of the Advent wreath originated among German Lutherans in the 16th Century, however it was a Protestant pastor named Johann Hinrich Wichern (1808 – 1881) who was the inventor of the modern Advent wreath. Children at Rauhes Haus, the school he founded in Hamburg, Germany, would ask daily if Christmas had arrived. So in 1839, he built a large wooden ring with 20 small red and 4 large white candles. The small candles were lit successively during Advent and on Sundays one of the large white candles were lit. It eventually evolved into the smaller wreath with the 4 candles known today. Some have five candles, the fifth being lit on Christmas Day.

I thought it was pretty amazing that both of these items that are now found around the world originated in Germany. One of them right here in Hamburg! I know it is a bit difficult to see because all of the candles are lit, but the wreath is made with Christmas tree branches. Here is a photo I found online so you can better see the branches:

Adventskranz

Speaking of Christmas Trees… did you know that they ALSO origninated in Germany? Maybe I’ll tell you more about that tomorrow, right now I should get some rest. Thanks for joining me!

Sincerely,

Traveling Sam

Family Traditions week!

Hello everyone!

Ready to bake!

Ready to bake!

I am here in Winchester, Virginia helping my host family and they have kindly let me participate in their family tradition of baking reindeer cookies for Santa. I hope to share more family traditions this week so please send in your pictures!

We found this special peanut butter cookie recipe to use for the base of our reindeer cookies. We were excited because they promised soft peanut butter cookies (and they delivered!) Here is a link to the website we found the recipe on. Be sure to check out her other treats!

http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/soft-peanut-butter-cookie-recipe/

Peanut Butter Reindeer Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup (1 stick) of salted butter, softened to room temperature

1/2 cup dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

chocolate chips

pretzels

M&M’s (preferably the brown and red!)

Directions

In a large bowl with a handheld or stand mixer, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy.

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Mix in peanut butter, then the egg, and then the vanilla.

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In a separate bowl, mix the baking soda and flour.

Wait... WHAT? We remembered flour and baking soda but COMPLETELY missed the salt and baking powder but guess what? They were STILL yummy! (in my defense, I'm a bit under the weather!)

Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Do not overmix.

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IMG_6158  Chill dough for at least 30 minutes.

We covered and stuck the dough in the fridge for about 2 hours and all was good.

We covered and stuck the dough in the fridge for about 2 hours and all was good.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove chilled dough from fridge and roll into balls. Spread a thin layer of granulated sugar on a plate and roll each dough ball to evenly coat (if desired*). *we did not do this part because we were about to make reindeer.

Add chocolate chip eyes, an M&M for the nose, and pretzels for the antlers.

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On an ungreased baking sheet, bake for 8-9 minutes, until the tops begin to *slightly* crack. Do not bake longer than this.  Cookies will look undone, but will firm up as they cool.

Transfer to a cooling rack very VERY carefully! Those antlers take some practice to handle!

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Those smell delicious! I hope we can manage to save one for Santa in a couple nights! What kind of cookies do you make for Christmas?

Until tomorrow,

Traveling Sam