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International Women's Day 💐 (IWD) - How we celebrate with Western-European Continent 📦 Box

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Happy International Women's Day! March 8th is an annual holiday dedicated  to celebrate 🎉ALL 👩women: young and old, mothers and single ones, working and SAHM😍! I am so blessed 🙏 to be who I am and where I am, and I hope you are too!

This holiday was originated in Russia in 1917, as International Working Women's Day, when in the capital of the Russian Empire, Petrograd, a demonstration of women textile workers had lead to women getting the right to vote. In many countries, the custom is to give women💐 flowers. Working women might receive gifts from their employers; schoolchildren often bring gifts for their female teachers.

In 1975, which was designated as International Women's Year, the United Nations gave official sanction to and began sponsoring International Women's Day, commemorating the movement for women's rights.

We love🎉 celebrating holidays with our continent 📦 boxes, and since IWD is mainly celebrated in Europe, today we are exploring our Western-European Continent Box. (We explored our Eastern-European Continent 📦 Box on March 1st Martisor Day - read a post here).

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To learn about Europe, we began by reading the National Geographic Kids Beginner's World Atlas (buy here). We looked at the political map and saw that there are 46 countries in Europe, including five island countries: Iceland, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Malta, and Cyprus. We also noticed that most cities in Europe are within few miles of the sea. London is Europe's largest city. There are many different ethnic groups in Europe - usually one main group for each country. More people live in cities rather than on farms. About 50 languages are spoken in Europe, and many Europeans speak more than one language. 

DSC_0001Adrian is showing where the Eiffel Tower is in Paris, France.

This globe is amazing! It displays a political map as well as different animals residing in their natural habitat - and the globe also lights up! Children are loving it, and a day does not go by without them exploring it. (Buy similar here, and this one is a sensor-activated globe with a built-in LED lights displaying a beautiful constellations map.)


DSC_0001Matching Europe continent to its silhouettes with a World Board Puzzle (buy here).
DSC_0008This was a gift from my sister for Adrian's first birthday:)
DSC_0008We have been collecting turtles during our multiple trips to Europe.

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Blue Gzhel Tea Set by A. Rogov (middle) & Imperial Porcelain tea cup St.Petersburg 1744 (right).

Gzhel is a Russian style of ceramics which takes its name from the village of Gzhel, where it has been produced since 1802.


DSC_0008"Cow" cup by Cofter Swiss collection (Switzerland) & Gzhel in Delft Blue Holland heart box.


More about International Women's Day (IWD):

Besides Russia, IWD is an official holiday also in Afghanistan, Angola, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, China (for women only), Cuba, Georgia, Guinea-Bissau, Eritrea, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Macedonia (for women only), Madagascar (for women only), Moldova, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and Zambia.

In some countries, such as Cameroon, Croatia, Romania, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Bulgaria and Chile, the day is not a public holiday, but is widely observed nonetheless. On this day it is customary for men to give the women – friends, mothers, wives, girlfriends, daughters, colleagues, etc. – flowers and small gifts. In some countries (such as Bulgaria and Romania) it is also observed as an equivalent of Mother's Day, where children also give small presents to their mothers and grandmothers. In Italy, to celebrate the day, men give yellow mimosas to women as a symbol of IWD. Yellow mimosas and chocolate are also one of the most common March 8th presents in Russia and Albania.

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Happy International Women's Day 💐 to ALL the women!

p.s. Read here the introduction to Montessori Cultural & Science Lesson, as well as our China Continent 📦 Box.


Martisor Day (Mărțișor) - How we celebrate the Beginning of Spring🌸 with Eastern-European Continent 📦 Box

Today, we are welcoming Spring🌸 with Martisor Day, a traditional celebration of spring, love and peace. Mărțișor is a festival held yearly on March 1st in Eastern European countries like Romania, Moldova, Bulgaria (see Martenitsa), Albania, and Italy. The word Mărțișor is the diminutive of marț, the old folk name for March (martie, in modern Romanian), and thus literally means "little March." 

Not long ago, in the countryside, people used to celebrate Martisor Day by hanging red and white strings at their gates, windows, cattle's horns and sheds to protect against evil spirit and to invoke nature's regenerative power. In Eastern Romania, Moldova and Bucovina, the red and white string was complemented with a small gold or silver coin. (Silver coin hung from the thread was associated with the Sun, while the white color of silver symbolized power and strength. The round form of the coin also was reminiscent of the Sun, while silver was associated with the Moon. Thus, Mărțișor also symbolized fire, light, and the Sun.) After wearing the coin, as a sacred amulet for twelve days, women would then buy fresh cheese with it, hopping that their skin would be healthy and beautiful the entire year. 

DSC_0011It is believed that a person wearing the red and white string would enjoy a prosperous and healthy year.

Mărțișor (Marț, mărțiguș, Mărţişoare) are all names for the red and white string with hanging tassel customarily given on the 1st day of March. Giving this talisman to people is an old custom, and it is believed that the wearer will be strong and healthy for the year to come. It is also a symbol of the coming Spring, friendship, love, appreciation and respect. Usually, both women and men wear it pinned to their clothes, close to the heart, until the last day of March, when they tie it to a fruit-tree twig. 

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To learn more about the holiday and the Eastern Europe, we explored our Eastern-European Continent 📦Box, gathered during our trips to Europe, as well as with the help of my parents.  

DSC_0011Glazed art crafts and pottery is a famous handicraft in Moldova.

DSC_0031Matryoshka doll (матрёшка), also known as a Russian nesting doll or Russian doll, is a set of wooden dolls of decreasing size placed one inside another. The name "matryoshka" (матрёшка), literally "little matron", is a diminutive form of Russian female first name "Matryona" (Матрёна) or "Matriosha". A set of matryoshkas consists of a wooden figure which separates, top from bottom, to reveal a smaller figure of the same sort inside, which has, in turn, another figure inside of it, and so on. Although, Matryoshaka doll is traditionally associated with Russian culture, it is very widespread among Eastern European Countries. 

DSC_0011Smallest vs biggest Matryoshaka doll.
DSC_0011The craftsmanship is simply amazing! You can see how tiny the smallest Matryoshaka is.  

DSC_0031Above all, children enjoyed the miniature Teddy Bear tea set from Germany.
DSC_0031Children insisted that I fill it with green tea for their tea party.
DSC_0031Palekh wooden jewelry box (middle).

Palekh miniature (Палехская миниатюра) is a Russian folk handicraft of a miniature painting done with tempera paints on varnished articles made of papier-mâché.
DSC_0031Palekh wooden bracelet (front).

DSC_0031Moldovan people are extremely hospitable, offering food and home-made wine to every guest.

DSC_0031Partially glazed clay (glina) bell. 

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"It even rings!"
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DSC_0031Wooden Russian khokhloma painted spoon. 

Khokhloma (хохлома or хохломская роспись) is the name of a Russian wood painting handicraft style and national ornament, known for its vivid flower patterns (red and gold colors over a black background) and the effect it has when applied to wooden tableware or furniture, making it look heavier and metal- like.

DSC_0066Wooden glaze-painted egg.
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Dymkovo toys, also known as the Vyatka toys or Kirov toys (Дымковская игрушка, вятская игрушка, кировская игрушка) are moulded painted clay figures of people and animals. It is one of the old Russian folk art handicrafts (dating more than 4000 years back), which still exists in a village of Dymkovo (near Kirov, former Vyatka). Traditionally, the Dymkovo toys are made by women.
DSC_0066Traditional Russian Clown Petrushka (Петрушка).

Continent boxes 📦 are the most favorite activity of my children! Native traditional objects can "tell" a story better than words: about a far-far-away land and its people. My children are simply fascinated with learning about other cultures, different traditions, holidays. So a Continent box📦 is a wonderful hands-on fun way to expose your child to the diversity of our world, indirectly teaching geography and culture. There is really no better way to learn:)

Read here a post about Montessori Cultural & Science Lesson: Continent Boxes, including our China Box.

p.s. Read here International Women's Day 💐 (IWD) - How We Celebrate with Western-European Continent 📦 Box .


More History of Mărțișor:

According to archaeological research, the Mărțișor traces its history more than 8,000 years ago. Some ethnologists believe that the Mărțișor celebration has Roman origins, others support the theory that it is an old Dacian tradition.

In ancient Rome, the New Year's was celebrated on the 1st of March. March ('Martius') was named in the honor of the god Mars, who was not only the God of War but also the God of agriculture, which contributes to the rebirth of vegetation. Therefore, the red and white colors of Mărțișor may be explained as colors of war and peace. The Dacians also celebrated the New Year's on the first day of March. Ample spring celebrations were consecrated to this event. In the old times, Mărțișor were made of small river pebbles, colored in white and red, stringed on a thread and worn around the neck. They were worn, to bring good luck and good weather, from March 1 until the first trees would bloom. When the first trees were flowering the Mărțișor were hanged on tree branches. Nowadays, on March 1, Romanians buy silky red-white threads (șnur) tied into a bow to which a small trinket is attached and offer them to their (female) family members, friends and colleagues to show friendship, respect or admiration.

Initially, the "Mărțișor" string was called the Year's Rope (funia anului, in Romanian), made by black and white wool threads, representing the 365 days of the year. The Year's Rope was the link between summer and winter, black and white representing the opposition and the unity of opposites: light and dark, warm and cold, life and death. White symbolizes purity: the sum of all colors and light; while black symbolizes origins, distinction, fecundation and fertility - being a color of fertile soil. White is the sky - the Father; while black is the mother of all - the Earth.

In ancient Roman tradition, March was a perfect time to embark on military campaigns, so red string of Mărțișor symbolizes vitality, while white- victory. Red is the color of fire, blood, and a symbol of life, associated with the passion of women. Meanwhile, white is the color of snow, clouds, and the wisdom of men. In this interpretation, the thread of a Mărțișor represents the union of the feminine and the masculine principles, the vital forces which give birth to the eternal cycle of the nature.

Red and white are also complementary colors present in many key traditions of Daco-Romanian folklore, where seasons are attributed symbolic colous: spring is red, summer is green or yellow, autumn is black, and winter is white. This is why one can say that the Mărțișor thread, knitted in white and red, is a symbol of passing, from the cold white winter, to the lively spring, associated with fire and life.

Happy Martisor Day!


A Tea Party 🍵 to conclude our Chinese 🇨🇳 New Year 🐉 Celebration

To conclude our Chinese New Year celebration, Julia and Adrian decided to have a tea party. China is notable for its 🍵 green tea, and Julia remembered from the presentation at her school (read a post here), that China (along with Hong Kong, Korea and Macau) get three days of public holiday. So, today's tea-party, concludes our three-day Chinese New Year🎉 celebration.

DSC_0257Julia was excited to use contents of our China Continent Box (read a post here) to make the tea-party as authentic as possible!

DSC_0260-2Julia decorated the table with a dragon-craft children made earlier (read a post here).

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A perfect compliment to green tea: Chinese red bean cake and berries.

DSC_0257"More tea anyone?" We are using this gorgeous child-size porcelain tea set from Germany.

DSC_0305Why not wear Hanbok to celebrate the occasion in the spirit?  

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Chinese people regard red as a symbol of energy, happiness and good luck. Sending red envelopes is a way to send good wishes and luck. Wrapping money in red envelopes is expected to bestow more happiness and blessings on the receivers, wishing them another safe and peaceful year.

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 Why a Year of a Rooster?

A very old custom is to name the years by one of 12 animals in Chinese zodiac cycle. The Year 2017 is the Year of the Rooster, the 10th animal in the cycle. A story tells, that a long time ago, Buddha called all the animals to help protect the year. Of all the animals, only twelve answered the call. In order to establish an orderly sequence, a race was called. In the race, the Ox would have taken the honor of taking first place had it not been for the clever and cunning Rat who rode on the back of the Ox and jumped forward at the finish line to steal away the top award. The rest of the animals battled one another, and this is how the ranking of the twelve animals came to be: (1)Rat, (2)Ox, (3)Tiger, (4)Hare, (5)Dragon, (6)Snake, (7)Horse, (8)Ram, (9)Monkey, (10)Rooster, (11)Dog, (12)Boar.

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 HAPPY NEW YEAR of a ROOSTER! Let prosperity, good luck, and health be with you! 

p.s. Read here about our China Box, and the introduction to Montessori Cultural & Science Lesson on Continent Boxes.


Montessori Cultural & Science Lesson (China 🇨🇳 Continent 📦 Box)

Children love “treasure boxes”, especially ones filled with things that are new, uncommon, ones that tell a story: about a far-far-away land and people: how they look, what people wear, eat; what their traditions and customs are, what animals live there, etc. So, in the essence, a Continental box is a miniature story of the entire continent. You may further subdivide it into Country Boxes with objects pertaining to a particular country. You may fill it with anything that represents that continent or that country like: pottery, utensils, fabrics, tapestry, bookmarks, money-currency, stamps, pictures of: children, people at work, unique foods, flags, maps, books- child level etc. Continent box (or a Country box) is a wonderful hands-on fun way to expose your child to the diversity of our world, indirectly teaching geography and culture. There is really no better way to learn:)

Montessori education is based, among other things, on peace education, which focuses on the way cultural awareness can foster a more peaceful non-violent world. Children, as part of Montessori curriculum, gain awareness of the world around them by exploring different countries, cultures, customs, food, ethnic attire, music, climate, language, animals etc. By raising our consciousness about human diversity, we learn to understand and accept our similarities and differences; we do not tolerate discrimination, and we become more compassionate towards oneself and others. My children respect the differences, and often admire other cultures. So, I was inspired to started making our Continent Boxes, the activity, which became the favorite of my children!

My Parents live in Asia now, so we started with the Asia continent box. But soon, we realized that we have too many beautifully collected relics representing so may parts of Asia, that we decided to subdivide our Asia Box into few boxes: China (below), South Korea, Japan etc ...

Today Adrian is eager to explore the China🇨🇳 Box.

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IMG_20151015_105409~2The Great Wall of China.
DSC_0037.JPGLearning the geographic location of China.
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DSC_0046Kitty bracelet against the evil spirit.

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DSC_0046Jade pendant with Dragon silhouette on it.

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A snuff bottle, which Adrian is holding, is painted from inside, using a diminutive 90 degree angled brush. This labor (called "CuiQiXuan") is very skillful and represents a unique traditional Chinese form of art. "CuiQiXuan" is a type of backhand painting on the inner wall of the frosted container with GouBi. The inside-art-painting originated from similar snuff bottles, and has two hundred years of history since the Qing Dynasty. Initially, snuff bottles were given to foreign country officials representing a cultural gift from the country of China. 

DSC_0046Adrian cannot believe that someone had painted this bottle from the inside with a tiny brush.
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DSC_0016Chinese🇨🇳 Money - Yuan

While the renminbi is the official Chinese currency, which means "people's currency", the Yuan 元/圆;  is the basic unit of the renminbi, and is also used to refer to the Chinese currency generally, especially in the international contexts.

DSC_0017Julia was very interested to know how a Chinese girl looks.

DSC_0023Postcards from my Parents from China.


As part of the cultural education, we would then talk about the things that represent 🇨🇳 China. So, when we think of China - we think of:

  • The Great Wall of China and the Great Chinese Civilization;
  • Imperial Palaces and its aesthetically balanced architecture;
  • Jade, or Nephrite – the "imperial gem" of China;
  • Dragons (the kind and gentile ones :)
  • Panda - a symbol of good luck, which recently replaced the dragon as an emblem of China;
  • Green Tea and China's omnipresent Teahouses;
  • Pearls;
  • Color Red;
  • And, of course, the deep embedded humbleness and reverence this culture portrays.   

The Great Wall of China

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 Imperial Palaces

IMG_20151018_132455Summer Palace, called "The Museum of Royal Gardens" is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape-garden design.

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My parents had visited the Summer Palace in Beijing (China's Capital), so they sent us the guide.

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The Summer Palace is the largest and most well-preserved royal park in China. The natural landscape of hills and gardens, vast number of lakes and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value.

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 Jade – the "imperial gem" of China

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Jade ( or Nephrite) is considered the "imperial gem" of China. Chinese people believe that it protects against the evil spirit and also possess some healing properties. Since Jade was considered more valuable than gold or silver, some Chinese Kingdoms had been making yearly tribute payments to the Chinese Imperial Court in the form of the most precious white jade, which would be transformed by skilled artisans into objects of art or jewelry.  Also, jade was used to create many utilitarian and ceremonial objects, ranging from indoor decorative items to jade burial suits.  
 
While nephrite jade possess mainly grays and greens (and occasionally yellows, browns or whites); jadeite jade, which is rarer, can also contain blacks, reds, pinks and violets.
 
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One of the main Chinese treasures is the Jadeite Cabbage, intricately cut from a solid piece of jade. It was transported to Taiwan for preservation during the Chinese revolution. It is now part of the Chinese Emperor's collection displayed at the National Palace Museum in Taipei, Taiwan.  
 
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Most Chinese women wear bracelets similar to the above, which are cut from a solid piece of Jade.
 
Nephrite can be found in a translucent white to very light yellow form which is known in China as mutton fat jade. It can also be found in an opaque white to very light brown or gray which is known as chicken bone jade, as well as in a variety of green colors.
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Jade, which can vary in color, predominantly comes in green. 

Dragons

  HPIM2045Dragon is still a very popular and strong symbol of China. Chinese people actually believe that dragons once roamed the Earth, but that dragons had been kind in nature (not the fire-breathing monsters as perpetuated by western religious writings).

  Panda

 Panda, a quintessential Chinese symbol of friendship and peace, is often compared to Yin and Yang because of its black and white stark contrast to one another on panda's pelt. Panda's calm demeanor is a demonstration of how, when balanced, Yin and Yang are harmonious and peaceful. Chinese people adore panda, and many revere it as a symbol of good luck. Recently, panda has replaced the dragon as an emblem of China. The image appears on many coins, souvenirs, dinnerware and more. 

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The giant panda 大熊貓; is a bear native only to few mountain ranges in central China. It is easily recognized by the large, distinctive black patches around its eyes, over the ears,  and across its round body.  Though panda is a carnivore,  its diet is 99% bamboo, and only occasionally it might consist of other grasses, wild tubers, or even meat in the form of birds, rodents or carrion. 
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DSC_0024We read a book about Panda and its decreasing population.

 

Green Tea and the Teahouses

316Green tea is the most popular drink in China. There are many tea houses, where you can have a tea ceremony and taste a variety of very good Chinese green teas. Usually, after the ceremony, people would buy the tea they liked, but a purchase is not required. Along with green tea, one can also buy tea cups, kettles and other small souvenirs. 

Pearls

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China is well known for its production of freshwater cultured pearls.  Unlike saltwater pearls, which are usually cultivated in protected lagoons or volcanic atolls, freshwater pearls are cultivated in lakes, rivers, ponds and other bodies of fresh water and are famous for its lustrous glow and unusually sparkling color.

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Color Red

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To the left is "obereg" - an object, that according to superstition, has a magical ability to protect its owner from various misfortunes. (Most Chinese families hang an obereg, but larger, in their homes for good luck.) To the right is a napkin holder in a form of a traditional women red silk dress. 



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Traditional Chinese attire.

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Notably, red color is Chinese women’s favorite color of clothing. Red is even worn by brides (on the picture above) since it symbolizes love, wellbeing and health. “White” on the other hand, Chinese people associate with death and wear it when some one had died.

DSC09646Traditional children's clothing

Children had so much fun learning about the far-far-away land, about its people, traditions, customs. And they could connect even more with this foreign, but intriguing country by holding a little cup made by a Chinese pottery artisan, by reading a postcards affectionately written to them by my parent, and by trying on a bracelet or a string of pearls. I want to sincerely thank my parents for providing all the treasured objects, the information, and all these beautiful pictures of China, which they took first-hand. 
 
More on Continent Boxes:
  • Read here a post about a Chinese 🇨🇳 New Year🐉 of a🐓 Rooster, and how we celebrate it .
  • Read here Martisor Day - How we celebrate the Beginning of Spring 🌸 with Eastern-European Continent 📦 Box.
  • Read here International Women's Day 💐 (IWD) - How We Celebrate with Western-European Continent 📦 Box.