Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Our Christmas celebrations (part 1)

(Maya made this)

This year Christmas was a really big deal because Maya was in school and they were preparing for it for the whole month of December. Every day, she came home with Christmas-themed artwork, and was eagerly practicing her Christmas carols for the school Christmas concert.


(Practicing Christmas carols on the way home from school)

Last year, we were so stressed about Christmas because we got back from India right before, and then subsequently all got sick. This year, we had a lot more time to prepare, but Maya was sick a lot so we spent many days at home relaxing, which didn't turn out to be so bad because we avoided the frenzied Christmas shoppers. I had to do most of my shopping after bedtime, which worked out perfectly.

In the first week of December, we visited the German Christmas Market downtown which was great because we beat all the crowds. They had a lot of fabulous food, folk dancing, Christmas ornaments, and also a children's carousel which Maya loved. We also bought our annual new Christmas ornament from there.






A video posted by Alexandra madhavan (@madhmama) on

Shortly after that, we built our tree at home which added such light and beauty to our house. In the evenings, I would wrap some gifts and put them under the tree, and when Maya would wake up in the morning, she would exclaim, "Santa came last night!!!"



We sent out our annual Christmas card, but I should have ordered more. Next year, I will have to order 125 or 150! As we received Christmas cards from others, we displayed them proudly. Maya even made a Christmas card for us!


It was double the fun this year because we got to help my mum decorate her tree as well. My mum always gets a real pine tree and then spray-paints it white because it makes it look more dynamic.



Since Maya loves to bake, I also made sure to make some gingerbread cookies together. It turned out to be a great activity because she cut out the shapes herself and it was really fun for her to use the rolling pin. It was actually my first time ever making gingerbread cookies!


And lastly, I made sure to help Maya make a Christmas list for Santa since she knows how to sign her name. It turned out to be a really funny keepsake! Totally random.



To be continued....!


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Monday, December 28, 2015

My Favorite Posts of 2015


This year was a big year on my blog where I strived to make it bigger and better. Earlier this year, I was awarded Best Blog of 2014 and I didn't take that lightly. It made me want to keep striving to make great content for my loyal readers and not disappoint them.

This year, I launched the My Intercultural Love series and hustled like crazy to keep it going for the entire year. I was like a total psycho, contacting random couples and asking them if they wouldn't mind sharing their love story. I got a lot of amazing submissions, but I also had to pester a lot of people to be featured. This series turned out to be very popular with my readers and were shared by many. It increased my reader base by word of mouth, and it also created awareness about Intercultural Love. I am hoping to keep this series going permanently, and I am looking for more diverse mixes. I have been very inspired by this series and learning from other couples about how they make their marriage work. I am still accepting submissions on this series, if any of you guys are interested!

Another section that has been going steady this year is the Ask Firangi Bahu advice column, where a reader posts a dilemma and my readers and myself respond. At times, I get more help letters than days of the week. I try to post each one of them, sometimes having to double post them on Fridays. I love this section because it covers a wide range of topics from dating, telling the parents, getting married, long-term partnership - just to name a few! This column creates a forum for problem-solving solutions and a resource among fellow intercultural couples and a space where we can help each other out.

For 2016, I am going to be keeping these weekly sections and trying out a few more new ideas. I will also be keeping all of my personal writing as well. I also hope to keep going with my recipe posts, although they are the most time consuming of all! Full steam ahead!

In the meantime, here are some of my favorite personal posts from this year:



As readers, what are your favorite posts? 
What would you like to see more of?

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Best Books/Films/TV of 2015


Reading books, watching TV, and seeing films in the cinema are some of my favourite ways to spend my downtime. Some of these are shared activities, and some of these I do solo. I love recommending these to friends and family, so why not share it with my blog readers?




BOOKS

With Maya's sleep patterns becoming more steady, I finally have evenings to myself to relax. I love to read, but after having a kid it is hard to find the time. Luckily, after my daughter goes to bed, I do just that - for hours on end. This year, I set a goal to read 20 books, and instead I read 42 books! (Next year, I'm going to set my goal a little higher!)

THE BEST. The best book I have read in a long, long time. I loved the central theme of the book being star-crossed lovers who drift apart, experience life and find their way back to each other. This novel was so multi-layered in its dimension - it talked about race, culture, immigration, relationships, intercultural relationships, writing, and had some really keen observations about leaving one's own homeland and living in a different country, and attempting to find one's own place/ sense of self in that country. After reading this book, I immediately went to the bookstore and bought ALL the other books by this author!  

The Nightingale
This book is a great work of historical fiction, but also celebrates the role that women played in the war, their resilience and their reinvention after. What women did in the war were not written in history books.
This book was a beautiful tale of survival and reinvention. It made me think of my grandmother so much, who was also a wartime child soldier. I was just a kid when the Yugoslavian war took place but I remember adults around me talking about it in hushed voices. Through reading this novel, I learned a bit more. I loved the structure of this novel - first the narrator was a child, and then an adult, and then coming back to her home country as an adult. These view points were very poignant. I also loved how the author weaved back and forth in time, but not too much. It's hard to believe this was her debut novel - she is an amazing writer.

When I picked up this book, I didn't know exactly what I was getting into. I suppose I was attracted to the beautiful floral pattern (which they later changed) and the anecdote about being "a good wife - mostly". This novel turned out to be the most erotic novel I have ever read and I couldn't put it down. I sent it to my MIL as a surprise - I hope she doesn't hit me over the head with it! Ha ha!

I don't often read memoirs but this one was fascinating. Quite a feminist novel, the author documents her career as a wartime photojournalist. It is truly a profession that is very difficult for women, with photography being an all-boys club. I have so much respect for the author as she has gone to every country that is extremely dangerous for women. I especially loved her love story and how her husband always encouraged her on her missions - that in itself was incredible.

The best thriller of the year! This novel was so creepy with the voyeurism/stalking/obsession aspect of it - but in a suspenseful way. A well plotted psychological thriller.

This book talks deeply about women's rights around the world, in particular how "culture" is given as an excuse by men to oppress women. Very detailed, very deep, and a must read. I will probably read this book again and again.

I am a Mindy fan because I watch her show, The Mindy Project, but I wouldn't say I was a crazy fan girl. I like her, but I don't loooove her. But then I read her book and now I absolutely love her. She is just so darn witty and cute - definitely the voice of a generation.

This was a really moving novel with deep multi-dimensional female characters. I especially loved the storyline of the Blindian relationship; and the Indian immigrant feeling lonely - intercultural themes that we can really relate to in many ways. A lot of plot twists, multiple perspectives of storytelling, and deep flawed characters. The storyline was also quite unconventional. The language was so crisp that I zoomed right through the novel. Love, betrayal, secrets, childhood, relationships, cross-cultural themes...it was an interesting novel. [Read my author interview with her HERE!]



FILMS

On our weekly date nights, husband-ji & I always see a new film. This is our thing. But I also like to see films with my mum, and I have also been known to sneak into a film solo while my daughter is at school (an exhilarating experience!) I also love watching my Netflix at home. [Guys, how embarrassing is this: I thought the saying 'Netflix & Chill' meant sitting at home and watching Netflix and relaxing! I was going around saying this for weeks before I found out what it really meant!!! Mortified!!!]

By far, the best Hindi film of the year. I loved this storyline of a woman finding herself and her confidence abroad. Absolutely a fun, feel-good film. I love Kangana (almost as much as I love Vidya Balan!)

If you've ever been a young person moving to a whole new country, this movie is for you. It was a really beautiful film about having one's heart in two countries, and it has a really sweet intercultural love story.

I found this film on Netflix and it was excellent. It is about a boy and girl in love who are separated by the West Bank barrier. Without giving out spoilers, there are LOTS of twists and turns!

NOT THE ONE WITH JULIA ROBERTS. The original one in Spanish!!!

First Position
This documentary is on Netflix and it chronicles talented teenage dancers in the world of ballet. I was interested in this because my daughter takes dance classes, and it is a real eye opener.

I saw this film in the cinema with my mum, and the entire audience was crying, including the elderly Chinese man behind us. It is a truly incredible film about war, loss, art, and justice. In my eyes, Helen Mirren can do no wrong!

Somehow we always see films where the entire audience is elderly people - except us. This was one of those films, as Blythe Danner (Gwyneth Paltrow's mum) played her first role as a leading lady. Better late than never, because she killed it!

I watched it when husband-ji was out of town and it was literally the best girlfriend movie ever! Thanks to Magic Mike, I did not miss husband-ji at all! Amazing dancing - totally Bollywood. The next sequel should star Hrithik Roshan though! Joe Magianello in the gas station scene was literally the highlight of my year!
This film had my new favourite actress (Carey Mulligan) in it. I loved the storyline of the independent woman with 3 suitors. I honestly had no idea which guy she'd end up picking - if at all. In that sense, it was like the educated, historical fiction version of The Bachelor! I also loved the English countryside scenery - so beautiful.



TV

I love a good TV series - either drama or reality - that hooks me in. TV is for the times where I don't have the attention span to watch a movie. Husband-ji and I have very different tastes in TV shows, so I usually watch them on my tablet. He prefers to watch boring shows such as  How It's Made or Border Security, and I'd rather watch something with more flavour!

I got hooked on this series because I kept hearing raves about it online, and I love the creator, Shonda Rimes. I am glad it is on Netflix because I binge-watched the entire thing within a week! It was just too good. This is one that I can't wait to show my MIL. I love the diverse cast of characters and the never-ending suspense of a who-dunnit.

Earlier this year, we were actually on a flight with the actress Ruby Rose from this series, so I thought I'd check it out. Everyone kept talking about it, and my TV addict mum just raves about it. I spent a few weeks binge watching it when I was sick and it became my new guilty pleasure! I love how in each episode, you find out more about why each character landed behind bars, through flashbacks. (Husband-ji absolutely HATES this series!)

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What were your favourite books/films/TV of this past year? 
Let's share recommendations!
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Monday, December 21, 2015

Out-takes from our Christmas Card


One of my favorite things to do every year is pick out a picture for our annual holiday card, which I excitedly send to all our family & friends around the world. This year, we were so blessed to have a professional photographer - Daniela Ciuffa - take our pictures. (Some of you may remember Daniela from her fabulous pesto recipe, and her dynamic intercultural wedding.)

This year, it was extremely hard to get a picture of Maya, as she was constantly on the move - and to have a nice picture of all 3 of us that looked decent was practically impossible. My friend Daniela came to the rescue by taking time off of her busy schedule (she is an award-winning, globe-trotting wedding photographer) by offering to photograph us and I was absolutely thrilled. Having your pictures taken by a professional makes all the difference!

This year, we took our photos on a beautiful sunny day in November at a dog beach in Vancouver. The pictures came out beautifully and I will treasure them forever. It was so hard to pick just one picture for our card! I selected the picture above and decided to go with a layout from Tiny Prints.

Here are some other out-takes from our Christmas card photo shoot:









And wishing all of my readers a Merry Christmas and Happy holidays!

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Saturday, December 19, 2015

My Intercultural Love: Sarah & Billy


Sarah writes an amazing blog called A Life with Subtitles and she lives in Atlanta with her Guatemalan husband and 2 kids!


Introduction....
Hi! I'm Sarah. I grew up in Tennessee and Kentucky, but I met my husband Billy while living in Los Angeles. He is from Guatemala City. Now, we live in Atlanta, Georgia with our daughter (5) and son (2). I write a blog about our multicultural life called A Life with Subtitles.

Favorite childhood memory...
Most of my best childhood memories involve hanging out with my younger sister: riding waves at the beach, bicycling up and down the street, or other adventures. One of my favorites is that I used to hook up my walkie talkie to my boom box and host a radio show for her. I'd play songs through the walkie talkie and then I'd DJ as my alter ego "Sarah Syncopation" with one-person banter and call-in shows where I was all the callers. 

Where/how do you feel most inspired?
I love bookstores. I feel overwhelming inspiration surrounded by so many words and stories and ideas. It's my happy place. Also, I get a lot of inspiration when I'm driving longer distances. Something about that space where I can't really do much but think lets the ideas start to flow. I am a big fan of the Voxer app, and I use the "Note to Self" feature a lot when I'm driving. 

Where/how did you meet your spouse?
This is one of those stories that may always be up for debate. We definitely met at church in Los Angeles, but the details are a little fuzzy. The time I first remember meeting Billy, he for sure already knew me. He knew my name, and he claims it was actually our third introduction. I'm not exactly sure where I was the first two times we met. Thankfully, the third time's a charm!

How long have you been together?
We met (for the third time) in February 2007, and we were married that same November. As I'm writing this, we just recently celebrated our 8th anniversary!

What qualities do you admire in your spouse?
Oh man. There are so many things I love about Billy. He is adventurous and hard-working. He is committed to the people in his life. And he is super funny, which I have enjoyed since the very beginning of our relationship.

What did you know about your spouse's culture prior to your relationship?
I didn't know a great deal about Guatemala specifically, though I had several friends from Latin American countries. I was, however, planning a trip to Guatemala when I met Billy. In my job, I worked with several Latino families, and I was planning to attend Language School in Guatemala to work on my Spanish. As it turned out, by the time I made that trip, Billy and I were already dating, so his parents actually picked me up when I landed at the airport. I met them very early in our relationship and without Billy there. It was a gift to meet them, but a little nerve-wracking to do so alone!

How did you tell your friends/family about your intercultural relationship?
I don't recall the exact conversation with my parents or friends. I had been living a very multicultural life, so I don't think dating someone from another culture was a very big surprise. However, I think we were all a little nervous about Billy's undocumented immigration status. None of us knew much about that process, but I know I thought it was much simpler than it turned out to be. Billy couldn't travel due to his status, but my parents talked with him on the phone, and I think they trusted us both. Billy and my parents didn't meet in person until after we were engaged. 

How has your relationship enlightened your life? How has it changed you & your outlook on life?
Being married outside my culture has definitely broadened my world view. Probably one of the areas that has affected me most is Billy's perspective on work. I had a lot of dreams to "follow my passion" and "change the world." Those are, of course, good things. But being married to someone from a third world country has helped me to appreciate the value of a good job, of a stable income, and of a boss who treats you well. It can be easy to overlook these important qualities if you're too focused on finding your "dream job."

Describe your wedding...
We were only engaged ten weeks, so our wedding was simple, which was exactly what I wanted. We got married in L.A., so nearly all of my family and friends flew out to join us. Unfortunately, due to visa restrictions from Guatemala, Billy's parents were not able to attend, though they applied a couple of times to come for the wedding. We got married in church, and our reception was at a nearby retirement home, which was so funny to me. We opted for many different kinds of cakes instead of one, multi-tiered cake, and for years people would comment on the deliciousness of those cakes. We incorporated the Guatemalan tradition of toasting. So instead of two or three people giving public toasts, we wandered from table to table and someone at each table would toast us. It was a fun way to visit with everyone at our reception.


What does being married mean to you?
We are family. We're stuck with each other for life - the good and the bad, the funny and the heart-breaking. 

What are your dreams for your future together as a married couple?
Oh, I imagine us growing old together and laughing at our own private jokes at the retirement village. 

What do you do to keep your relationship alive? What kinds of things do you do to connect with your spouse?
With two young kids, this season of our life is a little harder to find time to connect. We do go out together once or twice a month. We've also found that getting up early gives us some time to chat when we're not tired from the day yet. And a year after our son was born, we took a vacation just the two of us that was really a valuable time to connect and dream about our future together.

In what ways have you adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
I think being married to a Guatemalan has helped me to grow in the area of hospitality. I'm now much more likely to bring way too much food to a gathering, and I've become more likely to offer my house or food or anything to others. I may have always been willing, but I didn't always think to offer. I think I assumed if someone needed something, they'd let me know! Now I am learning to be more proactive and welcoming. 

Has your family adopted aspects of your spouse's culture?
We want to raise our kids to be bicultural, so we are intentional about including both culture's traditions and language in our home. For the holidays, for example, we celebrate Guatemalan Noche Buena on Christmas Eve, and we do more of my traditions on Christmas morning. In our broader family, my parents actually got their very first passports to come meet my in-laws. I think Guatemalan culture has a more inclusive perspective on family, so when we got married, Billy's family assumed they would not only welcome me, but also my parents and sister's family. It's been fun to watch them all develop a relationship, even though they live in different countries. 

 What aspects of your spouse's culture do you find difficult to embrace?
It's a running joke in our family that I am bad at greeting people, especially when a kiss is involved. I used to be supremely awkward, but I would say I'm getting better. I don't know if Billy would whole-heartedly agree!

Name some cultural faux-pas that you have unknowingly committed...
It's not a cultural faux-pas per se, but my Spanish is quite limited. When I try to speak in my second language, it's likely I will not make total sense. Though my mother-in-law speaks good English, I do occasionally try to speak to her in Spanish. I was talking to her, and she was nodding along, even though her expression suggested I was not totally clear. Then, a couple hours later, my brain replayed my Spanish and re-heard what I said. I rushed to Billy and was like "Um... I think I told your mom that I wished my grandfather was dead." (No idea how I got there as that was certainly not what I was trying to say.) "Please fix this." Thankfully, he followed up with his mom, who had given me the benefit of the doubt all along. Ha!

What was the most challenging time in your intercultural relationship?
I think the holidays can be challenging for all couples. There's lots of memories and expectations. When you come from two different cultures, though, you may have really different ideas about what's "traditional." Even as we approach our 9th holiday season together, I find we're still figuring out what works for us, especially after having kids. 

What's the best and the worst part of being in an intercultural relationship?
The best is the expansiveness. There's often new things to learn, new perspectives on the world, or new adventures to be had. I think the hardest part is often feeling like an intercultural island in the world. Over time, we have come to learn how much we need friends from both cultures in our lives, but also how much we also need other mixed couples (regardless of their specific mash up) because there is a unique community of couples who are living this intercultural story. 

What do you think are the biggest misconceptions that people have about intercultural relationships?
I feel sometimes that people can swing either way. Either it's destined to end in divorce. Or it's a mystical, exotic relationship fantasy. In reality, intercultural relationships are relationships first with their unique set of joys, challenges, and day-to-day life. There is an added layer of cultural differences that can create laughter, tears, and the need for additional communication. There are strong intercultural relationships and struggling ones, like any marriage. 

What are the biggest misconceptions about American women?
I was pretty shocked to learn that American girls are stereotyped abroad as being very "easy," or promiscuous. I guess the "Girls Gone Wild" videos have done us no favors as American women. I have also found that we have a reputation as not being able to cook - that we only know how to microwave things. Ha! I'm actually not a great cook, but when I found out Billy's Latino co-workers were stunned when he'd bring home-made food to work, I tried to start cooking a bit more.

Have you come across people who disapprove of your intercultural union? If so, how do you deal with them?
Thankfully, no one in our life has ever shown disapproval or lack of support. The only times we have experienced uncomfortable encounters has been with immigration agents when we have traveled abroad and try to return to the States. There, agents have been disrespectful to Billy on multiple occasions, and the circumstance is such where they have all the power. So we tend to just be quiet because really, who cares what they think?

Take-away advice for other intercultural couples...
I think it's important to recognize that our partner may more easily recognize our cultural behaviors than we will. After all, we're so used to our way of doing things that it just seems "normal." But it's important to keep an open mind when your spouse is pointing out something you do that's not universal. And we try to avoid the temptation to think that the way one culture does something is simply "wrong." In reality, it's different. And as a couple, you have to figure out which times you will choose one person's way over the other's or where you will forge your own path.


(All pictures courtesy of A Life with Subtitles)
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Friday, December 18, 2015

Ask Firangi Bahu: "My Indian husband thinks periods are impure!"


(Img via Eden Bachar)

Sharing a letter from a reader...


"Hi Alexandra,

I am writing you today to ask for some marriage advice. My husband is Tamil, and he comes from quite a conservative family. I am American, but I converted to Hinduism for him, and I happily lead the life of an Indian wife in the U.S.. We have been married for five months and we did not live together before marriage, because we both did not believe in it. Prior to that, we have known each other for a year. My husband is a kind person, smart, ambitious and affectionate - but he has some archaic beliefs regarding periods and menstruation - as many South Indian men do. Obviously, I only realized this after marriage, since we did not live together before and the topic never really came up.

He will not touch me while I have my period - not even a kiss, hug, or handshake. Not even a cuddle!!! Now I know some guys can be freaked out by periods, but this is just too much. He treats me as if I were diseased for the duration of my cycle. If I cook dinner for us during my period, he will not eat the food I have made. He claims I am "impure" and "dirty". He actually said that to my face. I couldn't believe it.

Because of this, every single month we have been fighting. I have grown tired of being treated like a diseased person for a week out of the month. I have tried to tell him that periods are completely natural, but he refuses to listen to me, and instead calls his mother up so that she can lecture me about "womanly problems" and how I should respect his space. He said that in his family, the women go and sit in a shed outside the house when they menstruate, and that I should be LUCKY that I do not have to do that. Which is absurd, because we live in the US!!! I feel like he calls his mother as back up and they are all teaming up on me. He says that I married into HIS family, and that I should understand their beliefs and act accordingly. But I cannot bring myself to respect this belief, because it is scientifically and ethically wrong.

Everything is fine when I don't have my period, but when I do have it, we are always fighting about this. It has created a paranoia in our relationship. Sometimes before kissing me, he will make sure that I am not on my period. I feel like kicking him out when I have it, but we have to find a way to cohabitate. My American friends do not understand at all when I tell them about this. I really don't know what to do. I have sent him articles about periods being natural and healthy, but he doesn't believe me. I do not believe that having periods is "impure", and in fact these same periods make me fertile and the same egg will one day produce a baby for us. It is a big turn off that he thinks this way, and I have no idea what I can do to change it....I have nobody to talk to because nobody understands. Do we have to live like this? How can you change this mindset that he has had for 32 years? More than that, him calling his mother about this bothers me. And she is a woman too! She should make him understand that periods are not impure..."

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Dear readers, I am personally at a loss for words. How can this bahu get past this?
What would YOU do if you were in her shoes?
Have you come across Indian men/families who have these beliefs about menstruation?
CAN you do anything to change it?
Has anyone ever treated you like you were diseased? Is it insulting?

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Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Christmas Traditions We Love...


Christmas is always such a special and warm season for us because it's all about family time, generosity to others, and cuddling up indoors. It always makes me feel really nostalgic, as I remember all my past Christmases, and of course becoming a parent now it is extra special to know that my daughter will have the same memories too.

Growing up, we had our own family traditions of a big Christmas dinner at my grandparent's old ranch house. They were quite simplistic back then. I've found that since re-settling in Canada and introducing husband-ji / my inlaws to Christmas, I have incorporated more traditions for our family. We also usually have our Indian relatives visit us for Christmas, so I make sure to take them around to various Christmas events around town. And now that we have Maya, we've added on a lot of kid-friendly traditions (like meeting Santa!). So, Christmas for us has been a combination of old and new, as we build our own family culture and traditions.

Here are some of our favourite traditions:

Advent Calendar
My mum got Maya an advent calendar this year, and it has literally been the highlight of her life! As soon as she finishes breakfast, she likes to open the little door and find her chocolate - and not just any chocolate, it's a Santa chocolate. She just squeals with delight! I think this is a tradition we will carry on for years to come!
One tradition I love doing is purchasing a new ornament annually and then writing the year on the bottom of it. Every year it's a fun search to find "the" ornament for the tree - a new edition to our collection. One year, husband-ji bought a jellyfish ornament from the Aquarium, and this year we got a beautiful hand-crafted wooden ornament from the German Christmas Market. It's sentimental when we decorate the tree to take out each ornament and say, "Hey, remember when..?"

Set up our Christmas Tree and decorating the house
It's such a great family activity to decorate our Christmas tree together - it's all hands on deck! It is a very sentimental activity for me, as I've saved all my grandmother's Christmas ornaments and nativity sets which date back to the 1950's. This year, we put on some holiday music and danced around as we set up our tree!

Sing Christmas Carols (at home)
This is a new tradition we just started this year, thanks to Maya! She loves to sing, and she has been learning all her songs for her Christmas performance next week. I remember singing them in school too, but I've lost all the words so I decided to re-learn them so we can sing together at home. I printed out the lyrics off the internet and we often sing them together during the day as I'm doing some other chore. Somehow, singing always puts you in a bright mood...but I wouldn't dare do it in public!


Send out 100 Christmas cards
Sometimes we do a special Christmas card photo shoot in November, but if we can't get our shit together, we just use a nice family photo from that year. I always like to send out beautiful Christmas cards as a way of sending love and thanks to everyone in our lives. We send our cards to friends and family, or anyone who has helped us that year. I always make sure to keep one for myself as a souvenir! I love addressing all my Christmas cards after my daughter has gone to bed, over a cup of hot chocolate, and under the warm glow of the tree. It's pretty amazing who's on our mailing list - people from India, Hong Kong, New York, Italy...a lot of international stamps!


Hang up Christmas cards we've received
I love to display the Christmas cards that others send to us, but we don't have much counter space. I like to hang a piece of simple string in between two frames and hang the cards over it, like a laundry line. It makes me feel good to collect the cards and display them in a prime spot where they can't be knocked down. I keep our Christmas cards up well into January.

Go Ice Skating
This is a nostalgic activity for me, and both my mum and grandfather always used to take me ice skating when I was little. In the Winter, all the ice rinks will be out and it's the perfect season to go and refresh your skills!

Make Gingerbread cookies
This year was the first year that I've done this, as Maya has become such a great baking buddy. It is really fun to use a cookie cutter to make fun shapes together.


Get a picture with Santa
Maya gets so excited to meet Santa at the Mall, and I treasure collecting these photos every year. Each time she has such a fun expression, and it's a great souvenir for her grandparents'. Santa always gives her a peppermint candy and I love to use Santa as a negotiating tool - "if you're naughty, Santa won't bring you presents!"


The Peak of Christmas at Grouse Mountain
Grouse Mountain looks over our city, and at Christmas they have an amazing winter wonderland theme that is great to visit with kids or visiting family. They have reindeer, ice skating, tobogganing, sleigh rides, and a gingerbread village. We started doing this a few years ago while relatives were visiting and it always gets us in the Christmas spirit! It's like visiting the North Pole for the day!

Donate books to the Children's Hospital
This past month, we landed in the ER with Maya because she came down with pneumonia and it scared the wits out of us. While we were there, we saw a few child cancer patients in the ER and I felt so sad for their families and all they were going through. The nurses and doctors took such good care of her that I wanted to give back in some way. I went back to their website and found that they needed donations of children's books for their patients. I think most children's hospitals would readily accept some wonderful books for the poor kids who are stuck in their hospital beds, and cannot do not much else. Please do consider looking up one in your respective areas and donating.

Watch Christmas Movies
With the weather so crappy outside, most of the time you'll want to stay home in your pyjamas and watch movies on your days off work. My favourite Christmas films to watch are Home AloneHome Alone 2The Santa Clause, and Love Actually. Maya has been loving watching kids' films like Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas  and The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About Christmas too!


Read Christmas Stories
I have been scouring the library for great Christmas books for kids and they are so hard to find! I saved all my grandmother's storybook collection from the 1950's - which are absolute gold - so I tend to read those to Maya during Christmas season.

Make Orange Pomanders
This is something I always remembered having in our home growing up. You stick cloves into an orange, preferably into a pattern, and then hang it up in your home (you can use a needle and thread, or even better, a ribbon!). The scent is so spicy and lovely.


Ride the Miniature Christmas Train at Stanley Park
Twice a year, we ride the miniature train at Stanley Park - once at Halloween, and once at Christmas. I know this is something we'll only be able to do when Maya is young, so it's something I hold on to dearly. It is perfect for kids under age 5. The Christmas train ride is worth going because their gardens are full of a fantastic light and toys display that kids love. Every year it has a theme - last year it was Frozen (ugh!). It's a fun family activity and as we countdown to Christmas!

See the Nutcracker Ballet
This is a tradition that I remember my parents' doing with me and it was magical. I first saw the Nutcracker performed in London and it felt like going to a royal ball. We haven't done it yet with Maya, but I would love to. Maya has been taking ballet classes, so I know she'll love it. I think I might take her next year.


Take a family photo in front of the Christmas Tree (on the 24th or 25th)
We started this tradition a few years ago and we have kept at it, despite how hard it is to get a family picture with a young kid and a tripod. We usually put cartoons on and then put the tripod in front of the TV to get Maya to look!


Visit a church
Christmas is the holiday of the year for any church, so it's lovely to drop by for one of their many Christmas services. They have really wonderful music too. Even if you don't want to stay for the service, you can light a small candle for your relatives under the Virgin Mary.


Have a big family dinner
We usually have a big family dinner on Christmas Eve or Christmas, depending on our family's schedule. My mum makes an excellent Christmas dinner, so she takes great pride in making a ton of dishes and decorating her table. After dinner, we have a big dessert and exchange gifts. There is always lots of wine involved!


Boxing Day Shopping
Boxing Day in Canada is the equivalent to Black Friday in the USA, although it is more low-key...as nobody gets trampled! Yes, we do it in an oh-so cool, calm and collected Canadian fashion by simply doing our shopping without any violence. People usually shop for bargains or use their gift cards that they received for Christmas, or do exchanges. A lot of people don't go out because it is hard to find parking in the city. I like to go out to buy myself a purse, or some baby clothes for Maya, and husband-ji loves to look at bargains since he has such expensive taste! Ha ha!


Festival of Lights at VanDusen Gardens
In Vancouver, our local botanical garden puts on an amazing lights show that is well worth the visit. They decorate the whole gardens with over a million lights in unusual designs, and the lights flicker on and off with music. It is a very kid friendly family activity, and great to show visitors of the city.


Needless to say, after Christmas is over, we're like....



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What are your favorite Christmas traditions, dear readers?
Have you made your own traditions or do you use some from your family too?

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