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Celebrating Holidays and Birthdays Abroad

    As luck would have it – you'll be in Central Europe during Easter. Before you don that serious expression to explain to the kids why the cultural experience of Europe is really far more important than Easter Bunny, chocolate treats and Easter egg hunts – doing a little research ahead of time may make this Easter the one you'll always treasure as "the best ever."
      It's human nature to celebrate – what's interesting is that people seem to celebrate everywhere at almost all the same times. There isn't a place on earth that doesn't observe something special about the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox, whatever they're called locally. And a birthday child is something special everywhere.
      The fun is to steep yourself in local tradition!
      If you're in England visiting friends or relatives, don't take offense if they give the birthday kid a few "raps" - it's tradition to give a child a "rap" for every year and one for good luck! In Thailand, children are given a small animal or bird to release on their birthday - it brings a blessing to the child and to the animal from Buddha. Thinking of arranging for a birthday cake in Greece and wondering how to explain birthday candles? Don't worry - the Greeks are the ones who came up with the whole idea of blowing out candles while making a birthday wish centuries ago.
  Why not add something really special – how about buying the child's birthstone locally, or have their palm read by a gypsy in Spain or Romania! In Hong Kong, get your fortune told and find out the animal symbol for your child's birth year.
  Holidays? Let's take Easter. Did you know that painting eggs at Easter time has been done for centuries – in fact, it's been done everywhere from China to Egypt to Hungary to Sweden. Well, how about that Easter bunny? While he may have his deepest roots in Germanic lore as a fertility symbol of the goddess Estre – you can find "rabbit in the moon" legends for the Spring Equinox from Asia to Native American culture. What about hot cross buns and pretzels? Both were originally baked across Europe at Easter time to give homage to a bull god (the "cross" on the buns was originally horns – and the pretzel was formed to look like a bull!)
  As for Easter eggs – has anyone ever outdone that Frenchman Faberge's eggs for the Russian court? Maybe you'll find a small-town Faberge wearing a babushka, making home blown and decorated eggs in places like Poland and Hungary: you'll be astonished by what can be done with a few root dyes and a skillful hand.
  The trick to enjoying a holiday abroad is to look for what's local. Check the tourism office of places on your itinerary for local calendars. Find out what days are special locally, and what places really stand out as special spots for celebrations.
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