Starting a new year with old traditions

In a 90-minute museum event, girls discover how cultures around the world celebrate the holiday


Nail biting, keeping a messy desk and hitting a little brother were among the bad habits written on strips of paper, then stuffed into an effigy of an old man on Wednesday.

Girls ages six to 11 participating in New Year's Around the World at the Chesapeake Children's Museum in Annapolis then carried the old man, stuffed with their faults and pieces of cloth, as though they were taking him to the market to light on fire, as is a tradition in Ecuador.

"Now you don't have to think about your faults anymore," said Renee Spears, a museum volunteer. "You get to start with a clean slate."

Though some girls - most of whom were there with Girl Scouts or Brownie troops - were disappointed that they didn't actually get to start a fire, they eagerly moved on to China, where they would make Chinese yo-yos.

During the 90-minute-long trip around the world, children also tasted Japanese soba noodles, learned a West African dance and got their hands dirty making a Jewish bread.

Imani Fox, 8, of Capitol Heights eagerly plunged her hands into a small wad of challah dough and mixed it with flour. Dividing the dough into three "snakes," braiding them together, then forming a circle proved harder than she thought it would be, she said.

Caroline Streff, 11, of Alexandria, Va., tried to help, and encouraged Imani.

"Everybody's unique," Caroline said when Imani fretted about how her bread looked. "Mostly it's just fun to bake bread."

Caroline said she's not into baking but had so much fun with the challah she wants to try it again at home with her father's help.

Her New Year's ritual is to stay up late to watch fireworks, so experiencing the traditions of other cultures was a lot of fun, she said. "I really like to learn," she added.

Joya Grillo, 8, of Bowie said that on New Year's Eve, she goes with her family to her grandmother's house, drinks apple cider and makes a resolution. Next year, she said, she will be nicer to her family.

At the children's museum, Joya enjoyed acting out a Vietnamese folktale about the sun and easily hopped over bamboo sticks while learning Tinikling - a dance from the Philippines.

The Girl Scouts who attended will earn a badge, but Michele Clow, a volunteer at the museum who demonstrated the making of the Chinese yo-yos, hoped that all of the 48 children who attended the two sessions got more out of it than that.

"We're hoping they got a taste of different cultures," she said. "Other places do other things that are equally fun and as cool as what we do here."

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