The More Holidays the Merrier!

Krathongs created in observance of the Thai festival of Loi Krathong (left) aside festive Christmas decor.

We have been in full holiday mode over the past month. We've been sharing our winter holiday traditions with our Thai exchange student, Penny, and learning about one of her biggest holidays, Loi Krathong, which typically falls in November.

In Thailand, people celebrate Loi Krathong by creating beautiful boats out of banana leaves and sending them down a river. This symbolizes letting go of anger, negative thoughts or past transgressions. You can read more about it by clicking here.

Penny taught us how to make our own krathongs (floating boats/baskets) from leftover tissue paper that she cut into strips. It took me awhile to get the hang of the complicated folding pattern, but once I did we made a krathong for each member of the family!

Four krathongs for our family of four.

I sent Penny’s natural mom in Thailand a picture of the finished products and she suggested we fill them with flowers, per tradition. So I picked up carnations at the local grocery store and we loaded up the krathongs before sending them down the river at a local park. It was a really lovely moment.

Our krathongs, filled with carnations.
Sending the krathons downriver.

A couple of days later, company started arriving for Thanksgiving and we began an awesome celebration. Penny seemed to enjoy making the big meal with us, so we put her to work in the kitchen. She was into everything up to her elbows, from making pie to stirring gravy to setting our table just beautifully!

Penny cooking her first Thanksgiving meal.
Our Thanksgiving table, set and decorated by Penny.

After Thanksgiving, we began decorating the house for Christmas. We strung lights around the outside of the house, which Penny really liked, and we started baking Christmas cookies. We also attended a free holiday concert given by the U.S. Marine Corps.

All hands on deck stringing lights on the house!
Getting in the spirit with a holiday concert.

Penny also helped us with our traditional “stuffing of the holiday cards.” She was blown away by the fact that we send so many, but I explained that the end of the year in America is an important time to remember and celebrate the love we have for our family and friends. I don’t know if she was convinced that it was worth all the effort, but she has definitely enjoyed receiving cards. My mom sent her a special holiday card and she was so touched!

Penny hard at work stuffing envelopes to send out holiday cards.

At some point in all this, we realized we needed to prep Penny for winter, since she’s never really experienced cold weather. I talked her into buying a true winter coat, and I gifted her a cute hat that I knew she’d like because of how much she loves the fuzzy lamb hat my daughter Leah wears. The two of them make an adorable pair in their matching hats!

Penny and Leah in their "cute" hats.

Otherwise, our days have been filled with tons of Skip Bo and Yahtzee, and yesterday Penny and I finally, FINALLY, finished Super Mario Bros. on Wii. Now we’re trying to decide how to fill our time…perhaps a trip to DC to see the White House Christmas tree?

It’s hard to believe that we are coming up on four months since all the AFS exchange students arrived, and that there are only six months of this wonderful experience left. How is that possible!?