Tag Archives: holidays

Happy Holidays from Willamette Intl Travel!

Start the Holidays off right!

The Pearl District Business Association is holding a special holiday event, and Willamette Intl Travel is joining the festivities!

We’ve dressed up our windows on Irving Street to reflect the holiday spirit—look for the Chinese lanterns and humongous fortune cookie! Thanks to Jill Jeske, student at the Art Institute of Portland, who acted as designer of our lovely window display.

You can find us at 1314 NW Irving St., Suite 101 in downtown Portland, OR.

PLUS: Enter the PDBA raffle by taking a selfie in front of our store and posting it online to Twitter or Instagram with the hashtag #PearlHolidays and #BestWindow!

For bonus points, attend the annual Tree Lighting celebration in Jamison Square on November 29. The first 50 guests will win a free PDBA logo umbrella, and earn extra raffle points if you take the selfie with the umbrella in hand.

Willamette Intl Travel is closed Thanksgiving weekend, from November 27 to 30. We’re open again from 8 to 5:30pm on Monday, feel free to drop in!



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Winter Holidays Around the World

A few weeks ago, the agents at Willamette Intl Travel teamed up with our friends at the Portland Floral Institute. We spent the evening weaving wreaths to benefit Our House, a local AIDS hospice. It got us in the mood and since then we’ve just been really excited about the winter holiday season!

So how about the rest of the world? How do cultures across the globe celebrate the wintry season? Today let’s take a look at how other countries or religions get in the spirit:

Bodhi (Dec 8) – Buddhism. Buddhists believe that Buddha achieved Enlightenment on this day. Many cultures celebrate this day differently, but modestly: studying the Dharma, eating cake and tea, or performing kind acts toward others. In Japan, Zen monks stay up the entire evening before meditating and studying sutras.

Photo by Scott skpy. Creative Commons.

Hanukkah (Dec 8-16) – Judaism. Hanukkah is the Festival of Lights that commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in the 2nd century b.c.e. Jews observe the holiday by lighting the menorah candelabrum—one candle on each of the eight holiday nights. Other common traditions during this time are the eating of latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganiyot (jelly donuts), the spinning of dreidals and gift-giving.

Saint Lucia Day (Dec 13) – Scandinavia. This is aScandinavian holiday honoring the Catholic Saint Lucia. St. Lucia (283-304 c.e.) is the patron saint of the blind, who died a martyr during the Diocletian persecution. On this day, one girl is elected to portray St. Lucia and dons a white gown, a red sash, and a crown of candles on her head. She leads a procession of similarly clad girls and sings a haunting melody known as Sankta Lucia.

Kwanzaa (Dec 26-Jan 1) – African American. Kwanzaa is a week-long celebration that honors African heritage in the United States. It was established in the 1960s as a means for African Americans to reconnect with their cultural heritage and celebrate the seven moral principles of unity, self-determination, collective responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. Kwanzaa is often celebrated with a feast, gift-giving, libations, colorful decoration, the wearing of kaftans by women, and musical and dance performances.

Hogmanay Street Party in Dornoch, photo by John Haslam. Creative Commons.

Hogmanay (Dec 31) – Scotland. Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year’s, celebrated with traditions that stretch back centuries. Some historians believe that the festival was passed on from the Vikings’ celebration of yule. Traditionally, pieces of mistletoe, juniper and holly would be placed around the house to ward off mischievous spirits, and a rowan branch would be set above the door for luck. Nowadays, it is customary to clean one’s house to welcome in the New Year. Nighttime is a time of festivity, feasting, and socializing. The city of Edinburgh celebrates Hogmanay in style—with firework displays, a torchlight procession, and massive bonfires.

Saint Basil’s Day (Jan 1) – Greece. The celebration of St. Basil in Greece originates from the 4th century, during the time of Basil the Archibishop of Caesarea. According to tradition, Basil was a major establisher of the eastern monastic lifestyle, promoting community life, manual labor, liturgical prayer, and the care of the poor and underprivileged. On the evening of St. Basil’s Day, many Greek homes bake a special cake with a coin hidden inside. In the evening, just before midnight strikes, all the lights are turned off for a minute to signify the dawning of a new year. The cake is then cut: one slice for St. Basil, one for each family member, and the largest slice for all the poor people in the world.

There are of course many more winter celebrations, but too many for us to fit here! Want somewhere special to spend your winter weekends? How about the Triple Creek Ranch in Montana? See more details on our blog’s right sidebar or call us up for a chat!

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Diamond Jubilee

photo by Elliott Brown

The festive air is flooding into London as crowds flock to this year’s Olympics and Jubilee. Hotels and flights are swelling up to no vacancy, and all the UK is busy with preparations. For those of us abroad, we can at least enjoy the festivities from a stress-free distance.

But what is a Diamond Jubilee and how will the Queen be celebrating?

The practice of Jubilees dates back to antiquity, when Hebrews observed a year of rest and universal pardon every 50 years. It was eventually incorporated into the Roman Empire and Christianity as a time of remission and holy pilgrimage.

Elizabeth II is the only British monarch to celebrate her Diamond Jubilee with the exception of Queen Victoria in 1897. It marks 60 years into her reign. Following tradition, festivities will be held in London and throughout the Commonwealth. The Royal Mint has issued a £5 coin with new portraits of the queen, to be minted for only one year.

Fun Fact: The flambéed dessert Cherries Jubilee is said to have been invented by Auguste Escoffier who prepared the dish for Queen Victoria’s Jubilee celebration.


2 June: The Queen will kick off her celebrations by attending the Epsom Downs’ Investec Derby Festival, featuring horse races and the greatest flat race in the world.

3 June: A flotilla of one thousand boats will accompany the Queen’s ship in the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant, which floats down the Thames River. Tickets are still available to the festival in Battersea Park—a great vantage point from which to view the on-sea pageant.

4 June: The Queen and some of her family will attend a concert at the Buckingham Palace, broadcasted live on BBC One, Radio 2 and on big screens across London. Later that night, thousands of beacons will be lit around the UK and the greater Commonwealth.

5 June: The Queen will attend a national service of thanksgiving at St. Paul’s Cathedral. She and her family will continue via processional route from Westminster Hall to Buckingham Palace.

Did you know that the British Monarchy has twitter? You can follow the Diamond Jubilee via live tweets @BritishMonarchy. Or to wish the Queen a good Jubilee, write to:


            Her Majesty The Queen

            Buckingham Palace

            London SW1A 1AA


Are you celebrating the Jubilee? Comment below and tell us how!

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Easter Traditions around the World


Since its ancient origins in the Christian church, people have observed the festival of Easter with such a diversity of traditions. From Orthodox to Catholics, from Scandinavians to Latin Americans, everyone has a different way to celebrate this holiday of springtime and rejuvenation. Here are just some of the unique customs found across the world:


1) In Argentina, people customarily substitute fish and seafood for their regular staple of meat. Families will often enjoy a large barbecue and even local treasure hunts sponsored by the local government. The Rosca de Pascua is a delicious bread ring baked with maraschino cherries just for this holiday.

2) The Saturday before Easter Sunday, Greeks will promenade their way to church with unlit candles, chanting “Christ is Risen!” After their candles are blessed by a priest, the festivities erupt with fireworks and resounding bells.


3) In Lebanon, with more than half of its population Christians, Easter is a time for impressive and colorful celebration. Decorations, bunnies, eggs, and chocolate line the shops and houses of believers. Families share lamb and maamoul (sugared semolina cookies) together, and children decorate candles with ribbons and flowers.

4) In Sweden, children dress up as good witches and exchange letters for eggs, sweets, and coins. At the end of the day, they roll their eggs down roof tiles to see which can go the farthest without cracking.

5) In Croatia and Slovenia, a basket of food stuffed with bread, colored eggs, ham, horseradish and potica nut cake is taken to the local church and blessed.


6) The USA is the only country to have an official holiday mascot, the Easter bunny, who passes out gifts and sweets to children.

7) In the Czech Republic and Slovakia, men will fashion whips from willow rods and bright ribbons, and mock-whip their women. In some areas, men will instead throw a bucket of cold water on them. Revenge is suitably enacted the following day, when the woman pours a bucket of cold water on the man. In Poland, this day, so-called Dyngus Day, has evolved into an all-day water fight.

And whatever the destination, everyone seems to love eggs.

Know any unique Easter celebrations from other cultures? Feel free to comment!

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