An Urban Parent’s Guide to Raising Cultured Children

“Holidays give everyone a break from the routine and help us all to appreciate what we have and each other,” said William Calvert, dad to son Oden, 10, and a daughter Ciel, 5.

Customs, holidays and festivals vary from town to town, country to country. But one thing they all have in common is that these celebrations bring people together as communities, gathering around shared histories in appreciation of culture and lore.

With Halloween around the corner, and autumn and winter festivities just down the road, we set out to discover the different ways families are coming together in New York and across the country.
For Halloween, “the kids design and/or pick the look of their costumes, and we make them,” said Mr. Calvert who has worked for the likes of Balenciaga, Pierre Balmain, Rochas and Diane von Furstenberg, before establishing his eponymous line in 1998, and shortly thereafter the label Callula Lillibelle. His wife, Halla, designs her own children’s line Halabaloo as well.

You would suspect right that costumes are kind of a big deal in this family, and the sky is the limit given mom and dad’s tremendous talents. This year, the kids have decided to be Death and a fairy, but they didn’t simply land on these first pass. Ideas thrown around included a “gargoyle, princess, Grim Reaper … to name a few.”
Instilling in our families reverence for our profound, though relatively young, nation and its vibrant history is an important way to engage our children. As Mr. Calvert pointed out, it is crucial to involve them in various traditions and expand their awareness about the importance of global peace.

New York hosts the country's largest Veterans Day Parade on the morning of Sunday, November 11. Around 25,000 people turn out to honor active military members and decorated veterans, as well as show their support for those wounded in action. Expect traditional floats and some of the area's best marching bands.
While standing on the sidelines of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade may get a bit chilly and touristy for New Yorkers, a fantastic family alternative is the Macy's Parade Balloon Inflation which happens Wednesday, November 21 from 3 to 10 p.m. on the Upper West Side, around 79th Street and Columbus Avenue.

“The scale and intensity of how New York does anything adds to the sense of wonder and therefore the significance,” Mr. Calvert said.

And there is no sight bigger—both visually and in sheer amazement—than seeing colossal balloons that require anywhere from 30 to 100 balloon handlers, being pumped with helium and brought to life. You can make a day of it and explore the American Museum of Natural History, catch the massive balloon creatures being blown up and then enjoy dinner at Isabella's.
Mr. Calvert explained that it is important for his wife and him to involve their kids in cultural festivals, religious celebrations and family traditions. “We try our best to involve them at their level.”

A great way to celebrate Hanukkah is The Jewish Museum's Hanukkah Family Day on Sunday, December 9. Families of all beliefs are welcome to learn how to build a menorah and dreidel, or shimmy to Yosi and the Superdads who are slated to perform. Attendees can also explore the Museum’s incredible collection of Hanukkah lamps and exhibits that bring to life the festival of lights.
Mr. Calvert said that his family focuses on the "preparations, motivations, decorations and the meaning of" various holidays and festivals.

One tradition that many New Yorkers enjoy is the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree lighting ceremony. The star-studded concert-event marks its 80th year on Wednesday, November 28. Another great family activity is browsing the numerous store window displays along Fifth Avenue, such as the ones at Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, Cartier, Barney's, Tiffany & Co. and Lord & Taylor, which are often collaborative art installations involving notable artists, designers and decorators. These impressive tableaux stimulate the imagination and creativity in all ages.

Photo Credit: Mark Sardella
While New York has perhaps deservedly earned a reputation as a 24-hour Las Vegas for New Year's Eve, there are mounds of family-fun to be had in celebration of the end of one year and the beginning of the next.

From fireworks and hot chocolate in Prospect Park to the New Year's Eve bash at the Big Apple Circus in Damrosch Park, there are both calm and exhilarating options. The Children’s Museum of Manhattan hosts a kid-friendly all-day and late night affair—or if you're feeling fancier, The Plaza's Palm Court has hosted an elegant family New Year's soirée. It’s a great way to celebrate as a family and spend time together where both parents and kids can enjoy themselves in good spirits.

Happy 2013!
Where else can you and your family see a major water-way dyed green? Chicago! Every year, the city is home to one of the nation’s largest and most-family friendly celebrations of St. Patrick's Day. The parade travels down Columbus Drive along Lake Michigan and features amazing floats and costumes. Another option is the Irish American Center Festival at the Irish American Heritage Center complex, which includes music, food and over 10,000 revelers. It is a less rowdy, more historical celebration that will teach the kids about the history of the holiday and allow everyone a bit of tame fun. Let’s paint the town green!
Houston's The Art Car Parade is a beloved city tradition. The three-day celebration attracts nearly 300 vehicles from more than 2 dozen states and three countries. Now in its 26th year, the May celebration began with a donated 1967 Ford station wagon to The Orange Show Foundation for its annual gala benefit auction. "Houston artist Jackie Harris transformed the car into a mobile work of art with...plastic fruit," garnering the name "Fruitmobile." Over the next few years, other art cars cropped up on the streets of Houston. This tradition quickly gained attention and popularity, resulting in the foundation of The Art Car Parade in April, 1988.

Today, this cultural festival includes a parade, live music on the Free Press Summer Fest stage, children's crafts, and food. It's a time for Houstonians to come together and celebrate their creative side.
Gung Hay Fat Choy! Since the San Francisco Gold Rush, the Chinese New Year Festival has entertained hundreds of thousands of people who turn up to watch the street action, including the road race, fair, beauty pageant and parade. The event is a great way for families to take part in activities together, peruse art, see fireworks, and learn about the history of Chinese Americans and their decedents, in addition to enjoying fantastic food.

2013 is the year of the snake; so expect an appearance at the lunar new year parade as well as the 300 foot-long dragon, which requires a team of 100 costumed men and women to help him maneuver those tight San Francisco streets.

Photo Credit: --Mark--
You've never seen this much flare and color in a parade, that's for sure. Miami's October Carnival is a cultural display of Caribbean heritage for all ages. From the steel bands of Trinidad and Tobago to the throngs of spectators, dancers and jesters, it's a burst of traditions and ethnic experiences that will excite families. Those weary of Miami's party scene will be happy to discover that the Miami Broward Junior Carnival takes place for young people, encouraging costumes and participation in crafts and dance.

There is also Carnaval Miami and Calle Ocho, which happen in March in Miami's Little Havana. The events have family-friendly activities, music, and Pan-American food, as well as art shows and competitions to celebrate Cuban culture.

Photo Credit: Gaby Photography

With all the distractions of the city, it seems there’s never really time for much of anything—particularly not for enjoying those very distractions. You and your kids have your hands in this and that, lending your limited and often sparse attention to a cultural event here, or a social gathering there, but when was the last time you forgot about the ticking hands on your watch face and took joy in the simple act of being together?


For the next seven weeks, we follow families that do. 


Each day, with every meal and chore, these New Yorkers take a step back from it all. From neighborhood outings to museum visits, we connect with parents and their kids about how they keep their busy schedules in check and make time for what matters at the end of the day, when soccer season is over and to-do lists are crossed off: each other.


We also look to Houston, Miami, San Francisco and Chicago to see what they have to offer families who are searching for ways to be a part of each others’ everyday lives.


When it comes to your family, who doesn’t have a moment to spare?

Week One: From the Comfort of Your Front Yard

Week Two: Fashion, and Family: A Lifestyle

Week Three: Art and the City: A Family Affair

Week Four: Walking the Walk: The Family that Plays Together …

Week Five: Around the World in So Many Ways

Week Six: Put Down the Textbook, for a Lesson Learned

Week Seven: The Tradition of Coming Together

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