Tag Archives: holidays

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Sarson Da Saag for the Lohri Festival

Sarsoon_Ka_Saag_CookedTonight is the Punjabi Lohri festival. A celebration with ancient roots, it boasts numerous special foods. Today we’re bringing you a recipe for sarson da saag, a popular vegetable dish featuring mustard leaves and spices that is often eaten during the festivities.

No one is entirely sure when or why the Lohri festival began. As with many holidays celebrated today, it has ancient origins of a mysterious nature. The one unifying feature is that it is meant to recognize the winter solstice. It is thought that the ancient celebration of Lohri originally took place on the day of the winter solstice when the night is the longest of the year. The very next day began a trend of longer days and shorter nights, each slowly shortening by “the grain of one sesame seed.”[1] Continue reading

Coming January 31: Chinese New Year and the Year of the Wooden Horse

Sculpture from the Han Dynasty. Image courtesy of Robert Harding Picture Library.

Sculpture from the Han Dynasty. Image courtesy of Robert Harding Picture Library.

January 31, 2014 is the first day of the New Year in the Chinese calendar. It is designated as the Year of the Wooden Horse and officially ends on February 18, 2015.  The horse symbolizes adventure and romance, as well as the opportunity to seek out better fortune, especially for those who hadn’t been particularly lucky in 2013.  We’ll be posting a series of blogs during January and February to commemorate this ancient holiday.  We also will have a special section on our website showcasing various activities and festivities: Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! Happy Holidays! Enjoy an Eggnog Courtesy of Your Ancestral Genes

Image courtesy of Reese Lloyd on Flickr.

Image courtesy of Reese Lloyd on Flickr.

Eggnog is a holiday beverage with a history and a taste that can’t be beat.  To really appreciate the roots of eggnog, we have to go back 7,500 years.  That was a period critical to the human species—or at least to those of us who indulge in dairy.  It was sometime during that period that humans in the region between the central Balkans and central Europe developed “lactase persistence.” Professor Mark Thomas of University College London (UCL) Genetics, Evolution and Environment says in a 2009 study, “Most adults worldwide do not produce the enzyme lactase and so are unable to digest the milk sugar lactose. However, most Europeans continue to produce lactase throughout their life, a characteristic known as lactase persistence. In Europe, a single genetic change (13,910*T) is strongly associated with lactase persistence and appears to have given people with it a big survival advantage.” Continue reading

The History of the Holiday Evergreen

2068647073_027652d2e8This is the time of year where evergreens are festively decked out in red ribbon and twinkling lights and festooning homes and cities around the globe.  But did you know you were following in the footsteps of ancient cultures from all over the world who used green plants in their own winter solstice celebrations? Beginning thousands of years ago and culminating in today’s ubiquitous Christmas tree, greenery has long been a cherished holiday decoration. Continue reading

Bon Appetit Wednesday! St. Nicholas or Santa Claus? A Cookie Is Still As Sweet….

Santa

Below are two cookie recipes:  one in honor of St. Nick and the other Santa Claus.  For those of you who have a healthy dose of curiosity as well as a sweet tooth, let’s explore how these two holiday figures came to be.

St. Nicholas was a bishop in southwestern Turkey in the 4th century.  Born to a wealthy family, he gave much of his money away in support of the poor.  As the bishop of Myra, he had a number of miracles attributed to him and was eventually declared a saint.  His feast day was celebrated on December 6th.  During St. Nicholas’ lifetime, Pope Julius I decided that Jesus should be given a day that could be celebrated in honor of his birth.  Because the winter solstice was already being celebrated, the birthday for Jesus was designated to coincide, which eventually proved successful in “Christianizing” the previously pagan holiday.  Over time St. Nicholas’ day and Jesus’ birthday became associated, and the Christmas tradition began.   Because St. Nicholas was beneficent in his offerings to the poor, stuffed stockings and gifts became synonymous with this day. Continue reading

When Holidays Collide and Facebook Rules: Hanukkah + Thanksgiving = Thanksgivukkah

ThanksgivikkahTonight’s sundown marks the start of one of the most confusing holidays to spell – Hanukkah! Or Chanukah. Or Chanukkah. But that’s not all. For the first time since 1888, and not to be repeated for 79,043 years, Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, which is celebrated on the fourth Thursday each November in the United States, occur on the same day. Some verbal wits on social media have dubbed this very rare occurrence as …drum roll…”Hanu-giving.” Others are calling it “Thanksgivukkah.” Whatever the favorite, at least it has 79,043 years to catch on. Continue reading

KIDS’ BLOG! Diwali, the Festival of Lights

Happy DiwaliFor five days this week, starting on Sunday, November 3, Hindus around the world will celebrate Diwali, or Deepavali, the Festival of Lights.  Diwali marks the triumph of light over darkness, of good over evil.  Lamps are lit, colored lights dance against dark skies and fireworks explode in fiery celebration.  People exchange gifts, often of gold, dress up in new clothes, prepare special dishes and sweets, and with this celebration acknowledge the gods for giving humans health, wealth, peace and prosperity. Continue reading

Why January 1st?

Free-New-Years-Clip-ArtDid you celebrate the New Year with fireworks and champagne this year or did you take a polar bear plunge into a freezing body of water? No matter how you celebrated, you probably did it on January 1st. While there are many different cultural celebrations of the New Year, our globalized world generally agrees that the New Year starts on January 1st. It may seem common to us now, but this date was not always standard.

Continue reading