Culture

We’re so excited that one of our favorite holidays is just around the corner. While delicious food is a major perk of Thanksgiving, it is also a great time to remember what you are grateful for. We’ve talked about ways to show your gratitude throughout the year, Spotlighted a guy who started a company that encourages sending thank you cards, the power of random acts of kindness, and have offered tips on different ways to say thank you.

Thanksgiving is a time to count your lucky stars, appreciate your family, and give back to those you love. It is also a perfect time to share with friends and show how much you care about one another. A fantastic way to do this is by hosting a Friendsgiving! Friendsgiving is the celebration of Thanksgiving dinner with your friends, and it usually happens the Wednesday before or the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Whether you plan a Friendsgiving a couple of days before Thanksgiving or if it replaces actual Thanksgiving (since you might not be able to make it home for the holiday), there’s no better way to spend time with friends.

These are the 6 benefits of hosting a Friendsgiving:

  1. Experiment with new recipes.

Have you been waiting for the perfect event to make those mini pumpkin pies? Here it is, your perfect moment has arrived. Since you’ll be cooking or baking for a crowd, you can try multiple recipes and show off those kitchen skills.

  1. Experience different traditions.

Encourage those attending to incorporate their family traditions – does your best friend play football with his family before the feasting begins (hello Friends!)?, does your other friend watch football on TV afterwards? Is there a movie that one of your friends watches every Thanksgiving? Does someone love playing board games post-meal? Perhaps your family goes around the table before eating to say what they are grateful for?

Include these fun and new traditions into your Friendsgiving. By kicking off Friendsgiving, you and your friends will be starting a tradition of your very own.

  1. Try your friends’ favorite foods.

Make your Friendsgiving a potluck and tell everyone to bring their favorite dish (you’ll want to coordinate this so you don’t have four types of mashed potatoes). Through the variety of foods, you will experience the different flavors that your friends have enjoyed and celebrated over the years.

  1. You’ll get two days to focus on being thankful!

While being grateful every day of the year is important, this year you’ll get two days to focus on what you are thankful for – Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving. Lucky you!

  1. Start celebrating Christmas early without judgment.

So you and your friends want to start listening to Christmas music without being judged for it? This is the safest environment to do it in! Blast those Christmas carols and holiday tunes and make a dance party out of it. Who better to rock out to Jingle Bells with than your best friends who love the holidays just as much as you?

  1. Cleaning has never been faster.

Once the meal is over, there are multiple hands to make the clean-up process move much faster. For a stress-free post-meal experience, clean before you eat dessert. This way there won’t be that huge task looming over you. The job gets done sooner when everyone helps out.

Happy Friendsgiving!

Image: Friends Season 10

CultureExplore

Halloween, second only to Christmas in popularity, has its origins in a pagan holiday known as All Hollows Eve which honors the dead. Halloween precedes All Saints Day, which was created by Christians in order to convert said pagans, and in a few religious sects is viewed as an evil holiday. However, Halloween is usually celebrated with no association to pagan rituals or the occult.

Halloween, like most holidays, influences each and every one of us in some way or another. Holidays serve the purpose of celebrating or honoring aspects of culture. For example, with Christmas you either celebrate the religious or material facets of the day – both topics being heavily tied into a person’s culture and values. With Halloween being only a few days from now, look at the cultural aspects of All Hollows Eve. Whether you are getting dressed up for a theme party or watching scary movies and eating sweets with friends, like other holidays, the cultural aspects of Halloween influence everyone. In honor of Halloween looming around the corner, here are some of the staples of Halloween culture that influence people worldwide:

1. Trick-or-Treating

Everyone can remember the excitement they felt as a child when getting into their Halloween costumes and running up their neighbors’ front steps, orange plastic jack-o-lantern in hand, prepared for the treasure trove of sugary sweets they would devour later that night. But trick-or-treating did not always exist. For North America, the act of trick-or-treating popped up in the 1920’s and 1930’s; however, the act of “souling” predates to the Middle Ages. Most historians believe that “souling” inspired future acts like trick-or-treating. “Souling” occurred when poor people in Middle Age England would go door-to-door on Hallowmas – November 1st- and would receive food in return for prayers for the dead on All Souls Day – November 2nd. Over time, this transformed into the modern charade of trick-or-treating: dressing up as dead creatures and monsters in return for candy.

2. Monsters, Demons, & Scary Movies

Halloween used to be associated with the mourning of loved ones who had passed on, but, today, Halloween is a night when we can dress as our greatest fears or favorite fictional characters. This came from the Celtics who believes that by guising as frightening beings, they could ward off evil spirits on a night historically set aside for the dead. The Celtics’ decision to integrate monsters and evil creatures into a holiday originally centered on mourning incorporated the idea of evil and supernaturalism to Halloween. We can thank the Celts for our need to dress as Freddy Krueger and go see the Rocky Horror Picture Show on Halloween.

3 Pumpkin Carving and Jack-O-Lanterns

We can thank immigrants for this tradition. When coming over to America, immigrants brought the tale of Jack O’Lantern with them. In the tale, Jack, a drunk, relished in playing practical jokes on innocent villagers until, one day, Jack made the huge mistake of playing a practical joke on the Devil himself. Jack convinced the Devil to climb up a tree and then trapped him by encircling the tree with crosses. He made a deal with the Devil to release him only if the Devil swears to never claim his soul and the Devil accepted. However, this backfired because when Jack died, he was deemed too evil to go to Heaven, but the Devil kept his promise of keeping Jack out of Hell. Thus, Jack was doomed to roam the Earth for eternity with a forever-burning ember inside of a carved out turnip that served to light Jack’s eternal wandering. Initially, carving turnips was the tradition, but when pumpkins became more accessible and easier to carve, pumpkins became the primary source of Jack’s eternal light inflamed on doorsteps every year.

Halloween is heavily rooted in culture and is responsible for meshing a lot of cultures and ideas, so this Halloween, go out and experience what the early Christians, pagans, Celts, and American immigrants created through this cultural amalgamation.

Image: William Warby

Culture

新年快乐 (xīn nián kuài lè: This means ‘Happy New Year’ in Mandarin). Today marks the first day of Lunar New Year, where many celebrations will occur to welcome the beginning of the new year. Whether you celebrate Lunar New Year or not, here are some interesting tidbits that will give you a better idea of what the holiday is all about.

1. Lunar New Year is celebrated in several Asian countries, including China, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan.

2. According to Chinese astrology, each year is associated with an animal sign. The Chinese zodiac is a calendar system in which each of the years in the 12-year cycle is named after an animal: rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig.

3. Lunar New Year lasts 15 days. Beginning on January 31, 2014 and ending on February 14, 2014, Lunar New Year lasts about two weeks.

4. Lunar New Year traditions are observed and celebrated. A few traditions include exchanging money or treats in red envelopes, attending or participating in a parade, setting off firecrackers (the loud noises ward off bad spirits and bad luck), wearing red clothing, cooking Chinese dumplings, and decorating your home.

5. The color red is meant to scare away evil spirits. Red is also the color and symbol of good luck in Chinese culture. Many people will wear red or hang red decorations and paintings.

6. The number “8” symbolizes good luck and wealth because the Chinese word for “8” rhymes with fortune or wealth.

7. Sweet treats are a must. Some favorites include traditional candies made from lotus seeds, longan, peanuts, red melon seed, coconut, and candied melon.

8. Lunar New Year is symbolic of releasing the past and welcoming change and new beginnings. Use this time to clean your home and make a fresh start. Set new goals for yourself and pay attention to what you want to focus on for the coming year.

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