Category Archives: Asia

Holi: The Indian Festival of Color

Wouldn’t you love to celebrate the coming of spring with a wild and exuberant festival where you didn’t have to behave and got to throw colored powder and perfume on people? Sounds like fun!

That’s the festival of Holi, an Indian holiday that is believed to commemorate the faithfulness of a young man, Prahlada, who continued to worship the god, Vishnu, even after he was ordered to stop by his father. His father commanded him and his aunt, Holika, into a fire that burnt up the aunt but spared Prahlada. The name Holi comes from the unlucky aunt.

Followers of Hinduism offer prayers on Holi and light bonfires to commemorate the story of Prahlada, as well.

The festival can last for a few days and it is generally seen as a time where people do not have to adhere to the strict social code in India but can relax and celebrate.

Although celebrations may vary by region, Holi is an important holiday in India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

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Welcome, Year of the Dragon!

Photo courtesy of China News

While most of us are still working on the New Year’s resolutions we made just weeks ago, it’s already time to say Happy New Year again as we celebrate Chinese New Year.

The Chinese calendar follows no fixed date and the new year is determined by the moon. This year, Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 22 with Lunar New Year’s Eve.

The new year, number 4710 on the Chinese calendar – officially begins Jan. 23 and marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.

According to legend, Buddha asked all the animals to say goodbye to him when it was his time to leave the earth.

But only 12 animals showed up for the farewell so to honor them Buddha assigned an animal to each of the years in a 12-year cycle.

The legend states that the rat was the first to arrive and so got the first year in the cycle.

The cat failed to show up at all and that is why there is no year of the cat.

Some people believe that you share personality traits with the animal assigned to the year you were born. If you are born in the year of the dragon, you are thought to be brave, enterprising, and quick-tempered.

For educational activities on Chinese New Year and Chinese culture, check out Apples4theteacher.com.

For a KidCulture reading list about Chinese New Year, click here.

Learn more about how families celebrate Chinese New Year around the world with this KidCulture article, Global Family Fun: Celebrate Chinese New Year.

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It’s Election Day – Learn About Elections Around the World

Today is Election Day in the United States. It’s an important day in which citizens exercise their right to vote for people to represent them at the city, county, state, and national levels.

Elections date back to ancient Greece and Rome. They have been used to elect the Holy Roman Emperor and the Pope.

In India, elections were held at the village level.

Ancient Arabs used elections to select their leader, called the caliph.

To be a good citizen, Americans have to educate themselves about the issues, decide which are the most important to them, research the candidates for public office, and cast their ballot on Election Day.

Many Americans also volunteer for political campaigns. They might go door to door with information about the candidates and the issues to educate others. They might make phone calls to voters to provide resources and information. They may work to put together a mailing or help create a website.

Political involvement doesn’t begin when the polls open on Election Day and end when they close. To truly participate in the democratic process, Americans have to stay engaged throughout the year so they can hold their representatives accountable.

Once candidates take office, Americans need to communicate with them to ensure that they continue to support the positions that mean the most to the voters. If a candidate seems to be listening to a minority of powerful and influential people and ignoring the concerns of the citizens who elected them, people have to contact those representatives and hold them accountable for their choices.

Americans are very fortunate to have one of the most responsive systems of government in the world. But many other countries also vote. Here’s a list of nations and how their leaders are chosen.

ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images

About 112 countries hold direct elections for their head of state. A direct election means that voters directly cast their ballots for the person or political party they want to support. More than 220 countries (including dependent territories) hold direct elections at the local level.

The United States holds indirect elections for the head of state, also known as the president. Indirect elections mean that voters cast their ballots for a representative who will select a candidate for president.

To learn more about elections around the world, check out Elections 101 from PBS Kids and Democracy Around the World from PBS Teachers.

If you’re interested in participating in a vote just for children, check out The Global Vote on issues that affect children around the world.

Happy Election Day!

 

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Superstitions Around the World

At Halloween, it’s fun to explore the things we don’t understand and examine the steps we take to control the things that just can’t be controlled. For example:

When you spill salt, do you throw a pinch over your left shoulder for good luck?

Do you believe black cats are unlucky?

Do you think that if you break a mirror, you’ll have bad luck for seven years?

Do you avoid the number 13?

These are all superstitions with which most Americans are familiar.

Even if we don’t believe in them, we pass this information on to our children because it’s part of our collective cultural heritage. We feel they should be aware of these beliefs.

But what other superstitions do people believe around the world? How are they different? Here’s a brief look at superstitions around the world to help you understand other cultures.

The Spooky Numbers 4 and 17

In Japan, it’s the number 4, not 13, that makes hearts race. In Italy, it’s the number 17. In these cultures, many hotels and hospitals avoid using these numbers to prevent their guests and patients from unnecessary pessimism. Of course, these buildings still have fourth and seventeenth floors, they just aren’t listed as such.

The Broken Dish

In the Netherlands, a broken dish is believed to bring bad luck in much the same way a broken mirror does.

More About Cats

In the Netherlands, private matters should not be discussed when a cat is in the room. People believe that cats are untrustworthy and spread gossip.

Tuesday

Tuesdays hold a special place in superstition. Tuesday the 13th is considered a particularly bad-luck day in many cultures in much the same way that Friday the 13th is bad luck to many Americans. In India, you cannot get a hair cut on Tuesdays because it’s believed to bring bad luck.

Bad Dreams

In Romania, if you dream about dark water or that you are carrying a newborn baby in your arms, you can expect bad luck. In China, dreaming about teeth or snow means that your parents have died.

More About Mirrors

If you thought breaking a mirror was bad, then you definitely do not want to place a mirror anywhere near the foot of your bed. If you do, Italians believe it permits the devil to watch you sleep. And if you wake up in the night and catch a glimpse of your reflection in that mirror, it means that evil owns you.

Watch Out For the Evil Eye

Many cultures believe in the evil eye which brings big-time bad luck. In Guatemala, parents can protect their children from the evil eye by dressing the kids in red; even a red bracelet will help.

Don’t Get Swept Away

In Venezuela, some people believe that if someone pushes a broom over your feet while they are sweeping, they also sweep away your chances of ever getting married. In many parts of Africa, you are never supposed to sweep your house at night. It is believed that you will sweep your good luck away.

Respect the Moon

In China, if you point to the moon with your finger the tips of your ears will fall off.

Whether or not you’re superstitious, it’s good to be aware – and respectful – of other people’s beliefs. When you visit people in their homes or travel to different countries, you need to respect these beliefs in order to be a considerate guest.

 

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10 Things Kids Should Know About Diwali

Happy Diwali! Although most Americans are unfamiliar with the festival of Diwali, it is celebrated by millions of people around the world.

Here are ten things kids should know about Diwali:

1. Diwali is celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, Jains, and Sikhs.

2. The holiday celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

3. One of the most popular interpretations of the holiday is that it commemorates the return of Lord Rama, who left his home and battled a ten-headed dragon. When he returned home after 14 years, villagers laid out lanterns to line the route.

4. Diwali means “row of light.”

5. Diwali is also a new year’s celebration.

6. To celebrate Diwali, observers go to temple and pray, light small clay lamps, wear new clothes, fireworks, and share delicious food with family and friends.

7. Diwali was first celebrated at the White House in 2003; in 2009, President Barack Obama participated in the White House Diwali celebration.

8. Diwali is one of the most important festivals for Hindus.

9. Diwali is celebrated for five days.

10. To wish a friend a happy holiday, you can say “Happy Diwali” in English or “Deepavali ki Shubhkamnayein” in Hindi.

Host your own celebration at home tonight by making Coconut Chicken and Vegetable Curry from Kitchen Explorers on PBS.

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New E-Book Blends Food & Culture

The Best International Flavors You're NOT Grilling With!I am so happy to announce that our e-book, The BEST International Flavors You’re NOT Grilling With! is now available from Amazon.com.

This is the first e-book my co-author, Chef Danielle Turner of www.CookingClarified.com, and I have put together. We share a love of other cultures (and food) and as mothers we want to encourage our children to be curious about people and places around the world.

In this grilling e-book, we’re expanding our outreach to parents, particularly fathers who are the stereotypical “grill masters” in their families. By encouraging dads to experiment with new foods and learn about new cultures, we hope that both mom and dad (and grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) will model the behavior we hope children will adopt.

For more information about the e-book, check out KidCulture’s Grilling page or visit Chef Danielle’s website, CookingClarified.

If you’re convinced that grilling with global influences is something your family would enjoy, we hope you’ll buy our book and support our efforts.

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International Food for Your All-American Cookout

Pavlova

Pavlova photo courtesy of http://www.kiwibaking.com

American Independence Day – also known as the Fourth of July – is one of the biggest barbecue holidays of the year.

This year, you can freshen up your party menu by incorporating cuisines from around the world. Not only will it give your guests some new flavors to enjoy but it will also permit everyone to celebrate one of the greatest things about our country: that we welcome all people here from around the world.

1. German Potato Salad

More than 17% of Americans report themselves as having some German ancestry, which is the largest self-reported ancestral group. Odds are, if you’re hosting a barbecue for the 4th of July, at least some of your guests are German-Americans. Here’s a Food Network recipe for German Potato Salad to help you celebrate.

2. Tandoori Chicken

Try something new on the grill with this recipe for Tandoori Chicken. You can adjust the seasonings to make it more – or less – spicy without sacrificing the amazing flavor.

3. Korean Barbecue

There’s nothing like barbecued spare ribs on the 4th of July, so tuck your napkin into your collar and get ready to get messy with this Korean Barbecue recipe from Epicurious.com. As of the 2000 Census, there are more than one million Korean-Americans in the United States.

4. Mexican Salad with Avocado Dressing

Fresh and delicious, this salad would go beautifully with whatever else you’re serving at your celebration. It’s also a great way to honor Mexican-Americans, whose numbers have increased 58% between the 1990 and 2000 Census.

5. Austalia/New Zealand’s Pavlova

Not only is this a beautiful-looking dessert, it’s also light after a heavy meal of barbecued foods. It uses fresh strawberries, but if you want to re-create the American flag, go ahead and dot in some blueberries to give the dish our traditional red, white, and blue look.

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A Family Coat of Arms

Coat of armsAlthough you may see a family’s coat of arms hanging over their fireplace now, the practive began in Europe in the 12th century when soldiers and powerful leaders used distinctive crests, also known as coats of arms or heraldic devices, to distinguish themselves or their soldiers on the battlefield. The idea was that in the confusion of the battlefield, these crests would help to distinguish friend from foe.

Eventually the practice spread and many non-soldiers adopted their own symbols. Because it was important that each coat of arms be unique, the process was strictly regulated.

The regulation was also necessary because each coat of arms is highly symbolic. The figures that are depicted, the colors used, the shape of the crest, the animals included, and the motto all give information about what is important to that particular family. Therefore, there had to be a consensus about what each symbol meant. You can find an extensive – and fascinating – list here.

Japanese family crestAlthough possessing a coat of arms is primarily a European custom, Japan has a similar tradition of their own. Known as “kamon,” or “mon,” these symbols are still used by Japanese families as a point of pride.

Unlike European family crests, Japanese crests are created in a round design and are generally one color and can be replicated in any color. No significance is given to the color of the design.

For a fun project, create a family coat of arms of your own. You can use this website or refer to the website above for information about the symbols and create one free-hand.

If your family already has a coat of arms, use the website to determine what each symbol means. Learning about your family’s history will help give your child greater respect for that history and make them eager to learn about others.

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Talking to Kids About Bin Laden

Child watching TVMany American parents woke up May 2 to the news that Osama bin Laden, the strategist behind the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States, the bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen, and the American embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, along with many other attacks on innocent people around the world, had been killed.

As we watched the news coverage we struggled with what to say to our children, most of whom had been born after the Sept. 11 attacks.

In order to explain today’s news and why people were celebrating, we had to weigh how much to tell our children about the events of Sept. 11, a day which was  for many of us the worst day of our lives.

There’s no one right way to deal with news events like this. Parents have to trust their instincts on how much to tell their children, depending on their age, sensitivity, and other factors.

But here are some things to keep in mind to help you – and your children – understand the situation.

Make sure children feel safe.

In talking about what happened at the compound in Abottabad, children are likely to feel afraid. Children interpret every event in relation to themselves. Could bad people hurt me and my family? Are we in danger? Help your child feel as secure as possible. Tell him or her that you are there to protect them and that nothing bad will happen. Children need reassurance in order to feel secure. Insecurity in children can lead to behavior problems, nightmares, and more.

Help children understand why people are celebrating.

As much as we would like to protect our children from some of history’s darkest moments, we need to explain and interpret that history for them. This is an opportunity for parents to frame these events in ways children can understand and in keeping with your religious, ethical, and moral beliefs. You cannot teach children how to process frightening events, which they are certain to experience in their lifetimes, if you don’t talk to them.

Listen to – and answer – the question they’re asking.

You don’t have to give a multi-part lecture on the rise of extremism or provide an in-depth geography lesson on south Asia. What your children really want to know is how this information affects them, their family, their school, and their community. You don’t have to be an expert on global terrorism to answer those questions.

Know when enough is enough.

Sometimes parents over-talk a topic. It’s important to give children information appropriate to their age and understanding and then talk about something else. Answer their questions, but don’t revisit the topic again and again without them asking about it. If you do, you’ll unintentionally diminish your credibility. Children will believe you’re hiding something or that you’re more concerned than you’re letting on, and that will lead to greater fear on their part.

Model the behavior you want them to copy.

Show your child how to react by modeling the behavior you want to see them imitate. If you rely on prayer in challenging times, let your children see you pray and permit them to pray with you. If you seek out a lot of news and information, let them see that, too.

Keep in mind that children have a hard time understanding that when news stories are repeated on television or the Internet that they are not happening over and over again.

There are many times when parents wish they had a guidebook for how to deal with some issue confronting their children or their family.

At such times, it’s important to remember that no one knows your child the way you do. Only you can determine how much and what information is appropriate for them at a given time.

Do not try to prevent your child from knowing about – and participating in – world events but instead give them the tools they need to process the information.

It’s a skill they’ll need throughout their lives.

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Wedding Gowns Around the World

Princess Diana wedding dress

Catherine Middleton's wedding dress is likely to become as iconic as Princess Diana's.

Happy wedding day to Prince William and Kate (Catherine) Middleton!

Now that we’ve finally gotten a look at her much-anticipated dress, we can stop and think about what wedding gowns mean and why they differ so much around the world.

While white or ivory wedding gowns have been the de facto bridal colors since Prince William’s great-great-great-grandmother (if my genealogy is correct) Queen Victoria chose to wear an ivory gown, in other parts of the world red, yellow, and purple are the established colors for brides to wear on their wedding days.

In China and many other Asian countries, red is a symbol of good luck so red wedding gowns with golden embroidery are common.

In southern China, a phoenix and a dragon are often embroidered on the gown to represent the balance of power in a marriage between the husband and the wife.

In Indonesia, brides and grooms wear complementary outfits and many golden accessories.

Traditional Korean wedding dresses are enormous and difficult to move around in so bridesmaids become much more critical to the bride-to-be.

In Morocco, yellow wedding gowns are thought to ward off evil. Green is another popular color meant to represent new life.

In Japan, purple is thought to be the color of love although brides may wear anything from a white, Western gown to red.

In Ireland, traditional brides wear blue, considered to be a lucky color. Green, which is heavily identified with Ireland (also known as the Emerald Isle), is considered very unlucky at a wedding.

More wedding dress photos from around the world are available here.

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