Tag Archives: India

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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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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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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Mulligatawny Soup

Mulligatawny SoupMulligatawny soup is an Anglo-Indian creation that is now enjoyed around the world.

This recipe comes from Julie Sahni’s book, Classic Indian Cooking, but Madhur Jaffrey also has a great recipe that includes chicken in her book, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey.

Like a lot of Indian recipes, this is an easy one to make vegetarian. Just omit the chicken broth and use vegetable stock or water instead.

The beautiful photo comes from http://www.MyRecipes.com.

Mulligatawny Soup

3 c. chopped vegetables (onions, carrots, celery, parsnips, mushrooms)

6 c. meat, veg or chicken broth

1 tsp. finely chopped garlic

1 sprig fresh coriander leaves (sub 1 tbsp. dry coriander)

¼ tsp. black pepper

2 tbsp. light vegetable oil

½ c. finely chopped onions

4 tsp. curry powder

3 tbsp. all-purpose flour

½ c heavy cream

Kosher salt

2 tbsp. finely minced fresh coriander leaves (1 tbsp. dry coriander leaves)

Put vegetables in a deep 3-quart saucepan with the broth, garlic, coriander, and black pepper. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 45 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Turn off the heat

When the vegetables are slightly cool, puree the soup. Pass the soup through a fine sieve to ensure that it will be smooth and velvety in texture and free of fibers. Return the soup to the pan and bring it to a gentle simmer.

While the soup is simmering, put the oil and onions in a small frying pan over medium-high heat until they turn a caramel brown, stirring constantly to prevent burning. Add curry powder and four, and cook the mixture for one minute, stirring rapidly. Turn off heat and add this mixture to the gently simmering soup, stirring constantly to prevent lumping. Simmer until soup has thickened (about 2 minutes). Turn off the heat. The soup may be made up to this point and set aside, covered, for several hours, or refrigerated for up to 3 days, or frozen.

To serve: stir in cream, salt to taste and coriander leaves. Simmer over low heat until warmed through. Serve hot.

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Mom to Kid: Go Fly a Kite

I have always loved flying kites. Maybe it’s because I was born in the spring, typically the best kite-flying time of year, or maybe I’m just a little flighty (get it?), but over the years I have flown a lot of kites.

Thanks to some close but not too-close hurricanes in our area over the past couple of weeks, we’ve enjoyed some unusually windy days that have been perfect for kite flying. After a fun afternoon testing out my son’s new Star Wars kite, I got to wondering about how popular kites are in other parts of the world.

As always, I turned to the Internet, which offered some immediate answers.

There’s a wikispaces devoted to a student project on kites that incorporates children from China, the United States, Pakistan, India, Australia, South Korea, and Slovenia.

This site has so many pictures of kites – and kite fliers – from around the world that you’re sure to see something you’ve never seen before!

I even found out that the United States has an entire museum dedicated to kites in Washington state.

And finally, here’s how to make your own kite (if you don’t have a cool Star Wars one already).

But no matter how much research you do, nothing takes the place of actually flying one yourself, preferably with someone who actually knows how to make the kite airborne!

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Tandoori Chicken and the History of India and Pakistan

Although I love Indian food, I’ve never been daring enough to make it at home. But that all changed today.

Meet Tandoori Chicken, my spicy new best friend.

According to Wikipedia, this is one recipe that really tells the story of two nations that share many things, including animosity towards each other.

It was originally created by a restauranteur in Peshawar province, before the partition of British-controlled India.

Partition was an incredibly violent and dangerous time. Carving up the territory into rival nations, India and Pakistan, meant that many Hindus found themselves on the “wrong” side of a newly created border and the same thing happened to Muslims in India.

The restauranteur, Kundan Lal Gujral, was Hindu and he made the dangerous journey out of Peshawar to finally arrive in Delhi where he started a new restaurant but maintained his prized Tandoori Chicken recipe.

The dish soon became a favorite of India’s first Prime Minister Jawarhalal Nehru and he served it at state dinners honoring American presidents John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, as well as other world leaders.

Like many dishes, Tandoori Chicken can’t be said to belong to any one nation. Its name comes not from a region or a religion but from the tandoor – a small, bell-shaped clay oven.

However, I – a Catholic in New Jersey who has never visited South Asia – made a pretty good version of it on a grill in my backyard.

If you’re interested in learning more about partition – a really fascinating story – there are many books and articles you can read about Mohandas Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the men who led India and Pakistan, respectively, during this time.

I can recommend the film “Jinnah,” which was written by Dr. Akbar Ahmed, with whom I worked at American University.

Although I have always been interested in history and world cultures, Dr. Ahmed was the person who introduced me to this really incredible story.

Isn’t it amazing that food can be an avenue to explore all this?

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Day of Knowledge

imagesDid you know that Sept. 1 is the traditional day for students to return to school in Russia? It’s known there as the “Day of Knowledge.”

In Japan, boys carry black book bags and girls carry red ones.

In India, boys and girls sit on opposite sides of the classroom.

On the first day of school in Kazakhstan, students bring their teachers flowers.

Here’s a cool chart that shows when students go back to school in some countries.

In Burkina Faso, students report to school a few days before classes begin to help clear weeds and move furniture. They work alongside teachers and school administrators to prepare the school for the new academic year. Students also purchase kerosene lanterns so they can do their homework in the evenings since most villages do not have electricity.

Although the customs – and shopping lists – may change country to country, going back to school is an exciting time for most children. In fact, there’s not a lot of grumbling from school children around the world about going back to school since they see it as an opportunity for them to learn.

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Are You Safe From April Fool’s Day Pranks?

images-1Here’s a short list of places NOT to go if you’re averse to tomfoolery:

England

Scotland

United States

France

Mexico

Portugal

India

However, having lived in West Africa, I can tell you that former colonies of any of these countries are extremely likely to maintain the practice of April Fool’s jokes.  In Burkina Faso, it was known as the “poisson d’avril,” which means “April fish.”  This turn of phrase stems from the young and naïve fish spring fish who were easily caught on April 1.  

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Indian Cuisine at Target

img_42683One big way I try to introduce new cultures to my family is through food.  I can make a mean African peanut stew (also known as sauce tege dege). I’ve attempted homemade sushi, curried lentils, and even my great-grandmother’s corned beef and cabbage recipe.  Although

 I would love to learn the authentic way to cook new foods, I am not too proud to accept a little help to jumpstart my culinary efforts.  So I was really surprised – and happy – to see that Target has several traditional Indian dishes in a heat and serve package. 

My suggestion:  pick up a couple of varieties to try and pop in “Bend It Like Beckham.”  There is a great scene where a mother tries to teach her soccer-mad daughter how to cook and in the DVD’s bonus features the director cooks her favorite Indian recipe.  

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