Tag Archives: religion

Millions Travel to Mecca for Annual Hajj

On November 5, millions of Muslims began the five-day hajj, an annual trip to Mecca in Saudi Arabia that is one of the five pillars of Islam.

The hajj, which draws about 2.5 million Muslim pilgrims to sacred sites in and around Mecca, is the largest religious gathering in the world.

Muslims who are physically able and can afford to make the trip gather from around the world to pray and practice their faith together.

The ritual goes back to Abraham, the common ancestor of the Muslim, Jewish, and Christian faiths. Abraham had a child with his servant, Hagar, a baby named Ishmael. Many of the rituals are based on a story in which Hagar, left alone in the desert with the baby, finds food and water to keep them both alive.

The hajj rituals are deeply important to Muslims. They are very well explained here and here. But the best way to learn about the hajj, and Islam, is by becoming friends with Muslims you may know and asking them questions about their faith.

In learning more about Islam, it’s interesting to note what an important role the number five plays in Islam. There are five pillars of Islam, which includes proclaiming that there is only one God, promising to donate generously to charitable works, fasting during Ramadan, daily prayer, and performing the hajj pilgrimage.

The hajj lasts five days and has a number of activities that must be performed or the hajj is invalid.

Finally, Muslims pray five times each day.

In other faiths, different numbers and rituals take on important meaning. Learning more about other religions helps us understand our beliefs even better.

Here are some great resources geared toward children to help them learn more about Islam.

Islam for Kids

BBC Schools, Islam: An Introduction

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Kids Should Know About Libya

Libya has been in the news recently as the United States and other nations enforce a “no fly zone” to help protect Libyan citizens who do not agree with their current government.

Without going too deeply into the situation in Libya, which may be overwhelming for children, it is an opportunity to teach kids about Libya and its place in the world.

Libya – whose official name is Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – is located in North Africa. It is the fourth-largest country in Africa and the 17th largest in the world.

The country is mostly covered by the Libyan Desert, which is one of the driest, hottest places on earth.

Some parts of the desert have not had rain for more than 13 years. The highest temerpature that has been recorded in the desert is 136 degrees Fahrenheit!

The majority of people live in cities and are primarily concentrated close to the coastline with the Mediterranean Sea.

Islam is the major religion in Libya. While most people practice Sunni Islam, there are also Coptic Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics.

Arabic is the primary language spoken in Libya but there are many people from other countries living in Libya, including people from Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Egypt, and Italy. Italian and English is sometimes spoken in the larger cities.

Libya is a very young country – half of the people there are 15 years old or younger.

Fortunately, every child in Libya has access to a free education through secondary (high) school.

In fact, Libya has the highest literacy rate in Africa. More than 82 percent of the people can read and write.

Family is very important to Libyans and they are accustomed to living close to each other. There are more than 140 tribes or clans and people strongly associate with their tribe.

Libyan food is very similar to the rest of North Africa. Staples of a Libyan diet include: couscous, olives, soups, dates, grains, and milk. Following the meal, most people consume several glasses of black tea.

Libya is a beautiful, historic country facing many challenges but hopefully the Libyan people will soon be living in peace.

Libyan Desert

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

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Food, Family, and Chinese New Year

There are few better – or cheaper – ways to introduce your child to other cultures than through food.

With so many great ethnic restaurants, it’s easy for parents to get children accustomed to foods from different countries from an early age.

However, parents may be unsure of what to order that’s kid-friendly.

In honor of Chinese New Year, which runs February 3-15, over the next few days KidCulture will provide some suggestions to help parents choose food in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants.

In each of these countries, people celebrate Chinese New Year by sharing good food with their families and friends – and that’s a custom worth adopting.

So stay tuned for some fresh, fun, food ideas to help you introduce your child to other cultures.

 

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Books About Chinese New Year

Here are some suggestions for children’s books about Chinese New Year. Enjoy!

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, Cornelius Van Wright, and Ying-Hwa Hu

My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz

Happy Chinese New Year, Kai-lan! By Lauryn Silverhardt, Jason Fruchter, and Aka Chikasawa

Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap Book by Joan Holub and Benrei Huang

The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine and Sebastia Serra

 

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Global Family Fun: Celebrate Chinese New Year

A little more than a month after most New Year celebrations end comes Chinese New Year, a fantastic opportunity to teach your children about Chinese culture and recommit to all the great intentions with which you started 2011.

Chinese New Year is celebrated around the world in countries with large Chinese populations and those with a significant shared cultural heritage. Indonesia, Malaysia, Chinatowns in North America, Australia, and Europe, as well as Korea, Vietnam, and Japan all celebrate the festival that begins on February 3 this year.

With its focus on family, good fortune, health, and happiness, Chinese New Year has many elements parents can adapt for their children.

For example, families in China prepare for the new year by thoroughly cleaning their homes in order to remove bad luck and make way for good fortune. However, they believe that it is very important that no one sweeps during the first few days of the new year because cleaning will remove the good luck once the new year begins.

Homes are decorated in red, the luckiest color, and adorned with intricate Chinese paper cuts. By putting up Chinese New Year decorations, you’re getting a head start on Valentine’s Day, which also incorporates red decorations.

Family visits are an important part of New Year celebrations and people usually buy new clothes. Your family can adapt this custom by planning a visit to an elderly neighbor or relative. They’ll be happy to see you whether you’re wearing new clothes or not!

Like most holidays around the world, food is a big part of the celebration. Throughout the holiday, families will share meals that include dumplings, fish, duck, chicken, noodles, and sweets.

Preparing the dumplings, in particular, is a family activity. Parents, grandparents, and children work together to prepare enough dumplings for the feast. Extended family and friends are invited so families have to be ready to feed a large crowd.

On the morning of the new year, children wish their parents health and happiness. In return, they are presented with leisee, money in red envelopes decorated with gold to signify wealth.  Children also are given oranges. The Chinese name for “orange” sounds the same as the word for luck or fortune.

Families cap off activities by setting off fireworks and some towns organize parades complete with lifelike dragons and lions. One of the most famous parades outside of China takes place in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

One final element of the holiday is forgiveness. People are urged to reconcile with each other and welcome the new year in with peace. That is especially fitting in 2011 as the ferocious and volatile Year of the Tiger gives way to the easy prosperity and peaceful negotiation of the Year of the Hare.

Although Chinese New Year celebrations last for more than two weeks, you can be a lot less ambitious with your activities. Sharing a special dinner, cleaning the house together, or making some special decorations are all you really need to do to give your family a flavor of the holiday and teach them about Chinese culture. Gung Hay Fat Choy! Happy New Year!

 

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French Onion Soup

Although well-known in the United States (it even appears on the TGI Friday’s menu), French Onion Soup is actually an ancient soup that originated in France and is typically affiliated with the poor because it was cheap and simple soup to make.

This French Onion Soup recipe comes from Chef Danielle at CookingClarified.com.

Of all the soup’s we’ve covered so far, this is likely the only one my mother will make! French Onion Soup is one of her favorites. Bon appetite, maman!

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Sweet Corn and Sweet Potato Soup

Today’s Sweet Corn and Sweet Potato soup is an original recipe from Chef Danielle Turner, author of CookingClarified.com.

Although Chef Danielle created the recipe, it relies on typical ingredients – corn and sweet potatoes – used by Southeastern Native American Indians.

As Chef Danielle says, “This soup is summer in a bowl.” We hope you enjoy it!

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Peruvian Beef Stew

Peruvian Beef Stew

Photo courtesy of latina.com

Peruvian cuisine is known as one of the best in South America. Its influences range from the indigenous people to immigrants from Spain, Italy, China, Japan, and West Africa.

Peru’s traditional staples are corn, beef, and potatoes. You could easily add potatoes to this recipe, from Cooking the South American Way, to incorporate all of those foods.

Peruvian Beef Stew

3 tbsp. vegetable oil

2 medium onions, chopped

1 ½ lb. round steak, cubed

2 tsp. paprika

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. garlic powder

¼ tsp. red pepper flakes

1 tsp. salt

¼ c. white wine vinegar

2 c. beef bouillon

2 c. squash, peeled and cut into ½-inch pieces

1 c. frozen peas

1 c. frozen corn

3 sprigs parsley

Heat oil in a pan and sauté onions.

Add meat and brown well, about 20 minutes. Add all spices, the vinegar, and the beef bouillon. Bring to a boil, stirring to mix well. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer about 45 minutes. Add squash, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add peas and corn and heat thoroughly. Garnish with parsley.

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Israeli Bean Soup

Cooking the Israeli WayI found this recipe in Cooking the Israeli Way, part of a great cookbook series geared toward children.

This recipe stood out for me because I love soup (clearly) and I like that this is a fast, vegetarian dish that still packs a lot of protein and fiber.

Israeli Bean Soup

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 onion, peeled and diced

1 can beans (navy or kidney)

1 small can tomato puree

2 cans beef broth

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

3 c. water

Heat over over medium-high heat in a pot. Add onion and sauté until brown. Add beans, tomato puree, broth, garlic, salt, pepper, and parsley. Boil soup, stir occasionally, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

 

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Ginger Beef & Noodle Soup

Ginger Beef and Noodle SoupGinger is the great food discovery of my 30s.

Until then, I’d never really appreciated this amazing little root, which combines great flavor and healthy properties. Chinese herbalists have been using ginger in food and medicine for more than 2,500 years, so it’s no wonder that it plays such an important role in Chinese food.

Ginger is especially helpful in warding off and minimizing colds and the flu – all the more reason to give this soup a chance!

This recipe, which is based on the well-known Chinese dish, is fast and easy to prepare. Enjoy!

Ginger Beef & Noodle Soup

10 oz. lean beef tenderloin, cut into ¼ in. strips

2 c. water or beef broth

1 c. shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

¼ c. rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp. soy sauce

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. sesame oil

1 tbsp. ginger, minced

¼ c. sliced green onion

¼ c. canola oil

Directions:

In a large bowl, add beef strips, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and ginger.  Stir until the meat is covered, set aside to marinate.

In a saucepan, heat canola oil over high heat.  When oil ceases to crackle, add shitake mushrooms.  Cook on high for 2-3 minutes.

Add the beef and marinade to the saucepan.  Cook until meat is browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes at high heat. Add water or beef broth. Bring to a boil. Add noodles. Cook for 7-10 minutes or until noodles are desired consistency.

Remove from heat. Garnish with green onion and serve.

 

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