04 апреля 2015
This week we are celebrating Easter!
What is Easter in UK?
Easter is a popular holiday across the United Kingdom, filled with history, folklore and traditional customs. Easter, one of the oldest Christian traditions, is the celebration of the last week of Jesus’ life, his death, and his resurrection. For Christians, Easter symbolises the dawn of a new life and the high point of the Christian calendar. While defined as a Christian holiday, Easter has many of its roots in the traditions and rituals of the pagan people who inhabited the United Kingdom before its wide spread conversion to the Christian faith. Scholars believe that Easter was named for “Eostre”, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of the spring.
The actual day of Easter, unlike Christmas, is not a set date. Always on a Sunday, Easter can vary in date by country depending on whether the Gregorian or Julian calendar is being used. The UK, which follows the Gregorian calendar, celebrates Easter on the Sunday following the first full moon that occurs after the first day of spring. Using this timeline, Easter can vary in date from as early as the 22nd of March to as far into spring as the 25th of April.
Easter in the UK begins with the Thursday before Easter. Maundy Thursday is celebrated as the last day of Jesus’ life and the day of the Last Supper. It is said that Jesus washed the feet of his loyal disciples in the “Eucharist” ceremony. The day is named after the French word “mande”, which roughly translates to the terms command or mandate. It is said that this name came about from Jesus’ last command given to his followers, “love one another as I have loved you.”
Dating back to the time of King Edward the First, it is tradition for the Queen to take part in the Maundy Thursday celebrations. It is customary for the sovereign to distribute what is called the “Maundy Money” to deserving senior citizens. One man and one woman are chosen to represent each year of the Monarch’s age. These are citizens that have done great service in the community and are chosen to receive a red and white purse containing one coin for every year of rule by the Monarch.
Maundy Money is a modern change on the original celebration of Maundy Thursday. It was said that the Royals used to wash the feet of selected poor people to show devotion and humility to their constituents. However, the last Royal to have participated in the original form of this holiday was King James the Second. The current tradition of Maundy Money was said to have been started by King Charles the Second in 1662 and has remained unchanged in its entirety since 1670.
Thought once to be named “God’s Friday” or “Holy Friday”, the United Kingdom’s celebration of Good Friday is a commemoration of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Good Friday is treated as a day of mourning in the United Kingdom. Churches remain unlit and bare, with no decorations or flowers; some churches cover statues and paintings. Many churches hold a ceremony at 3 o’clock, as this is said to be the time that Jesus died on the cross. Most church services on Good Friday last approximately three hours and will incorporate passion plays or dramatic readings into their services.
Hot cross buns are traditionally eaten by Christians in the UK on Good Friday. The bread serves as a reminder of Jesus dying for our sins due to the shape of the cross that appears across the top of the bun. They are generally consumed as a breakfast food and come straight from the oven. Once sold by street vendors in the cities, a well known nursery rhyme was founded based on the pitch sung by the local vendors: “Hot Cross Buns, Hot Cross Buns, One a penny, two a penny, Hot Cross Buns. If you do not like them, give them to your sons, one a penny, two a penny, hot cross buns.” There are several superstitions around the hot cross bun. Some say that when baked on Good Friday, they would never go mouldy. Others say that if hardened, they would protect a house from fire. Sailors were known to take them to sea, to protect them from shipwrecks.
Fish is the traditional food of choice for Good Friday suppers, while some devout Christians opt to fast instead in memory of the sacrifice given by Jesus Christ.
The Saturday prior to Easter is called “Holy Saturday.” It is historically considered to be the day that Jesus lay in the tomb and is used to reflect on his sacrifice and prepare for the Easter festivities. Most churches hold services on the eve of Easter. Starting in the early church, it was common for ‘new converts’ to the faith to be baptised on this day so that they were able to take their first communion on the Easter Sunday.
Easter Sunday is one of the most important holidays in the church. It symbolises remembrance of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, implying that death is not the end of our journey. The churches celebrate Easter Sunday with bell ringing, flowers (generally white lilies), and a white and gold colour pallet inside of the church hall. Some churches conduct a sunrise service; some perform their services on a hillside. An Easter vigil is held in which a fire is lighted outside of the church first thing on Sunday morning. A candle called the Paschal Candle is lit from the fire and then carried into the church. A Paschal Candle is covered in small studs that symbolise Christ’s wounds and is used to light the candles of the congregation members. The service is considered to be joyous in comparison to the mourning ceremonies of the previous days.
The Foods of Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday is rich in traditional foods. Breakfast consists of boiled eggs and the exchanging of Easter gifts and cards. Roast lamb with mint sauce is served as the main meal for Easter Sunday. Easter biscuits and custard tarts are the traditional pudding. Tea tends to be a Simnel cake, which is a fruitcake covered with an almond marzipan. Traditionally, eleven balls of marzipan were baked on top of the cake denoting the eleven original disciples. This, of course, excludes Judas as one of the disciples. Easter biscuits contain spices, currants, and occasionally grated lemon rinds. These are sometimes referred to as Easter cakes.
The Traditions of a United Kingdom Easter
Perhaps one of the largest traditions during a UK Easter is the giving of Easter eggs. Chocolate eggs are given to children on Easter Sunday. These can either be hollow or have a filling, such as a cream base, and tend to be wrapped in silver or gold paper. Early Easter gifts were originally birds’ eggs, painted in bright colours and patterns. Some still celebrate Easter with egg painting as a children’s activity. Eggs are a symbol of new life created during the spring and is said to have come from the original pagan traditions surrounding the holiday.
Another egg related tradition involves rolling real eggs down a hill in a race. The winner was the owner of the last un-cracked egg. While this tradition seems to have faded in popularity, it can still be seen in Preston in Lancashire, in the north of England. Some have adopted the tradition of hiding eggs in the garden for children to search for. This has only appeared in the UK as of late, with the adoption of the German-originated Easter Bunny.
Morris dancing can still be seen around the United Kingdom. A form of historical folk dancing dating roughly back to the Middle Ages, Morris dancing is comprised of men costumed in white with ribbons and bells on their ankles who dance through the streets of the villages. This is done to symbolize the arrival of spring. Another, slightly less common tradition is the Maypole dancing. This dates back to before Christianity came to the shores of the UK and is a pagan-based tradition. The Maypole dance includes dancing around a large pole with ribbons. People dance around the pole, while holding the ribbons, in a weaving fashion until the entire pole is swathed in the ribbon. This is meant to celebrate the coming of spring in the original pagan festival.
Celebrations across the UK
Annual Easter egg hunts are conducted at The World of Beatrix Potter in the Peter Rabbit Garden with over 50 eggs hidden and prizes totaling up to $10,000 upon occasion. Prizes do vary by year, but the proceeds go to charity and is a lovely experience for children or adult fans of the beloved Beatrix Potter series.
In Scotland, Floors castle plays host to an annual egg-and-spoon race. The castle, home to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe, stays closed through the winter, reopening to the public during the spring and summer seasons. Egg-and-spoon races, bunny hop races, face painting, and many other seasonal activities take place in the castle gardens.
The island of Harris in Scotland conducts an egg rolling competition. If your egg makes it to the bottom of the hill unbroken, you are said to have good luck for the remainder of the year.
Good Friday and Easter Monday are considered Bank Holidays with most businesses being closed across the United Kingdom giving most a four day holiday. Easter coincides with a two week holiday for schools and is the most popular time for family vacations.
Easter holiday celebrations are unique to those across the world due to their historical background. A United Kingdom Easter has traditions based not only on Christianity principles but also containing deep rooted pagan customs. Whether you are celebrating Easter as the resurrection of Jesus Christ or a large Easter bunny leaving behind chocolate and painted eggs, there are plenty of unique celebrations across the country to enjoy over the holiday weekend.Свернуть
30 марта 2015
April Fools' Day
April Fools' Day is always celebrated on April 1st. It is the name given to the custom of playing practical jokes on friends, or sending them on fools errands. Sometimes, elaborate practical jokes played on friends or relatives might last the entire day. Even the news media and major companies sometimes get involved. Whatever the prank, the trickster usually ends it by yelling to his victim, "April Fool!"
The history of April Fools' Day, sometimes called All Fools' Day, is not clear. There is no first "April Fools' Day" that can be pinpointed on the calendar, although it is known to date back at least to the sixteenth century. Most historians believe that April Fool’s Day originated in continental northern Europe and then spread to Britain.
Some popular theories on the origin of April Fools' Day include:
The Gregorian Calendar
Some say that April Fools' Day was first celebrated soon after the adoption of the Gregorian Calendar. Prior to that time, much of Europe celebrated March 25, the date of the Christian Feast of Annunciation, as the beginning of the new year. The celebration culminated on April 1 and was celebrated in much the same way as it is today with parties and dancing into the late hours of the night.
In 1563 King Charles IX decreed January 1 to be the first day of the year. Eighteen years later, in 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the new Gregorian Calendar, and New Year's Day was moved to January 1. Upon moving the official New Year's Day from April 1 to January 1, there were some people who hadn't heard or didn't believe the change in the date, so they continued to celebrate New Year's Day on April first. These people were called them "April fools" and often had tricks played on them. They were subject to ridicule, and were often sent on "fools errands" or were made the butt of other practical jokes.
Although this is a popular and widespread theory, it is not the only theory for the origin of the holiday, and many of the customs and traditions of the holiday were already well established prior to the calendar change.
The Arrival of Spring
Some believe that the custom is related to the arrival of Spring with the unpredictable and capricious April weather.
Also, the Spring Equinox marks the end of winter and the beginning of spring and the new growing and planting season. Many cultures celebrated this time of year with jubilant festivals where people would wear disguises and play pranks on each other. Many historians believe April Fools' Day evolved from some of these festivals.
May Day (May 1)
In many pre-Christian cultures May the 1st (May Day), which falls approximately halfway between the spring equinox and summer solstice, was celebrated as the first day of summer. This marked the beginning of the new growing and planting season. Someone who did this prematurely would be called an April Fool.
Today, April Fools' Day has spread around the world, with different nationalities specializing in their own brand of humor at the expense of friends and families:
United States - Americans play small tricks on friends and strangers alike on the first of April. One common trick is pointing down to a friend's shoe and saying, "Your shoelace is untied."
France - French children fool their friends by taping a paper fish to their backs. When the young victim discovers this trick, the prankster yells "Poisson d'Avril!" (April Fish!)
England - Tricks can be played only in the morning. If a trick is played on you, you are a "noodle".
Scotland - April Fools' Day is actually celebrated for two days and the custom is known as "hunting the gowk" (the cuckoo), and April fools are "April gowks". The second day is devoted to pranks involving the posterior region of the body. It is called Taily Day. The origin of the "kick me" sign can be traced to this observance.
Mexico – the counterpart of April Fools' Day is actually observed on December 28. Originally, the day was a sad remembrance of the slaughter of the innocent children by King Herod. It eventually evolved into a lighter commemoration involving pranks and trickery.
Portugal - April Fools' is celebrated on the Sunday and Monday before Lent. The traditional trick there is to throw flour at your friends.
In Russia, too, they have always respected the good humor and a healthy laughter. In the first warm days (which approximately begin in the beginning of April) the ancient Slavs went out to "scare" the winter away. They dressed in animal skins, wore masks and staged noisy presentations accompanied by laughter. Well, the actual April Fool's Day was first introduced by Peter I. Since then, this unofficial holiday in Russia has been adored both by adults and children. To mark April 1 in Russia means charging with positive emotions for the upcoming year. Perhaps it is only in this country that they treat humor so "seriously" and cannot imagine the holiday without the funny practical jokes. The joke might be kind, funny and even extreme, if you want, but in the end it all should end in laughter with tears (of joy, of course). Besides, on April 1 in Moscow and other Russian cities they arrange various comedy shows and concerts, which are worth visiting in order to experience unforgettable pleasure.Свернуть
23 марта 2015
This week we are celebrating Earth Hour Day!
Earth Hour started in 2007 as a lights-off event to raise awareness about climate change. We have grown to engage more than 162 countries and territories worldwide. Earth Hour is on Saturday, 28 March 2015 at 8:30 pm local time.
What is Earth Hour?
The Earth Hour event asks that we all, across the Earth, turn off our power systems for one hour on a specified day, at a particular time.
Our planet's weather system is shifting. Whether it is permanent or temporary; the result of human induced global warming, or a natural shift in climate patterns, as has happened many times on earth over the millennia, we really can't be absolutely sure.
One hour, however global, won't affect our climate to any great degree, and there is a danger that gestures like these breed complacency after the event for some. But if it causes individuals and businesses to question our attitude to Earth as an inexhaustible resource created for our consumption, then it's an exercise well worth promoting and practicing.
It would seem to me that the value of Earth Hour Day ultimately lies in its ability to stimulate our intelligence and goodwill towards this lovely planet that we live on. You can find out more about Earth Hour Day, and how you can join in by reading on...
'Everyone has a right to a clean and healthy environment regardless of race, ethnicity or socio-economic status.'
Earth Hour is organized by the WWF's, and it's mission is to 'stop the degradation of the Earth's natural environment and build a future where people live in harmony with nature.'
The Beginnings Of Earth Hour Day
Earth Hour Day was the inspired idea of the Australian branch of the WWF. The concept was that the residents of Sydney should turn off their lights for one hour at a designated time as a mass statement of concern regarding climate change and the worlds use of fossil fuels.
Starting in 2006, the event was so successful that the following year 2.2 million individuals and more than 2,000 businesses responded to the day and 'switched off' in unison.Свернуть
After that the event took on a life of its own, as first Toronto in Canada, and then another 35 countries and approximately 400 cities signed up for the event over the next two years. 2011 marked a new record in participation, with 135 countries participating in Earth Hour.
Earth Hour has now become an annual global event, and falls each year on the last Saturday of March; coniciding with the equinox,. This specific timing means that most cities around the globe will be experiencing darkness at the time of the switch off, thus making the event quite stunning.
16 марта 2015
St. Patrick's Day History and Traditions
This holiday is celebrated every year on March 17th, honoring the Irish patron saint, St. Patrick. The celebrations are largely Irish culture themed and typically consist of wearing green, parades, and drinking. Some churches may hold religious services and many schools and offices close in Suffolk County, the area containing Boston and its suburbs.
People all over the world celebrate St. Patrick's Day, especially places with large Irish-American communities. Feasting on the day features traditional Irish food, including corned beef, corned cabbage, coffee, soda bread, potatoes, and shepherd's pie. Many celebrations also hold an Irish breakfast of sausage, black and white pudding, fried eggs, and fried tomatoes. Common traditions include:
- Parades - This event is most often associated with the holiday. Cities that hold large parades include Boston, New York, Philadelphia, New Orleans, Savannah, and other cities worldwide.
- Drinking - Since many Catholics are Irish-American, some may be required to fast from drinking during Lent. However, they are allowed to break this fast during the St. Patrick's Day celebrations. This is one cause for the day's association with drinking heavily.
- Dying water or beer green - Chicago dies its river green for the festivities, and many bars serve green-dyed beer. The White House fountain is also dyed green.
- Other incorporations of green - In Seattle, the parade routes are painted in green. Observers are supposed to wear green or else risk being pinched. Parade floats and decorations will feature the color green.
- Religious services - Those who celebrate the holiday in a religious context may also hold a feast. Outside of this context, overindulgence tends to revolve around drinking.
- Pea planting - In the Northeast, many celebrate by planting peas. This is largely due to the color and time of year (prime pea-planting conditions.
Saint Patrick - The Missionary and Bishop of Ireland
St. Patrick, or the "Apostle of Ireland," actually started out in the pagan religion. While not much is known about his early life, as many of his life's details were lost to folklore, letters from St. Patrick reveal that he was captured in Wales, Scotland, or another close area outside of Ireland and taken to Ireland as a slave. Years later, he escaped and returned to his family, who were Romans living in Britain, going back to Ireland for mission work after finding a place as a cleric and then Bishop within the Christian faith. He was born around 460, and by the 600s, he was already known as the Patron Saint of Ireland.
There are many legends associated with St. Patrick. The symbol of the shamrock used for St. Patrick's Day comes from the story of St. Patrick using the shamrock to illustrate the Holy Trinity. The three-leafed plant coincided with the Pagan religion's sanctity of the number three and is the root of the green color theme.
Another popular belief is that St. Patrick banished the snakes from Ireland. The story says that while St. Patrick was fasting, snakes attacked him, so he chased all snakes into the ocean. However, there have never been snakes in Ireland during the post-glacial period. The absence of snakes and symbolism involved with snakes is believed to explain the story, although it could have been referring to type of worm rather than snakes. One legend has St. Patrick sticking a walking stick into the ground while evangelizing, which turned into a tree.
The History of St. Patrick's Day and why it's celebrated.
St. Patrick's Day was first celebrated in America in 1737, organized by the Charitable Irish Society of Boston, including a feast and religious service. This first celebration of the holiday in the colonies was largely to honor and celebrate the Irish culture that so many colonists had been separated from.
Early celebrations continued this modest tradition. In New York, the first celebration took place as a small gathering at the home of an Irish protestant. St. Patrick's Day parades started in New York in 1762 by a group of Irish soldiers in the British military who marched down Broadway. This began the tradition of a military theme in the parade, as they often feature marching military unites. The holiday eventually evolved from the modest religious dinner into the raucous holiday we know today.
Worldwide St. Patrick's Day Parades and Celebrations
Parades and wearing green have always been a traditional part of St. Patrick's Day celebrations, but the events will vary based on the city:
- Boston - St. Patrick's Day celebrations in Boston bring over 600,000 visitors to the city, which has a large Irish-American community. The city has one of the largest parades, which many veterans take part in, and events are held in the large number of Irish pubs in the city. The Irish Cultural Centre holds a celebration, and many events feature Irish food, such as corned beef.
- New York - New York City is the place of the oldest civilian parade, which boats over 150,000 participants. This may include veterans along with firefighters, policemen, and cultural clubs. It is led New York's 69th infantry regiment. Another city in New York state, Pearl river, has the second largest parade in the state with crowds of over 100,000. In Buffalo, there are two St. Patrick's parades.
- Scranton - This Pennsylvania city's parade is one of the oldest and largest. Since 1862, this parade has been one of the most popular, with current celebrations attracting around 150,000.
- Chicago - The Irish community makes up a large part of Chicago's celebration. Chicago dyes the Chicago River green and holds the South Side Parade, which has actually had to be scaled back in recent years due to the celebration growing too large for the Irish groups that hold the parade.
- New Orleans - This coastal city was the largest point of immigration for the Irish. St. Patrick's Day celebrations are typically held at the community or neighborhood level.
- Ireland - This celebration is more religious in nature, as it is considered a religious feast day. While it was made an official holiday in 1903, the first Saint Patrick's Festival was held in 1996. During these recent years, the even has become more cultural and consists of many celebrations in the streets.
Copyright © 1997-2012, Jerry Wilson; Get Permission to Reprint this article.Свернуть
10 марта 2015
This week we are celebrating Mothering Sunday in United Kingdom!
Mothering Sunday 2015
Sunday, March 15, 2015
Mothering Sunday, sometimes known as Mother's Day, is held on the fourth Sunday of Lent. It is exactly three weeks before Easter Sunday and usually falls in the second half of March or early April.
What do people do?
Mother's Day, or Mothering Sunday, is now a day to honor mothers and other mother figures, such as grandmothers, stepmothers and mothers-in-law. Many people make a special effort to visit their mother. They take cards and gifts to her and may treat her to brunch, lunch or high tea in a cafe, restaurant or hotel. People who cannot visit their mother usually send gifts or cards to her.
An important part of Mothering Sunday is giving cards and gifts. Common Mother's Day gifts are cakes, flowers, chocolates, jewelry, and luxurious clothing. Some people do not give a physical gift, but choose to treat their mother or grandmother to a special meal, beauty treatment or fun outing.
Specially decorated Mother's Day cakes are available in many stores. In the days and weeks before Mothering Sunday, many schools, Sunday schools and children's organizations help their pupils to prepare a handmade card or gift for their mother.
Mothering Sunday is not a bank holiday in the United Kingdom. Public transport services run to their usual Sunday timetables. Cafes, restaurants and hotels may be fully booked a long time ahead, as many people treat their mother to a special meal on Mothering Sunday. Those wishing to eat in a restaurant on Mother's Day may need to reserve a table in advance.
Mothering Sunday was originally a time when people returned to the church, in which they were baptized or where they attended services when they were children. This meant that families were reunited as adults returned to the towns and villages where they grew up. In time, it became customary for young people who were working as servants in large houses, to be given a holiday on Mothering Sunday. They could use this day to visit their own mother and often took a gift of food or hand-me-down clothing from their employers to her. In turn, this moved towards the modern holiday, on which people still visit and take gifts to their mothers.
Traditionally, people observed a fast during Lent. Lent is the period from Ash Wednesday until Good Friday. During the Lent fast, people did not eat from sweet, rich foods or meat. However, the fast was lifted slightly on Mothering Sunday and many people prepared a Simnel cake to eat with their family on this day.
A Simnel cake is a light fruit cake covered with a layer of marzipan and with a layer of marzipan baked into the middle of the cake. Traditionally, Simnel cakes are decorated with 11 or 12 balls of marzipan, representing the 11 disciples and, sometimes, Jesus Christ. One legend says that the cake was named after Lambert Simnel who worked in the kitchens of Henry VII of England sometime around the year 1500.Свернуть
02 марта 2015
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S DAY
International Women's Day (IWD), also called International Working Women's Day, is celebrated on March 8 every year. In different regions the focus of the celebrations ranges from general celebration of respect, appreciation and love towards women to a celebration for women's economic, political, and social achievements. Started as a Socialist political event, the holiday blended in the culture of many countries, primarily in Europe, including Russia. In some regions, the day lost its political flavor, and became simply an occasion for men to express their love for women in a way somewhat similar to a mixture of Mother's Day (celebrated in USA and Canada in May and in Great Britain on 15th of March this year).
This week we are celebrating International Women’s day and the next week we will focus on the Mother's Day and its celebrations in UK.
What do people do?
International Women’s Day events are held worldwide on March 8. Various women, including political, community, and business leaders, as well as leading educators, inventors, entrepreneurs, and television personalities, are usually invited to speak at various events on the day. Such events may include seminars, conferences, luncheons, dinners or breakfasts. The messages given at these events often focus on various themes such as innovation, the portrayal of women in the media, or the importance of education and career opportunities.
Many students in schools and other educational settings participate in special lessons, debates or presentations about the importance of women in society, their influence, and issues that affect them. In some countries school children bring gifts to their female teachers and women receive presents from friends or family members. Many workplaces make a special mention about International Women’s Day through internal newsletters or notices, or by handing out promotional material focusing on the day.
International Women’s Day, is a public holiday in some countries such as (but not exclusive to):
Many businesses, government offices, educational institutions are closed in the above-mentioned countries on this day, where it is sometimes called Women’s Day. International Women’s Day is a national observance in many other countries. Some cities may host various wide-scale events such as street marches, which may temporarily affect parking and traffic conditions.
The first International Women’s Day occurred on March 19 in 1911. The inaugural event, which included rallies and organized meetings, was a big success in countries such as Austria, Denmark, Germany and Switzerland. The March 19 date was chosen because it commemorated the day that the Prussian king promised to introduce votes for women in 1848. The promise gave hope for equality but it was a promise that he failed to keep. The International Women’s Day date was moved to March 8 in 1913.
The UN drew global attention to women's concerns in 1975 by calling for an International Women's Year. It also convened the first conference on women in Mexico City that year. The UN General Assembly then invited member states to proclaim March 8 as the UN Day for Women's Rights and International Peace in 1977. The day aimed to help nations worldwide eliminate discrimination against women. It also focused on helping women gain full and equal participation in global development. International Men’s Day is also celebrated on November 19 each year.
The International Women’s Day logo is in purple and white and features the symbol of Venus, which is also the symbol of being female. The faces of women of all backgrounds, ages, and nations are also seen in various promotions, such as posters, postcards and information booklets, on International Women’s Day. Various messages and slogans as well as number eight that promote the day are also publicized during this time of the year.Свернуть
23 февраля 2015
This week we are celebrating
NATIONAL POLAR BEAR DAY
In honor of International Polar Bear Day, which falls each year on February 27th, here are a few things about the celebrated bruin that may amaze and amuse you:
The polar bear rivals the Alaska brown bear as the world’s largest land predator. A large male polar bear may weigh up to 1,500 pounds and grow to nearly 10 feet tall, standing on its hide legs; however, a record male shot in 1960 in Alaska weighed 2,210 pounds and stood 12 feet tall. The petite females stand only up to about 8 feet tall and tip the scales at a svelte 550 pounds or less.
Polar bears are closely related to brown bears and probably evolved from a brown population that become isolated from others of their kind perhaps 150,000 years ago during the most recent ice age—making polar bears a newer, or more “modern,” species than the modern human, which dates back at least 200,000 years.
Brown and polar bears can interbreed and produce fertile young, which by some definitions suggests they are the same species. However, they are adapted to different habitats and behaviors and, under the climate conditions that have prevailed since the last ice age, cannot survive very long in each other’s habitat, a factor that keeps them isolated and continuing to evolve away from one another.
You can sometimes tell male polar bears from female by the hair on the males’ front legs. Once mature, males tend to have much longer hair on their forelimbs.
Polar bear hair is transparent; the way it reflects light makes it look white. It can turn yellowish with age.
Polar bears are so adapted to cold that they can’t take temperatures above 50 degrees.
Wild polar bears probably live more than 25 years only rarely, but in captivity they have lasted up to 43 years.
Despite the harsh winter conditions that batter the polar bear’s Arctic home, only females about to give birth hibernate. Males remain active year round. However, when food is scarce during warm seasons, polar bears can go a few months without eating.
Most land animals are too fast for the bear to catch. Polar bears prey mostly on marine mammals, including seals and the occasional beluga whale. Lying by breathing holes in the ice, the bears snatch prey from the water when the animals come up for air.
Although polar bears eat everything from crabs to kelp to muskoxen, they are adapted to feeding on calorie-rich blubber. When dining on seals, adults favor the fat and the skin exclusively, while younger bears may sup on seal meat.
Found in Arctic reaches in both hemispheres, the polar bear maintains a foothold on more of its native range than any other large meat-eating animal, but only because its habitat is so inhospitable to humans that the bear has never had to contend with much human encroachment.
The polar bear has been protected for many years. Russia outlawed hunting in 1956, and Greenland began regulating it in 1994. The United States began protecting the species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972 and under the Endangered Species Act in 2008, when the bear was listed as threatened. Tightly regulated hunting is allowed in Canada, where about 500 bears are killed yearly.
About 25,000 polar bears survive worldwide, but the population apparently is declining from a variety of causes, including pollution and poaching. The most severe threat in the long run is likely to be global warming, which is destroying the sea ice that the bear needs to continue its nomadic existence in search of Arctic seals for food.
There are organizations that use this day to raise awareness of the declining number of polar bears worldwide. It is believed, by many, that these beautiful creatures are threatened due to global warming and the consequential loss of their natural habitat. Groups, around the world, gather together to find ways to make a difference and spread information to others.
Enjoy National Polar Bear Day!
15 февраля 2015
This week we are celbrating Chinese New Year!
Chinese New Year is the biggest holiday celebrated among Chinese people. It is often referred to as the spring festival because it signals the beginning of spring. It is a time when families and friends get together to say goodbye to the old and welcome the new. It originally lasted for about 4 weeks, but now only lasts for 3-5 days.
The exact origin of this holiday is too old to be traced, but many explanations still exist. One idea is that the holiday originated when a beast named Nian (which means year in Chinese) came out the night before the new year and started to prey on the people in the villages. Of course, the people were very frightened by this monster and so a brave old man went up to the beast and said to him that instead of eating the people of the villages, he should eat the other beasts that frightened these people. Nian followed the old man's request and all of the beasts were chased into the forest. The old man rode away on Nian's back, and as it turns out, the man was an immortal god. The people of the village were very grateful to the old man for giving them a peaceful life. Before the old man left for good, he told the people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at the beginning of each new year because the color red scared the beast. They also set off firecrackers to scare away the horrible beast. This is only one idea about how Chinese New Year began, there are many other ideas about how this celebration began. Most people just celebrate the holiday without really knowing why.
Another interesting thing about Chinese New Year is that very few people know when this holiday is celebrated without looking at a traditional Chinese calendar because it never falls on the same day. The ancient Chinese used a lunar calendar. (Today we use solar calendars.) On a lunar calendar, the new year begins the first night of the new moon after the sun enters Aquarius. This date is anywhere between January 20 and February 19 (on a solar calendar). Chinese years are grouped in sets of 12 with each year being represented by an animal (zodiac sign). It is said that a person displays the characteristics of the animal of the year in which they were born.
During the Chinese New Year's celebration, people participate in many traditional activities. The Chinese believe that as they enter a new year, they should put behind them all things of the past. They clean their houses, pay off debts, purchase new clothes, paint their doors and window panes, and even get new haircuts. These activities symbolize new life and new beginnings.
Homes are decorated with flowers and paper decorations stating wishes of prosperity, good luck, happiness, good fortune, wealth, and longevity for the coming year. Decorations of the incoming zodiac animal are also displayed. Red and gold are very popular colors to decorate with. Red represents power happiness, vitality (and scares away beasts). Gold represents wealth and good fortune.
One very important tradition of the Chinese New Year is exchanging gifts. A traditional gift that is given is small red envelopes filled with "lucky money". These envelopes are given to children by their family and friends. The red color is used to bring good fortune, and the money inside is used by the children to buy holiday treats. These envelopes symbolize the giving of good fortune.
Food is also very important to New Year's celebrations. Families and friends get together for large feasts. Before they eat, they place their food on alters and make offerings to the gods. The foods served at these feasts vary, but what is served is always a tradition for that family.
The dragon is another popular symbol for Chinese New Year. It is a symbol of strength, goodness, and good luck, and supernatural forces. The dragon is said to be a mythical combination of many animals. During New Years, one of the main events is a large parade down the city streets. As part of this parade, people dress up in dragon costumes and dance down the streets. These costumes are made of brightly colored silk and decorated very extravagantly. Some of the dragons are 100 feet long! Men and boys perform intricate dragon dances with one person manipulating the head of the dragon and the rest moving the body.
A Chinese New Year celebration would not be complete without fireworks. There are many beliefs about why fireworks are used. One is that the noise wakes up the dragon who will fly across the sky to bring the spring rain for the crops. Another belief is that the noise of the fireworks is supposed to scare away all evil spirits and misfortunes, preventing them from coming into the new year. In fact, gunpowder was invented in China over 1000 years ago for that very purpose. Firecrackers are thrown at the feet of the dragons in the parade to keep them awake for the celebration. The dragons are believed to sleep the rest of the year.
The Eve of the New Year is the most strictly observed part of the holiday. It starts out with a late night feast with members of the family. Ancestors are honored and offering of food and incense are made to the gods. At the strike of midnight, the celebrating really begins. The sky is filled with fireworks and the streets are filled with people wishing each other a happy new year. The next morning, gifts are exchanged among family members and friends. During the remaining days of the celebration, time is spent visiting friends and wishing them luck in the new year. New Years Eve and the first three days of the new year are officially observed as a holiday. During this time the majority of businesses (with the exception of movie theaters and restaurants) shut down for the celebrating. People return to work somewhere between the fifth and eight day of the new year, but the spirit of celebration lasts through the Festival of Lanterns on the 15th day of the new year. After this, life takes on it's normal routines again..
It is important to remember that Chinese New Year is not only celebrated in China. Anywhere there are Chinese people, there is a Chinese New Year celebration. The specific activities of the celebration often vary depending on the region, but the basic principles are the same.Свернуть
02 февраля 2015
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02 февраля 2015
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02 февраля 2015
This week we are celebrating Groundhog day!
Groundhog Day is right around the corner. Perhaps you've heard about the day, but you're not sure how the tradition got started. We've got you covered.
Here's everything you need to know about the day:
What is Groundhog Day?
Technically, Groundhog Day is the midway point between the winter solstice and spring equinox. The day's history is rooted in the celebration of Candlemas.
What is the significance?
Whether or not the groundhog sees it's shadow is believed to be an indicator of how much longer winter will last. If a shadow is seen, it suggests 6 more weeks of winter. If the groundhog doesn't see it's shadow, spring will come early, folklore suggests.
When is it?
Groundhog Day is celebrated on Feb. 2.
Who is Punxsutawney Phil?
To many people, Punxsutawney Phil is the only groundhog that can predict the weather. He never dies (or ages), resides in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and is cared for by the men who volunteer to be a part of the Inner Circle.
There are other animals that claim to predict the weather, but locals believe they have nothing on Phil.
Is Phil the only groundhog who predicts the weather?
How do you celebrate Groundhog Day?
Groundhog Day is celebrated by throwing out all of your scarves (or buying new ones). Just kidding. There's a big Groundhog Day celebration that takes place in Punxsutawney and begins early in the morning with tens of thousands of people gathering to see if the weather-predicting groundhog spots his shadow or not.
Please note: Alcohol is not allowed at this celebration, but there are several balls and events that take place in Punxsutawney the night before where you can get an alcoholic beverage.
- Groundhog Day 2015: Going to Punxsutawney? Here's what you need to know
- Dispatches from Punxsutawney: 6 tips if you're headed into town for Groundhog Day
Is this like the 1993 film Groundhog Day?
Yes, except there's only one Groundhog Day per year. And, Groundhog Day wasn't filmed in Punxsutawney, nor did it feature the real Phil.Свернуть
26 января 2015
This week we are celebrating Australia Day!
Australia Day is on January 26 and commemorates the establishment of the first European settlement at Port Jackson, now part of Sydney, in 1788. It is an opportunity for Australians to come together to celebrate their country and culture. There are reflections on the achievements of the nation and explorations of way to make the country even better in the future.
Australians show their pride for their country on Australia Day.©iStockphoto.com/RichVintage
What do people do?
Many people have a day off work and use the day to picnic in a park, to go shopping or to play or to watch sports events. In some places, particularly Lake Burley Griffin, spectacular public fireworks displays are held. In addition, the Australian of the Year Awards are presented. These are awards for Australians who have made an outstanding contribution to their country or community.
In some towns and cities, citizenship ceremonies are held on Australia Day. These are ceremonies to welcome immigrants to the country who have been granted Australian citizenship. Although official, these ceremonies often have a festive atmosphere.
Australia Day is a public holiday in all states and territories. All schools and post offices are closed. Some public transport services do not operate and others run a reduced service. Stores are often open, but may have reduced opening hours. There may be some congestion on roads, particularly close to major events.
On January 26, 1788, the First Fleet of 11 ships from Great Britain arrived at Port Jackson, which now forms Sydney Harbour. The First Fleet was led by Captain Arthur Philip. He established the Colony of New South Wales, the first penal colony in Australia. By 1808, January 26 was being celebrated as “First Landing Day” or “Foundation Day” with drinking and merriment.
Thirty years after the arrival of the First Fleet, in 1818, the Governor of Australia ordered a 30-gun salute, hosted a dinner ball at Government House and gave government employees a holiday. In the following years, employees of banks and other organizations were also given holidays. In the following decades, horse racing and regattas were popular activities on January 26.
In 1838, Foundation Day was Australia's first public holiday. It was also the occasion of the first public celebrations of the founding of Australia. The shores of Sydney Harbour were crowded and there was a firework display. By 1888, January 26 had become known as 'Anniversary Day' was celebrated in all colonies except Adelaide. In 1888, the centenary of the arrival of the First Fleet was celebrated with ceremonies, exhibitions, banquets, regattas, fireworks and the unveiling of a statue of Queen Victoria.
By 1935, January 26 was known as Australia Day in all states except New South Wales, where it was still called Anniversary Day. In 1938, large scale celebrations were held. These included a re-enactment of the landing of the First Fleet, which did not mention the convict status of many of the passengers on these ships. The re-enactment is included the removal of a group of Aborigines. Shortly before the celebrations, a group of Aboriginal activists arranged a “Day of Mourning”. They used this to campaign for citizenship and equal rights for Aborigines.
From 1946, January 26 was known as Australia Day in all states. However, the public holiday was moved to the Monday nearest to January 26 to create a long weekend. Since 1994, the Australia Day public holiday has been on January 26 in all states and territories.
The anniversary of the first permanent European settlement in Australia is not a cause for celebration for all citizens. Indigenous Australians often feel that the celebrations on Australia Day exclude them and their culture, which was thriving for thousands of years before the arrival of the First Fleet.
The main symbols of Australia Day are the symbols of Australia. These include the Australian national flag, with its representations of the Union Jack, the Commonwealth Star and the five stars of the Southern Cross, and the national anthem "Advance Australia Fair". Other symbols include the Golden Wattle, which is the national floral emblem, the opal, which is the national gemstone and the national colors of green and gold.Свернуть