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    Welcome to 2017! Or year 4715, according to the Chinese Lunar New Year calendar

 

 

17

June

Can you order a Piña Colada in Icelandic?

17 June 2017 Fun Facts

Apart from it being a presumably cold and icy island, close to Greenland in the Norwegian Sea, how hard is it to find a beach resort in Iceland serving Piña Coladas

If you go into a bar and ask politely “Má ég hafa Piña Colada vinsamlegast” – in Icelandic, a North Germanic language - the de facto official language, will you get one?  The vast majority of Icelandic speakers—about 320,000—live in Iceland. 97% of the population of Iceland considers Icelandic to be their mother tongue. 

But you could also try asking in Danish, Faroese, German, Norwegian or  Swedish.  Most Icelanders would understand you.  English and Danish are taught in school…but even with the ability to ask for a Piña Colada in all of these languages, you’d still be hard pressed to find one.

You may have better luck ordering one of these:

Brennivín.  One of the most famous Scandinavian drinks. It is a very strong alcohol, a type of Schnapps that is considered to be Iceland's signature liquor. It is made from fermented potatoes and is flavored with caraway seeds. Aka: "Black DeathFun Trivia: The character Budd, in Kill Bill Vol. 2, drank Brennivín.

Glögg. This delicious hot drink originating from the small Finish villages in the snowy and cold mountains is very popular in the whole country. The traditional Scandinavian winter drink mixes wine and port with spices like clove, cardamom and cinnamon to make for a brew that smells like 'winter'!

Jólaglögg. According to its name deriving from the Icelandic word jóla meaning 'Christmas', this traditional Scandinavian hot Icelandic Mulled Wine is mostly consumed at major holidays, especially in the winter. 

Kúmenkaffi.  Iceland is a coffee-drinking nation, the people really enjoy their local specialty. One of the national drinks is caraway coffee, kúmenkaffi, with a characteristic strong spicy aroma and tart flavor. It is ideally served with a splash of brennivín, kúmenkaffi smells spicy, tastes tart and has plenty of caffeine.

While a Piña Colada  might be found, a nice warm drink might be the better choice on this island. But if you really want cold and refreshing...a Nohito might be the a reasonable substitute to the Piña Colada ...as shown in the photo, it's made with Brennivín, of course.

Oh, and when you are finish, you can try this funny Icelandic expression: Ég borga bara með reiðufé

Literally, it means: I only pay with an angry sheep! (I’ll pay in cash!)

 

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10

June

What are you doing for Father’s Day?

10 June 2017 Fun Facts

What are you doing for Father’s Day?

Right around the corner, you will find anxious men eagerly awaiting that special day when his offspring (and even his beloved mate) will shower him with kisses, hugs, lots of gratitude, maybe presents and the title of “King of the House”.  

Does he really deserve such attention? You bet he does!

Father’s Day! A celebration of the paternal bond between a man and his child.  In many countries around the world, it is celebrated on the 3rd Sunday in June, but in many countries it is tied to celebrations honoring the concept of Father – be it a parental figure, a spiritual guide or metaphorically as the founder of knowledge, institution or country.

In Spain, Portugal and Italy, father’s day is celebrated in honor of St. Joseph (March 19th) – the patron saint of father in the Roman Catholic tradition.  It is also common to honor the "spiritual father" and the parish priest on Father's Day.

In Germany, Father’s Day is celebrated on Ascension Day (May 14th), which commemorates the ascension of Jesus into heaven 39 days after resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In Denmark, the day coincides with Constitution Day (June 5th) (ie. also commemorating the Fathers of the country).

In Russia the “Defender of Fatherland” day commemorates those who fought for their country and more recently a celebration of men as a whole.

In Thailand, Father’s Day is celebrated on HM King Bhumibol’s birthday (Dec 5th).  Commemorating the country’s most beloved Father.

In Argentina, people continue to honor José de San Martín, the "Father of the Nation" on the unofficial Father’s day (August 24th) along with the official Father’s Day (3rd Sunday in June).

How did June become the month for Father’s Day in the USA?   It’s quite a special story…or stories, as the claim to Father’s Day rests with several special people. One story highlights a daughter’s gratitude for her father, who was a Civil War veteran and a single father of 6 children.  After hearing a sermon about Mother’s Day in 1909, Ms. Sonora Smart Dodd suggested to her local pastor that fathers deserve a special holiday, citing her own father as the example of commitment to family…and his birthday being on June 5th, would serve as a perfect date to celebrate.

So there you have it! Father’s Day around the world to celebrate that special Dude – uh, I mean Dad. Happy Father’s Day!

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05

June

Do you know 5 fun facts about Sweden?

05 June 2017 Fun Facts

Besides being a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe, bordering Norway and Finland…

1. The Kingdom of Sweden has a population of about 10 million people across Europe’s 3rd largest country by area, and operates under a constitutional monarchy (ceremonial) by His Majesty Carl XVI Gustaf, King of Sweden, and a parliamentary democracy.

2. Swedish (svenska) is a North Germanic language, spoken predominantly in Sweden and parts of Finland, especially along its coast and on the Åland islands.  Swedish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic people living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. 

3. Sweden is the birthplace of one of the most successful pop music groups – ABBA - topping the charts worldwide from 1972 to 1982. ABBA won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, giving Sweden its first victory in the history of the contest.

4. With the world invasion of IKEA, everyone has heard of the world famous Swedish meatballs.  Swedish meatballs are traditionally served with gravy, boiled potatoes, and lingonberry jam. Swedish meatballs are delicious and easy to make, and can be found during shopping trips to IKEA!


5. If you happen to enjoy ice hockey, you would be in good company watching the Swedish ice hockey teamTre Kronor , which is regarded as one of the best in the world.  Along with 8 world championships, and a few Olympic gold medals, never a dull moment.

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02

June

Did you know that Italian is spoken by over 60 million people worldwide?

02 June 2017 Fun Facts

Italy, Switzerland, San Marino, the Vatican City, Malta and Eritrea. There are also large populations of Italian speakers in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Australia, Canada, the USA and the UK.

 

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25

May

Memorial Day – Remembrance Days Around The World

25 May 2017 Fun Facts

This Monday, Americans will proudly hang their Star Spangled Banner, participate in re-enactments of the U.S. Civil War, watch highly decorated veterans, service men and service women parade across town, visit memorials of loved ones, and fire-up their BBQ. Memorial Day is a day of honor and remembrance for many Americans, as it was originally conceived to honor soldiers who had fallen during the Civil War.  Activities such as the placing small American flags on the graves of more than a quarter of a million gravestones in Arlington National Cemetery show the nations’ solemn and deep appreciation for those who fought for the country. American Memorial Day is just one of many Remembrance days across the world.


VolkstrauertagChinese German translation agency

The original German memorial day was meant to remember those who died in WWI, but it wasn’t largely celebrated until 1934, when the Nazis changed the meaning and declared it an official holiday called it Heldengedenktag, the Day of Commemoration of Heroes.  

By 1948, the country brought back the holiday with its original intent, and broadened its scope to include those who died due to the violence of an oppressive government, in addition to those who died in war. The occasion is commemorated two Sundays before Advent (the Sunday nearest 16 November).

Volkstrauertag, the national day of mourning, has also become a day of warning to remind us of the need for reconciliation, understanding and peace.  Today, on behalf of the federal government, the German War Graves Commission (The Volksbund) looks after the graves of about two million deceased in over 832 cemeteries in 45 countries. It is supported by over one million members and supporters and the federal government. Their motto: Reconciliation over the graves - Working for peace.


Dutch international translation agencyDodenherdenking

The Dutch commemorate their fallen veterans on May 4 every year; although prior to 1961, Dodenherdenking was only meant to honor victims of WWII, but like most other countries , it now includes everyone. The Royal Family attends a ceremony held at the national monument on Dam Square in Amsterdam and the entire country stops for two minutes to pay respects to those who died in wars or peacekeeping missions. Interestingly, the next day, May 5th is Liberation Day in the Netherlands, which celebrates the day the Canadian army freed the Netherlands from Nazi occupation during WWII.


Anzac DayEnglish international translation agency

Anzac Day, celebrated on April 25th, marks the anniversary of the first campaign that led to major casualties for Australian and New Zealand forces during WWl. The soldiers who fought during the war were known as ANZAC - Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Anzac Day remains one of the most important national days for both Australia and New Zealand, and marks a rare instance of two sovereign countries sharing the same Remembrance Day, and making reference to both countries in the name.

By 1927, Anzac Day was established as a National Day of Commemoration for the 60,000 Australians and 18,000 New Zealanders who died during the war, and all the Australian states observed some form of public holiday together on Anzac Day. Several rituals are associated with the day—dawn vigils, marches, memorial services, reunions—became part of Australian Anzac Day culture.

To remember the hearts and souls of the Anzacs solders, many locals like to add a little rum to their coffee that day to honor the "gunfire breakfast" that many soldiers used to warm their bellies before battle, or play a game of “two-up”, an Australian gambling game, because it was one of the ways soldiers amused themselves.


“The patriot's blood is the seed of Freedom's tree.” 

~Thomas Campbell 

 

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14

May

Are People in Israel Multilingual?

14 May 2017 Fun Facts

Israel is home to people with roots from over 120 countries. It is common to hear multiple languages in addition to the two official languages – Hebrew and Arabic – in the streets.

Officially known as the State of Israel, the republic is situated in the Middle East along the Mediterranean Sea bordering Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, the West Bank, Egypt, the Gaza Strip and the Gulf of Aqaba in the Red Sea. 

While all Israeli children are formally taught Modern Hebrew, Arabic and English, a large population of Israelis also speak Russian, French, Spanish, Yiddish or Amharic (the official language spoken in Ethiopia).   Classical Hebrew can also be heard, and is used for prayer and study in Jewish communities around the world.  Israel was established as a homeland for the Jewish people, and people with Jewish lineage from all over the world have the right to Israeli citizenship.  

Israel is an international country with a rich mix of culture, language, art and talent.  It is easy to see why people from all over visit and settle in such a multilingual and multicultural place.  

To all those with the good fortune to visit Israel: “Mazel tov” or "מזל טוב"

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09

May

Europe Day - United in Diversity

09 May 2017 Fun Facts

May 9th is Europe Day. A declaration was delivered by Robert Scheman on this day in 1950, 5 years after the end of WWII, remarking on the peace and unity of all Europeans.   This day fosters the understanding and importance of a unified and peaceful Europe. The European Union was set up with the objective of eliminating the frequent wars between nations within Europe. The six founding countries are Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In 1957, the Treaty of Rome created the European Economic Community (EEC), or ‘Common Market’.

The Euro. In 1999, the Euro (€) was introduced as the single currency within the EU, and officially adopted by 12 member states by 2002.  Today, 19 of the 28 member states have adopted the Euro: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Spain.

The EU motto: "United in diversity"

Schengen border-free area established in 1995, named after the “Schengen Agreement”, is a 26 nation member zone where borders between member countries are open to free movement, allowing over 400 million nationals of the member countries the freedom of traveling border-control free within and across the area’s member states. This border-free movement, allows residents and citizens passport-free travel throughout. Interestingly, 3 of the member countries of the Schengen Agreement are not part of the European Union: Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.

Would Winston Churchill be proud today?

In 1946, one of the founding fathers of the European Union, Winston Churchill delivered a speech in Zurich, in which he advocated the notion of a “United States of Europe” urging Europeans to turn their backs on the horrors of the past and look towards the future. He declared that Europe could not afford to carry the hatred and revenge which sprung from the past, and to recreate the ‘European family’.  

On May 9th, people across the European Union celebrate this remarkable day in history as Europeans. 

The motto in all official EU languages

  • Bulgarian: Обединен в многообразието
  • Croatian: Ujedinjeni u različitosti
  • Czech: Jednotná v rozmanitosti
  • Danish: Forenet i mangfoldighed
  • Dutch: In verscheidenheid verenigd
  • English: United in diversity
  • Estonian: Ühinenud mitmekesisuses
  • Finnish: Moninaisuudessaan yhtenäinen
  • French: Unie dans la diversité
  • German: In Vielfalt geeint
  • Greek: Ενωμένοι στην πολυμορφία
  • Hungarian: Egység a sokféleségben
  • Irish: Ní ceart go cur le chéile
  • Italian: Unita nella diversità
  • Latvian: Vienota dažādībā
  • Lithuanian: Suvienijusi įvairovę
  • Maltese: Magħquda fid-diversità
  • Polish: Zjednoczona w różnorodności
  • Portuguese: Unida na diversidade
  • Romanian: Uniţi în diversitate
  • Slovak: Zjednotení v rozmanitosti
  • Slovene: Združena v raznolikosti
  • Spanish: Unida en la diversidad
  • Swedish: Förenade i mångfalden

The European Union: United in Diversity

Happy EU Day!

 

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23

April

World Book Day - El Dia del Libro

23 April 2017 Fun Facts

World Book Day - El Dia del Libro

Cervantes, Shakespeare and Inca Garcilaso de la Vega all died on this day in 1616. 

Miguel de Cervantes’ influence on the Spanish language has been so great that the language is often regarded as “la lengua de Cervantes”.  Don Quixote, a classic Spanish literature, is considered to be the first modern European novel and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written.  To celebrate this day, Don Quixote is read during a two-day "read-a-thon" and the King of Spain presents the Miguel de Cervantes Prize  [a prestigious award honoring the lifetime achievement of an outstanding writer of the Spanish language, nominated by Association of Spanish Language Academies].

This day is also known as the Day of the Rose in Catalonia, and involves the exchange of gifts, roses or books in memory of Cervantes.

"A rose by any other name would smell as sweet"…

William Shakespeare's work has made a lasting impression on English literature. In the days of Shakespeare, English grammar, spelling and pronunciation were less standardized; his use of language helped shape modern English. Expressions such as "with bated breath" (Merchant of Venice) and "a foregone conclusion" (Othello) have found their way into modern English speech.

Interestingly, the UK celebrates World Book day in March, rather than in April, to avoid mixing the holiday with St. George’s Day (although in Catalonia, they combine all three into a day’s celebration).

The son of a Spanish conquistador and an Inca noblewoman, Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, aka El Inca, is recognized primarily for his literary account of Inca history, culture, and society. His work was influential, well-received, and notable as the one of the first literary works by an author born in the Americas. El Inca produced chronicles of the Inca culture and Spanish conquest, as well as an account of Hernando de Soto's expedition in Florida. His works are considered to have great literary as well as historical value.

To honor this day, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, has proclaimed this day as World Book Day : 

"...to pay a world-wide tribute to books and authors on this date, encouraging everyone, and in particular young people, to discover the pleasure of reading and gain a renewed respect for the irreplaceable contributions of those, who have furthered the social and cultural progress of humanity. 

Go gift a book and a rose to someone special today!

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22

April

Happy Earth Day! Be Green

22 April 2017 Fun Facts

Over one billion people around the world celebrate Earth Day. This day is the day to not only look at our beautiful world with appreciation, but to also do something good for the environment.

The first Earth Day was celebrated across two thousand colleges and universities, and hundreds of communities across the United States back in the early 1970’s.  Over 20 million Americans came out to peacefully demonstrate for environmental reform.  It now is observed in over 192 countries across the globe, and coordinated by the nonprofit Earth Day Network, chaired by the first Earth Day 1970 organizer Denis Hayes.  

Here is an account of some activities around the world in appreciation of Earth Day, noted by Earthday.org:

  • In Copenhagen, Denmark, people participate in the annual CO 2 Green Drive Project in honor of Earth Day. Runners, walkers, bikers, and skaters use their cities as canvasses to spell “CO 2“ with GPS devices.
  • In Argentina, volunteers from the Surfrider Foundation clean-up the local beaches and plant evergreens and shrubs to help prevent wind and water erosion.
  • In Jalandhar, India, free saplings are often given to students, and various talks are held about the effects of climate change.
  • In Milan, Italy, thousands of people gather for the Earth Day Italia Festival to learn about environmental issues and local green initiatives.
  • In Seoul, South Korea, Ecomom Korea organized an “Eco-style” Earth Day Flash Mob, a variation of the popular song “Gangnam Style”. An Earth Day Walkathon and an Earth Day exhibition showcase Earth/climate awareness themes.
  • In Santa Barbara, California, thousands of people attend the local Earth Day Festival, which includes live music, speakers, a Green Car Show, etc.
  • In Veracruz, Mexico, Tortugas Fundacion Yepez and volunteers help to protect the habitat of sea turtles by cleaning up the local beaches and organizing a reforestation campaign.

On this day, we must all remember that we are citizens of the world. As a famous Vulcan once said “Live long and prosper”; that is our duty as Earth citizens. No matter which part of the world we may hang our hats at night, we all look up at the same sky, and lay down to rest under the same stars.

Happy Earth Day! Be Green.  Imagine what it would be like if it were more than a day, but a way of life everyday for everyone.

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12

April

Thailand Water Festival - Songkran Day! Happy Thai New Year

12 April 2017 Fun Facts

If you find yourself in Thailand in early to mid April, make sure to wear clothes that are comfortable when wet! Every year, Thai people ring in their lunar New Year with the Songkran Festival. Street parties, family reunions and friendly water fights are all combined, making Songkran the most colorful and refreshing event.

This may normally sound disconcerting, to walk around the streets full of young people ready to throw a bucket of water or spritz you with a water gun, however in the scorching heat of Thailand summer (where the day’s temperature is normally around 36° C with over 50% humidity), this is actually quite welcomed!

Like many other cultures, Thailand is rich in many beliefs and symbols. The water symbolizes “cleansing” or “rejuvenating.” Natives throw water on each other to wash away the misfortunes and struggles of the previous year, as well as to refresh for the new year.  

Deriving from the Sanskrit language, the word Songkran means to pass or to move into or literally "astrological passage." Derived from the ancient Hindu festival of Sankranti, the Grand Songkran Festival is considered to be the most appropriate time for the Thai New Year, due to the onset of the best season (spring) which comes right after the cold season. 

As part of the event, families come together to offer prayers and food to the monks, visit Buddhist monasteries and clean their homes, making it inviting for good luck to enter.  Younger people pour water with exotic perfume and flowers into the palms of elders, and on the Buddha images to ask for blessing.

The throwing of water originated as a sign of respect, by capturing the water after it had been poured over the Buddha images, and then using this "blessed" water to give good fortune to elders and family by gently pouring it on the shoulder. The “gently pouring it on the shoulder,” has evolve into Thailand’s modern day water fights.

Songkran is also celebrated in neighboring Southeast Asian countries such as Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar, along with other South Asian New Year celebrations (based on the astrological event of the sun beginning its northward journey). Songkran is similar to the Indian festival of Holi, with splashing of water as paints, colored dusts, and fragrances. 

If you see other Thais on that day, you can greet them with “sawatdi pi mai” (สวัสดีปีใหม่) aka "Happy New Year” or “suk san wan songkran” (สุขสันต์วันสงกรานต์) — meaning "Happy Songkran Day" — since "pi mai" is more often linked with the 1st of January.  

Have a look at the Songkran Festival in Thailand video sponsored by the Tourism Authority of Thailand.

Happy Songkran Day to all!

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03

April

Pure Brightness Festival and Tomb Sweeping Day in Chinese Cultures

03 April 2017 Fun Facts

The Qingming Festival has arrived! This period, also known as the Pure Brightness or Tomb Sweeping Day
Festival
in China is celebrated in early April each year by Chinese families.  While the Qingming Festival has a close relationship with agriculture, it is not only a seasonal symbol; it is also a day of paying respect to the dead, a spring outing, and other activities such as flying kites and sky lanterns.

According to folklore, it is said that the Qingming Festival was originally held to commemorate a loyal man named Jie Zitui. Jie cut his own leg in order to save his hungry lord who was forced to go into exile. The lord came back to his royal position nineteen years later, and felt ashamed and decided to reward Jie. However, Jie had blocked himself up in a mountain with his mother. In order to find Jie, the lord ordered that the mountain be set on fire, which resulted in the death of Jie and his mother. In order to commemorate Jie, the lord ordered that the day Jie died was Hanshi (Cold Food) Festival - the day that only cold food could be eaten.

The second year, when the lord went to the mountain to remember Jie, he found willow trees revived, so he gave instructions that the day after Hanshi Festival was to be Qingming Festival. The two festivals have now been combined into one.  Qingming Festival is a time of many different activities and represents a combination of sadness and happiness.

Tomb sweeping is regarded as the most important ritual in the Qingming Festival. 

  • Cleaning the tomb and paying respect to the dead with offerings are the two important parts of remembering the past relatives. 
  • Weeds around the tomb are cleared away and fresh soil is added to show care of the dead. 
  • The dead person's favorite food and wine, along with paper money are given as a sacrifice. These are burned with the hope that the deceased are not lacking food and money. 

Not only is it a day for commemorating the dead, is it also a time for people to enjoy themselves outdoors due to the arrival of Spring. Spring outings not only add joy to life but also promote a healthy body and mind.

  • Kite flying is an activity favored by many people during the Qingming Festival.
  • Little lanterns are tied to the kite so that when the kite is flying in the night sky, the lanterns appear like twinkling stars.
  • People cut the string while the kite is in the sky to let it fly free. It is said this brings good luck and that illness can be eliminated by doing this.
  • Some other lost customs like wearing willow branches on the head and riding on swings have added infinite joy in past days.

 

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17

March

Is it possible to travel around Ireland only speaking Irish?

17 March 2017 Fun Facts

One would think that being the first official language of the Republic of Ireland, and having an official language status in the EU, the Gaelic language, also known as Irish, would be more widespread, understood and accepted throughout Ireland. However, only a quarter of the population claims to actually speak Irish.  Filmmaker and native Irish speaker Manchán Magan made a documentary No Béarla (No English) in which he travelled through Ireland only speaking Irish. He found some surprising reactions to his No English tour.  Many people in Ireland have been speaking English for so many generations, that it is hard to actually hear complete conversations in the nations’ first official language.

That said, some knowledge of the Irish language is still important if you do decide to go on a tour of the countryside:

First of all, one should know that the sentence structure is: VERB SUBJECT OBJECT

Sentences have Verb Subject Object order. So "I ate some bread" would be "Ate I some bread." "I always wash my hands" would be "Wash I my hands always." This word order is relatively rare—less than 10 percent of the world's languages use it. In fact, this has even spilled over in the usage of English phrases in Ireland:

"I'm after eating my breakfast” (I just ate my breakfast), "I gave out about the terrible service" (I complained about the terrible service), and in some places, "He does be working every day."

There are a handful of expressions that would confuse even the native English speakers:

  1. Sure look it - What does it mean? God only knows! But if ever you find yourself in a situation where you're not sure what to say, just say "sure look it" and you'll probably get a nod of approval.
  2. The Jack - "Tell ye what, you get in another round, while I head to the jacks." That’s right; they don’t call it a WC or restrooms. In fact, if you end up needing public restrooms, you will need to know the words Mná and Fir, because not all the WC’s will have a symbol of a woman or a man on the door. Misunderstanding these words can lead to embarrassing situations.
  3. Arseways - To do something the wrong way or when something goes wrong. "We tried to roast the turkey but it went arseways on us."
  4. Donkey's years - No idea what the length of time a donkey's year is, but it's widely accepted that it's a very very long time. "We haven't had this big a crowd here in donkey's years."
  5. Wet the tea - if anyone asks you to wet the tea, they're telling you to put a few teabags in the teapot and pour boiling water in. “Sit down there and relax while I go wet the tea."
  6. Like hen's teeth - Derived from the original phrase as rare as hen's teeth, but has been shortened over the years, means that something is rare. "We used to have lots of great translators rounds these parts, but they're like hen's teeth now."
  7. Pint of Gat - A pint of Gat is another term for Guinness.  Also good to know that when drinking Guinness, look towards the horizon so you don't drink the head. And if someone asks if it's good Gat, and you're not sure how to judge it, simply respond with Sure look it.
  8. Ossified- How you'll end up after too many pints of Gat."Lord you were fairly ossified last night weren't you?"
  9. Chips are crisps and French fries are chips in Ireland. Be warned you will fall in love with a delicacy called curry cheese chips some night when you're ossified.
  10. The Fear - The Fear is what you will have the morning after you were ossified, and ate said curry cheese chip. Also called "drinker's remorse” and the “chronics" – it sums up how you feel when you can't remember large chunks of the night before. "I'm afraid to show my face in there again. I'm crippled with The Fear."

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! May The Luck Of The Irish Be With You

Food for Thought: The expression "May The Luck Of The Irish Be With You" is actually a peculiar expression. Think about what it actually means to have the Luck of the Irish with you (given the history of the Irish people)...

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13

March

Spring has sprung! The Festival of Colors in India and Nepal - Happy Holi!

13 March 2017 Fun Facts

Every year, thousands of Hindus participate in the festival of Holi. The festival celebrates the beginning of the new season: Spring. Originally, it was a festival that commemorated good harvests and the fertile land. Hindus believe it is a time of enjoying spring's abundant colors and saying farewell to winter.  It is probably one of the most exhilarating festivals in India. During the festivities, there are bonfires and loads of people throwing colored powder or paint at one another. The modern day celebration is awesome.

The Legend: Holi is derived from Holika, and is considered a festival of victory of good over evil.

  • There was once a demon king called Hiranyakashyap; he was so egoistic that he commanded everybody in his kingdom to worship only him. But to his great disappointment, his own son, Prahlad became a devotee of Lord Naarayana and refused to worship his father.
  • Hiranyakashyap tried several ways to kill his son, but Lord Vishnu saved him each time. Finally, he asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap.  Hiranyakashyap knew that Holika had a blessing; whereby, she could enter the fire unscathed. 
  • Treacherously, Holika coaxed young Prahlad to sit in her lap and she herself took her seat in a blazing fire. The legend has it that Holika had to pay the price of her sinister desire by her life. Holika was not aware that the blessing worked only when she entered the fire alone. 
  • Prahlad, who kept chanting the Lord Naarayana all this while, came out unharmed, as the lord blessed him for his extreme devotion. 
  • Holi is also celebrated as the triumph of a devotee. As the legend depicts that anybody, howsoever strong, cannot harm a true devotee. Furthermore, those who dare torture a true devotee of god shall be reduced to ashes.

Celebration: 

Even today, people enact the scene of 'Holika's burning to ashes' every year to mark the victory of good over evil. 

  • In several states of India, effigies of Holika are burnt in the huge bonfires that are lit. There is even a practice of hurling cow dungs into the fire and shouting obscenities at it as if at Holika. Then everywhere one hears shouts of 'Holi-hai! Holi-hai!'.
  • On the last day of Holi, people take a little fire from the bonfire to their homes. It is believed that by following this custom their homes will be rendered pure and their bodies will be free from disease.
  • There is also a tradition of cleaning homes (ie. Spring Cleaning), removing all dirty articles from around the house and burning them. 
  • View an exquisite display of the festivities with this colorful video: Happy Holi 

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07

March

5 Things We Could All Learn From Spain

07 March 2017 Fun Facts

1. Amigos, dinero, y tiempo para disfrutarlo 
In Spain, there is not a single night of the week when the streets are not bustling with people moving from bar to bar, restaurant to restaurant, enjoying life. Spaniards have an amazing ability to function on minimal sleep, hence allowing after work hours for friends and fun. Rather than coming home from a long day’s work to veg on the coach all night; it is not uncommon to see Spaniards living their lives outside – swimming, drinking, eating and generally enjoying their free time. Spaniards work to live, rather than live to work.

2. Enjoy a lengthy "Sobremesa" 
What happens in Spain when the meal is done? The bill won’t come and the staff won’t rush you out; instead Spaniards will settle in and enjoy their after-meal conversation. Breakfast, lunch, coffee, snack, tapas or dinner, Spaniards always take time to sit and enjoy the eating experience. This includes good food, good companions and good conversation. No rush and ample time to digest before getting back to the grindstone. Spaniards move at their own relaxed pace.

3. “Hola, buenas” 
No matter where you are, when Spaniards enter a room, they always offer a simple courteous acknowledgement aka greeting to everyone in the room.  It’s simple and polite, and doesn’t imply an offer of open conversation. Interestingly, others in the room always respond back with a reciprocating “Hola.” Go ahead and try it the next time you enter your doctor’s office waiting room, and see what happens.

4. Tapas 
Tapas are wonderful.  How else can you eat a variety of different foods in snack-like quantities, with friends and never feel like you’ve over indulged because you've shared! The art of eating involves savouring each unique flavor, and preparing your palette for the next experience. Tapas allow you to enjoy such variety at a Spanish pace.

5. Olive oil is liquid gold 
Olive oil is not only delicious, it’s also very nutritious. Olive oil is substituted for butter and most other types of oils in Spain. Spaniards even enjoy olive oil with breakfast, in cakes and cookies, etc.  Antioxidant-rich olive oil can help lower cholesterol. It is a main ingredient in cooking, but it is also commonly infused in soaps, lotions and cosmetics. Olive oil might also be a contributor to Spain’s successful universal healthcare system that covers all Spanish residents. Less cholesterol and heart-related medical needs are typically associated with a Mediterranean diet.

Fun Facts About Spain

  • Spain was once a number of separate kingdoms with different languages.  These kingdoms became the basis for many of the different regions in modern Spain. 
  • Spain has the fourth highest life expectancy of all the OECD countries – with a life expectancy of 82 years - after Switzerland, Italy and Japan.
  • The Spanish love to relax, on average they devote 16 out of every 24 hours to leisure, eating, drinking and sleeping.
  • Spain produces over half of the world’s olive oil – more than some 1.5 million tons, and almost all of it comes from the southern region of Andalusia.
  • Over 400+ million Spanish speakers across 21 countries worldwide. Spanish is the second most widely spoken language in the world.
  • Spanish is referred to as Castellano and Español. “Castilian Spanish” can be used to refer to the Spanish spoken in Spain.

¡Y viva España!

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