Archive for the ‘Holidays & Observances’ Category

This past weekend, most of the US started observing Daylight Savings Time, which means we all moved our clocks ahead one hour, so that we have daylight longer in the evening.

This is not something done universally however. Although most of the U.S. observes this time change, there are a few states and territories that do not. For example, most of Arizona and Hawaii, as well as some of the U.S. territories do not observe DST. Parts of Canada also do not make the change. Most of Africa and Asia don’t change at all.

It also varies as to when various countries make the switch. Here in the US, we’ve extended DST to start the second Sunday of March, whereas Europe still waits until the end of the month. We also go about a week later, ending in November instead of October. Of course, for our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, the dates are different too – the start and end dates for them basically flip-flop what we do up here in the north.

Why do we do this? It was thought when the whole thing originated that it would save energy, as we could make better use of daylight later into the evening, instead of really early in the morning. Although some studies disagree with that, we still “spring ahead” and “fall back.”

There are more interesting facts about DST and time zones at www.timeanddate.com, so if you like random trivia like me, it’s worth a look!

Do you “spring ahead” in your home country?  When?  What are your thoughts about the whole thing?


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It’s Carnival Time!  In several countries around the world, Carnival is the last big party time before the religious observation of Lent.  Carnival takes place 46 days before Easter, so the dates due vary from year to year.  It was originally seen as the last big celebration before the holy and repentent time observed prior to Easter.  The most well-known Carnival celebration takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but it is also celebrated in other places, too!  Many countries do celebrate in similar ways, although the start of the Carnival period may be slightly different.

Saturday, 5 March is the start of the big party in Rio; the celebrations run all weekend through Monday, 8 March.  There are many events marking the celebration, including balls, street parties and the Samba Parade. Carnival is celebrated differently depending on the part of the country.  The huge parades and parties are huge tourism draw for the country as well.

In Germany, Karneval begins on Weiberfastnacht, which this year is today – 3 March.  It is called Karneval in the area of Germany around Köln (Cologne).  Karneval is celebrated with balls, parades and dressing up in costumes.  In southwestern Germany, the celebration is known as Fastnacht and in far southern Germany and Austria, it is known as Fasching.  In Switzerland, Basler Fasnacht doesn’t occur until after Ash Wednesday.

Of course, most Americans are familiar with the celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans.  Mardi Gras begins each year on Fat Tuesday (Shrove Tuesday), so this year, that’s 8 March.  The streets of New Orleans fill with revelers and parades.  There is also the tradition of the King Cake, which comes from French and Spanish traditions that make up the Creole culture in the city.  This type of king cake is typically deep-fried, and will have some kind of little treasure or trinket hidden inside.  The cake is broken up into portions and tradition states that whoever the lucky recipient of the prize inside gets to provide the cake or host the party the following year.

There are other celebrations throughout Europe and the Americas – this is just a highlight of the most well-known.

Does your home country celebrate Carnival?  What is typical in your culture?  Leave a comment!



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