Remembrance Day

Remembrance Day

Every year, we observe and celebrate Remembrance Day, but what else do you know about this important day?  Here are some beans for you to brew about November 11.

1. Remembrance Day was first celebrated in 1919 by King George V.  It is observed by Commonwealth nations—countries that were mostly territories of the former British Empire that are united by language, culture, and, of course, history—though non-Commonwealth countries also have their own observances and traditions.  Canada, Australia, and many other nations join England in remembering fallen soldiers of World War I and wars thereafter.

2. The number of significance is 11.  At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, we hold a moment of silence, and we remember the men and women who have died in the line of duty.  This date and time is significant because it was when hostilities between the Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance formally stopped.  November 11 used to be called Armistice Day to mark the agreement between the Allies and Germany to end WWI.

3. World War One officially ended on 28 June 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed in France.

4. The poppy became associated with Remembrance Day thanks to “In Flanders Fields“, a poem by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae.  He wrote it on 3 May 1915 after the funeral of his friend and fellow soldier.  The poem was first published in December of the same year.  Red poppies grew in Flanders Fields, but because of their striking colour against the landscape, they also became symbolic of the blood of fallen soldiers.

5. Canadians have been wearing poppies since 1921.  Poppies should be worn on the left lapel, which is closest to the heart.  The pins they come with should not be replaced by safety pins or earrings, but a Canadian flag pin is welcome.  Ultimately, it is better to wear a poppy with a substitute pin than to not wear one at all.  You can wear however many poppies you want, but they should be taken off and placed at a grave or memorial site after November 11.  This was the original intent of the Royal Canadian Legion when they began their Poppy Campaign.

6. Donations in exchange for poppies help the Legion provide financial assistance to the Canadian Armed Forces (both active and former members and their families).  This assistance can be in the form of food, clothing, prescription medication, medical equipment, emergency shelter and assistance, housing and care facilities, and transportation.  The Poppy Campaign raises $14 000 000 each year from selling about 18 000 000 poppies.

[From the mixed-up files of: “Legion”, “In Flanders Fields”, “Six Rules of Poppy Protocol for Remembrance Day”, “Remembrance Day”, and “The Poppy, Symbol of Remembrance”.]

Diwali, the Festival of Lights

Diwali, the Festival of Lights

One of the most beautiful and colourful celebrations of the year is coming up, so I thought I’d give you beans to brew some background information on Diwali/Deepavali.

Diwali - Festival of Lights

1. “Diwali” is a combination of the Sanskrit words dipa “light” or “lamp”, and avali “row”, “line”, or “series”.  Because of its etymology, Diwali is also known as the Festival of Lights.  Although in English it is most commonly spelled as Diwali, it has various spellings and pronunciations among the people who celebrate this holiday.

2. The origins of Diwali differ according to the various regions and faiths that celebrate it, but they all hold similar the foundations of happiness and light.  For some, Diwali began as a harvest festival in India to mark the last harvest before winter; the lanterns lit during the festival represent the sun, the giver of life.  For others, the festival honours the triumph of good over evil, right over wrong, and knowledge over ignorance; this stems from the legend of Lord Rama and his wife, Sita, who returned home after defeating a demon king called Ravanna.  And then there are those who continue the ancient tradition of looking to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, for financial blessings and continued success in the new year; the day after Diwali is considered the first day of the financial new year.

3. On the same night that Hindus commemorate the defeat of Ravanna by Lord Rama and Sita, Jains celebrate the attainment of moksha “release” of Lord Mahavira, the last tirthankara “teacher” who preached dharma “righteous path”, and Sikhs mark the release of Guru Hargobind Ji and 52 other princes from prison through the festival of Bandi Chhor Divas, “Prisoners’ Release Day”.  With all these celebrations, it’s only fitting that Diwali is one of the biggest and most important days of the year, not only in India, but throughout the world.

4. Diwali is an official holiday in many countries, including India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Malaysia, Singapore, Bangladesh, Fiji, Suriname, Guyana, and Trinidad and Tobago.  It is not a nationwide public holiday in Canada, the United States, or England (among other countries), but it is widely celebrated across these nations, in both small towns and large metropoles.

5. As with all holidays, there are various ways of celebrating Diwali.  Some Hindus dress up in new clothes or their best outfits—women wear fine silk and jewellery and decorate their hands with mehndi “henna”.  Many households light lamps (inside and outside the home) and have a presentation of fireworks or sparklers.  People enjoy participating in puja “prayers”, after which they indulge in a huge family feast (including lots of mithai “sweets”) and gift giving.

6. There are Five Days of Diwali, but the various regions that celebrate them have different names and even different ways of marking each day.  There are similarities across the board, however, and, of course, there are the unifying themes of happiness, togetherness, and light amongst all the varieties.

Diwali - Five Days

Do you celebrate Diwali?  Let me know what some of your traditions are!

[From the mixed-up files of: “Diwali”, “Diwali/Deepavali in Canada”, “Diwali – Nat’l Geo”, “Top 10 Greetings to Wish Your Loved Ones”, “Five Brilliant Days of Diwali, the Glittering Festival of Lights”, “Diwali – BBC”, “Different Days of the Diwali Festival”, and “What is Diwali 2015?”]

National Sandwich Day

National Sandwich Day

November 3 has been deemed National Sandwich Day, so here are some beans for you to brew …

Where does the word “sandwich” come from?  Well, its eponym is a historic town in southeastern England (in the county of Kent).  The story goes that the fourth Earl of Sandwich, John Montague (no relation to Romeo), loved playing cards so much that he didn’t want to stop not even for a bite of lunch.  So rather than putting down his cards or getting his hands messy, he ordered his servants to slap together two slices of bread with some meat and cheese in between them.  The portability of this new serving style made it possible for him to eat with one hand while continuing his game with the other.  Montague’s “invention” became so popular with his friends that it got passed around and, well, it couldn’t help but adopt the moniker of its hometown.

Grilled Cheese & Mushrooms

[Aside: The title of earl, which signifies someone as a member of the nobility, is akin to the Scandinavian word jarl “chieftain”.  An earl is simply someone who rules a bit of territory in place of the monarch.  If you know this awesome cheese (which I love to make grilled-cheese sandwiches with) called Jarlsberg, well it’s your lucky day because you’re about to get a morpheme AND geography lesson all in one.  The name of the cheese comes from the name of the countship of Jarlsberg, Norway.  And the name of this countship comes from jarl “earl” and berg “hill; mountain”.  The town of Sandwich, meanwhile, comes from sand “sand; sandy” and wic “dwelling place; town; harbour” … and it only makes sense, for it is right on the coast.  This aside is making me hungry.]

So, we can’t really credit Montague with the invention of the sandwich though because people have been eating bread, meat, cheese, and veggies together for thousands of years before he came along with his gambling ways.  Think about it for a moment: before the awesomeness of being able to freeze bread before we need to eat it, or to store loaves in plastic bags to keep air and moisture out, people had no choice but to eat the whole baked goodness right away lest it go stale.  Stale bread that’s as hard as plastic would make excellent plates (that would then go on to feed the animals)!  I digress.  Even though Montague wasn’t the first guy to put his ingredients together, he certainly paved the way for students all over the world who now grow up toting bags of sandwiches every single day.

I love grilled-cheese-and-mushrooms and eggplant-parmigiana sandwiches.  But if you want to know the sandwich way to my heart, it’s a hot and buttery lobster roll.  Okay, I really need to start writing these posts after a nice meal.  What’s your favourite sandwich?

Lobster Roll

[From the mixed-up files of: “History of the Sandwich”, “Sandwich, Kent”, and “Jarlsberg Cheese”.]

The Triduum of Allhallowtide

The Triduum of Allhallowtide

Halloween beans for you to brew while you’re slowly eating your way through your pillowcase full o’ bonbons.

Centuries ago in the British Isles, Christians would ask God for protection from all worldly evils on November 1, which came to be known as All Hallows Day.  This practice spread far and wide throughout Europe.

[Aside: Do you remember the title of the final Harry Potter book? The word “hallows” in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows refers to relics, and what better relics are there than those from the beginnings of time and the origins of religions?]

All Hallows Day celebrates Christian saints – real people believed to have led extraordinarily good lives and have, thus, been recognized by the Catholic Church. While churches in North America celebrate this day with only special masses on the first of November, in many countries, All Saints’ Day, as it is now called, is a special holiday. It’s so special, in fact, that it is marked by overnight vigils in cemeteries all over the world. Although this may seem macabre to some, it’s actually a beautiful, unifying, and time-honoured event for many others.

And this whole concept of honouring and praying for the dearly departed doesn’t end on November 1: the next day is also another day of importance, for it is All Souls’ Day. On November 2, many cultures gather together at cemeteries again, leaving flowers and candles on graves, or pouring holy water over them. It is a day during which people remember their loved ones and pray for the souls of all of who have gone before them.

Allhallowtide Triduum

So how does this all tie in to Halloween? Halloween (also written as Hallowe’en) comes from October 31 being All Hallows Eve. All Hallows Eve (Halloween), All Hallows Day (All Saints’ Day), and All Souls’ Day are called the triduum of Allhallowtide.

Do you celebrate any part of Allhallowtide?  Please share.  I’d love to hear about your cultural and familial traditions!

[From the mixed-up files of: Day of the Dead, All Saints’ Day, and All Souls’ Day.]