Carnival

Carnival is celebrated all around the world just before the fasting season of Lent. Here in Spain, the week leading up to Lent is a time for wild partying when anything goes,  and many cities play host to some of Europe’s biggest and best Carnival festivals.

Some theories speculate that Carnival has its origin in the Roman Saturnalia,  a pagan festival where people indulged in much eating and drinking.  An alternative theory is that it comes from ‘farewell to the flesh’ (carne =meat and valle= farewell), again a reference to the excesses that led up to the sombre Lent. With these pagan roots and widespread ‘permissiveness’, it’s no wonder that the dictator General Franco banned the festival for forty years!

Carnival in Spain is celebrated nationwide, although the most well-known festivities are in the Canary Islands, Cadiz and Sitges. While each town has its own unique flavour of celebration, they all have a devotion to having a good time. No one seems to sleep, as the drinking and dancing go from dusk until dawn. You’ll see extravagant costumes and people in masks everywhere, with parades and fancy dress events culminating in the traditional Burial of the Sardine on Ash Wednesday.

The sardine is a symbol which reminds the people that now they will be eating fish instead of meat – some Catholics still observe the tradition of not eating meat on miércoles de Ceniza and on Fridays during Lent. This is the event that truly symbolises the end of the good times and the beginning of a period of abstinence.

In Catalunya Carnival is a particularly exciting time as celebrations were illegal under Franco’s rule. So, since the end of his dictatorship in 1980 people have been making up for all of those years without a carnival!

As for Carnival in Rio, Venice, New Orleans … (sigh) follow the links and enjoy them virtually. But don’t despair, there’s also London’s Notting Hill Carnival in August!

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Opening lines of ‘Catcher in the Rye’

Still not convinced about giving this novel a chance? Here are the opening lines:

“If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

J.D. Salinger

J.D. Salinger, author of  The Catcher in the Rye, passed away this week at the age of 91. 

Generations of students and teachers have been forever changed by this acclaimed novel, one of my favourites ever since I discovered it as a teenager. I was very proud of myself when I managed to read it in English the first time, and have often revisited it since, especially when I’m feeling a bit down in the dumps. The Catcher in the Rye, narrated by main character and hero Holden Caulfield, is the story of Holden’s life in the few days after being expelled from his Pennsylvania prep school. Holden, one of the most sympathetic and complex young characters of all time,  is an incredibly intelligent, sensitive young man on the verge of becoming an adult who has trouble functioning in the real world.  

The Catcher in the Rye has been translated to many languages and has sold more than 60 million copies worlwide 59 years after its publication in 1951. It has also been banned more times than you want to count by zealous parents and educators. Not that anybody’s surprised by this (because of the profanity, sex, alcohol abuse, prostitution – need I go on?), but interestingly enough, it’s also frequently used as part of high school English classes and it has become required reading in every English department in America.

There are also some curious facts connected to Salinger’s novel. Mark David Chapman, the man who shot John Lennon, was carrying a copy of The Catcher in the Rye when he was arrested. John Hinckley Jr., the guy who tried to kill US President Ronald Reagan in 1981, was also a Caulfield fan.

If you want to know a bit more about the life and other works of this very secretive author, here is a link to a good article by the BBC:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8486169.stm

Merry Christmas

Winter is here, weather and otherwise – see the snow?

Christmas is imminent so the time has come for shopping, office parties, family get-togethers,  overindulgence in general and wishes of peace and happiness everywhere …

As for myself, I’m going to spend Christmas the Catalan way, that is, with my personal ‘crapper’ – not shopper -, mind you,  or ‘caganer‘, hitting the ‘Caga Tió’ – or shitting/pooping log – yeah, we are a weird lot – and having my fair share of ‘torrons‘, ‘Escudella  i carn d´Olla’ , etc.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!

When Is Thanksgiving?

Here is a link to a history website http://www.history.com/content/thanksgiving, where you can find all kinds of stuff about this American holiday.

Also, for those of you interested in the topic, here is a link to the best top five Thanksgiving themed movies:

http://movies.about.com/od/toppicks/tp/thanksgiv111204.htm

I recommend ‘The Ice Storm’ , Woody Allen’s ‘Hannah and Her Sisters’ and ‘The Myth of Fingerprints’

Thanksgiving for turkeys

Did you know that… ?

1) Minnesota is the top turkey-producing state in America, with a planned production total of 49 million in 2008.

2) The National Turkey Federation – yes, it exists! – estimated that 46 million turkeys—one fifth of the annual total of 235 million consumed in the United States in 2007—were eaten at Thanksgiving.

3) Nearly 88 percent of Americans said they had eaten turkey at Thanksgiving last year.

4) The average weight of turkeys purchased for Thanksgiving is 15 pounds, which means some 690 million pounds of turkey were consumed in the U.S. during Thanksgiving in 2008.

Amazing, huh?

Thanksgiving: A Stressful Holiday?

Thanksgiving celebrates tradition, family togetherness and good food but it can also be a very stressful time. There’s a lot of work associated with pulling off this feast, and with pulling together distant family and friends.

One of the first factors of stress during the holidays or get-togethers, is the high divorce rate.  With many marriages ending in divorce or even greater family complications by remarrying, children have to decide which family or parent they choose. The parents who get to be chosen need to work hard at proving themselves worthy, while for the parents who lost, it feels like a failure. So, a no-win situation for all the parties involved.

Many people only get to see their families – thank God 🙂 – at special events or celebrations. This is the time when you’re put under their microscopic eye to see whether you’ve gained or lost weight, have got any grey hair or need new glasses… Also, pictures are taken year after year to record our aging process faithfully and to remind everyone of that dreadful dress, hairstyle, etc. How’s that for stress?

Thanksgiving, like other holidays, is a celebration of food, which poses another problem. For those with eating disorders, it becomes really stressful; fo those who are on a diet, it’s a challenge akin to climbing the Everest.

This is also a time of the year for family members to talk about what has been going on in their lives, both personally and professionally. So this is the time when you are asked about that girlfriend who dumped you and about the promotion that never came. You don’t really feel like telling them and this, of course, causes stress.

Now, what do we do about all this? One possibilty is to swallow your pride, hold your tongue and just vegetate through the entire family affair silently reminding yourself that it will be over in a few hours… But remember, Christmas is just around the corner!

 

 

Adapted from Holiday Blues at http://www.brownielocks.com/holidayblues.html