April 21, 2019

¡Felices Pascuas! Easter in Spain

Easter is a big deal in Spain. The country is historically very strongly Catholic, and many holidays reflect this religious past. The entire week leading up to Easter (Pascuas) in Spain is called Semana Santa, or Holy Week.

Catholic cofradía and fraternities perform penance processions on the streets of almost every Spanish city and town during the last week of Lent, the week immediately before Easter. Some of these associations date back to the Middle Ages!

Food and family are also important during Easter celebrations. Torrijas are a traditional Semana Santa sweet snack of bread soaked in milk and egg before being fried and served with sugar or honey.
Pestiños are little pastries popular throughout Spain, but especially in Andalusia. Sesame-flavored dough is fried then glazed with honey or sugar.

April 5, 2019

Today is Qingming Festival in China

Today, April 5, celebrates Qingming Festival in China. It is also known as the Remembrance of Ancestors Day or Grave-Sweeping Day. Ancestor veneration is extremely important in Chinese culture, and the spirit of this day is much like Memorial Day in the United States, or Dia de Muertos in Mexico.

Quingming rituals not only include weeding of the area around the grave, cleaning of the headstone, and replacing the wilted flowers with fresh ones, but also the lighting of incense and burning of imitation paper money. The burning of the imitation money is for the deceased to use in the afterlife. In addition, food is laid out in front of the headstone as an offering to the spirits of the deceased.

The Qingming Festival has been observed by the Chinese for over 2500 years.

April 1, 2019

Le Poisson d'Avril in France

April 1 is a day of pranks and practical jokes across the world, and every year in France, many unsuspecting victims spend the day with a "poisson d'avril" (a paper fish) taped to their backs.

The origins of the April Fish aren't exactly clear; some versions say it was due to the fact that fishing was forbidden at that time, and some link it to the celebration of Easter, when fish was commonly eaten instead of meat, and the giving of fake fish was considered a good prank.

Whatever the case may be, watch out for a poisson d'avril if you're in France on April 1!