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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

St. Patrick's Day !! Go Green !!

Pitching on the theory of probability, if i were currently in India and in my busy routine, this blog on this very topic would not have been written. But when you anywhere outside of your matrubhoomi (motherland) and mebbe not as busy in typical Mumbai life, its possible to read up and write more frequently. Today is 17th March and it is St. Patrick's Day, a day celebrated largely in Ireland and United States. This post is a compilation of interesting and fun facts about St. Patrick's Day celebrations world over !!
Saint Patrick
St. Patrick, i dedicate this to you !!

St. Patrick’s Day is observed on March 17 because that is the feast day of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. It is believed that he died on March 17 in the year 461 AD. It is also a worldwide celebration of Irish culture and history. St. Patrick’s Day is a national holiday in Ireland, and a provincial holiday in the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

St. Patrick was not born in Ireland, but in Britain. Irish brigands kidnapped St. Patrick at 16 and brought him to Ireland. He was sold as a slave in the county of Antrim and served in bondage for six years until he escaped to Gaul, in present-day France. He later returned to his parents' home in Britain, where he had a vision that he would preach to the Irish. After 14 years of study, Patrick returned to Ireland, where he built churches and spread the Christian faith for some 30 years.


St. Patrick's Day Parade
The first St. Patrick's Day parade, though, took place not in Ireland, but the United States, when Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City in 1762. As the years went on, the parades became a show of unity and strength for persecuted Irish-American immigrants, and then a popular celebration of Irish-American heritage. Dublin, the capital of Ireland, has a huge St. Patrick’s Day festival from March 15-19, that features a parade, family carnivals, treasure hunt, dance, theatre and more. In North America, parades are often held on the Sunday before March 17. There has been a St. Patrick’s Day parade in Boston, Massachusetts since 1737. Montreal is home to Canada’s longest running St. Patrick’s Day parade, which began in 1824.

Americas Ireland
34 million and more Americans have Irish ancestry, according to the 2003 US Census. That’s almost nine times the population of Ireland, which has 4.1 million people. Some American towns have “Irish” names. You could visit: Mount Gay-Shamrock, West Virginia; Shamrock Lakes, Indiana; Shamrock, Oklahoma; Shamrock, Texas; Dublin, California and Dublin, Ohio.


Chicago is famous for a somewhat peculiar annual event: dyeing the Chicago River green. The tradition started in 1962, when city pollution-control workers used dyes to trace illegal sewage discharges and realized that the green dye might provide a unique way to celebrate the holiday. That year, they released 100 pounds of green vegetable dye into the river—enough to keep it green for a week! Today, in order to minimize environmental damage, only 40 pounds of dye are used, making the river green for only several hours.
In Seattle, there is a ceremony where a green stripe is painted down the roads.

Irish Symbols
The harp is the symbol of Ireland. The color green is also commonly associated with Ireland, also known as “the Emerald Isle.”

The Irish flag is green, white and orange. The green symbolizes the people of the south, and orange, the people of the north. White represents the peace that brings them together as a nation.

Shamrock (Clover)
Three is Ireland's magic number and the three petals that make up the shamrock are supposed to bring good luck. The three leaves also represent the Trinity in the Christian religion. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the highest number of leaves found on a clover is 14! One estimate suggests that there are about 10 000 regular three-leaf clovers for every lucky four-leaf clover. Legend says that each leaf of the clover means something: the first is for hope, the second for faith, the third for love and the fourth for luck.

The Leprechauns & Pot of Gold
The leprechaun is a small Irish fairy. He is dressed like a shoemaker, with pointed shoes and hat. He also wears a leather apron. Lephrechauns are supposed to be unfriendly little men who live alone in the forest, spending all of their time making shoes and guarding their treasures. If someone catches a leprechaun, he will be forced to tell where he hides all his pots of gold. However, the leprechaun must be watched at all times. If his captor looks away, the leprechaun will vanish along with his treasure.

Wearing of Green
St. Patrick's favorite color was blue, not green, and the people of Ireland too weren't exactly fond of green - according to them it was the color of the Fairies and Leprechauns and, unless you wanted to forcibly join the ranks of these Wee Folks, you would refrain from sporting that color too often. It wasn't until the 19th Century that Green became the official color of Ireland. Green ribbons and shamrocks were worn in celebration of St Patrick's Day as early as the 17th century.He is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the pre-Christian Irish, and the wearing and display of shamrocks and shamrock-inspired designs have become a ubiquitous feature of the day. In Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, people traditionally wear a small bunch of shamrocks on their jackets or caps. Children wear orange, white and green badges, and women and girls wear green ribbons in their hair.

Leap Year
According to legend, wearying of St. Bridget's constant complaints about the traditional social mores requiring women to wait for marriage proposals to come their way or forget about the matter entirely, St. Patrick instituted the practice of allowing women to propose to men on a Leap Year. The reason he didn't make it an every day occurrence can perhaps be gleaned from the fact that on the very next Leap Year he found himself on the receiving end of a proposal from St. Bridget herself. He couldn't withstand the constant complaints, he would have been ploughed down by the constant proposals.

St. Patrick Day Traditional Cuisine
On St. Patrick's Day, which falls during the Christian season of Lent, Irish families would traditionally attend church in the morning and celebrate in the afternoon. Lenten prohibitions against the consumption of meat were waived and people would dance, drink and feast—on the traditional meal of Irish bacon and cabbage. The top 3 things would be Corned Beef and Cabbage, Irish Stew and Irish Soda Bread with Raisins. Many bars in the United States, and abroad, serve green beer to celebrate St. Patty's Day. The phrase, "Drowning The Shamrock" is from the custom of floating the shamrock on the top of whiskey before drinking it. The Irish believe that if you keep the custom, then you will have a prosperous year.

Irish Receipes:
Corned Beef and Cabbage (video - chk it out!)
http://www.history.com/topics/irish-recipes-st-patricks-day/videos#corned-beef-cabbage

Irish Stew (video - chk it out!)
http://www.history.com/topics/irish-recipes-st-patricks-day/videos#irish-stew
Irish Soda Bread with Raisins
http://www.bbc.co.uk/food/recipes/database/irishsodabread_67445.shtml


A little Irish Jig !!
Hearts, Stars, and Horseshoes
Clovers and Blue moons
Pots of gold and rainbows,
And the red balloon
That’s the luck of me lucky charms!
Their magically delicious!



And i sign off this article with one of my favorite Irish Songs, The Galway Girl by Steve Earle, popular in the movie PS. I love you!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rVUmlCixFCs

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Ugadi and Gudi Padwa To All !!

Ugadi /Yugadi is the first day of the Hindu calendar (first day of the first month, Chaitra).
It is believed that the creator of the Hindu pantheon Lord Brahma started creation on this day - Chaitra suddha padhyami or the Ugadi day. Also the great Indian Mathematician Bhaskaracharya's calculations proclaimed the Ugadi day from the sunrise on as the beginning of the new year, new month and new day.It is the beginning of hindu new year.
It also marks the arrival of spring. Spring is considered the first season of the year hence also heralding a new year and a new beginning.Yuga means Start & Aadi means Era. Therefore yugadi means "Start of a new era". It is the wonderful and colourful festival, because after the Holi (the purification of the soul by imbibing Godly knowledge, inculcating the divine virtues by replacing the vices with virtues) the New age, New yuga, and New era will be start. So, it is the time to change ourselves or to purify ourselves by inculcating the divine virtues.
Ugadi is celebrated with festive fervor in Maharashtra,Sindh, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. While it is called Ugadi in A.P. and Karnataka,in Maharashtra it is known as Gudipadava".Sindhis, people from Sindhcelebrate the same day as their New Year day Cheti Chand. Symbolically, it signifies thanks giving to celebrate bounteous crops as well as signaling the end of an old era and the beginning of a new era.
On Ugadi day, people wake up before the break of dawn and take a head bath after which they decorate the entrance of their houses with fresh mango leaves. The significance of tying mango leaves relates to a legend. It is said that Kartik (or Subramanya or Kumara Swamy) and Ganesha, the two sons of Lord Siva and Parvathi were very fond of mangoes. As the legend goes Kartik exhorted people to tie green mango leaves to the doorway signifying a good crop and general well-being.

The day begins with ritual showers (oil bath) followed by prayers, and then the eating of a specific mixture of -
Neem Buds/Flowers for bitterness Raw Mango for tang Tamarind Juice for sourness Green Chilli/Pepper for heat Jaggery for sweetness Pinch of Salt for saltiness This mixture with all six tastes called "Ugadi Pachhadi" in Telugu and "Bevu-Bella" symbolizes the fact that life is a mixture of different experiences (sadness, happiness, anger, fear, disgust, surprise) , which should be accepted together and with equanimity - things that arein store for him/her in the coming year with gratitude.
Later, people traditionally gather to listen to the recitation of the religious almanac (Panchangam) of the coming year, and to the general forecast of the year to come. This is the Panchanga Sravanam, an informal social function where an elderly and respected person refers to the new almanac pertaining to the coming year and makes a general benediction to all present.
In Andhra Pradesh, eatables such as "pulihora, bobbatlu" and preparations made with raw mango go well with the occasion. In Karnataka too, similar preparations are made but called "puliogure" and "holige".

In Maharastra It is customary to erect ‘Gudis’ on the first day (Padwa) of the Marathi New Year. 'Gudi' is a bamboo staff with a colored silk cloth and a garlanded goblet atop it, which symbolizes victory or achievement. Hence, this day is known as “Gudipadwa” in Maharashtra. The New Year is ushered in with the worship of the "Gudi" and the distribution of a specific "Prasad" comprising tender neem leaves, gram-pulse and jaggery. The symbolism of tastes is the same as what is described above. Also in many Maharashtrian homes they celebrate the occasion by making Shrikhand Puri & Puran Poli.
So on this auspicious day people pray for their health, wealth and prosperity and success in business too. Ugadi is also the most auspicious time to start new ventures.
I wish that this new year bring in lots of happiness & joy to all !!
Blog Post - Courtesy:Various Sources

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mirror Mirror On The Wall !!

Once upon a time, as a queen sat sewing at her window, she pricked her finger on her needle and three drops of blood fell on the snow that had fallen on her ebony window frame. She looked at the blood on the snow, and said, "Oh, how I wish that I had a daughter that had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony". Soon after that, the queen gave birth to a baby girl who had skin white as snow, lips red as blood, and hair black as ebony. They named her Princess Snow White. But the Queen died soonafter. The king took a new wife, who was beautiful but also very vain. The Queen possessed a magical mirror that answered any question, But she was consumed by just one: "Mirror, mirror on the wall, who in the land is fairest of all?"

Well and most of us do know this Fairy Tale of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, well that is not what this post is about. It shows that from time immemorial the part of the world where the sun shines brightest is obsessed with Fairness and most often than less equates being fair with being beautiful. Fairness is seriously overated in a country like India where Fair & Lovely, Garnier and other brands make a kiling profit not only in the fairness creams segment for women, but now in the men's segment too. :) On google, you will get more sites and posts on how to become fair than you may get for how to make the environment go green !! White is more popular than green when it comes to the battleground of beauty. The world needs more greens and humans need more fairness cremes ;-)

Skin color can range from almost black (in skin with very high concentrations of the dark brown pigment melanin) to nearly colorless (appearing pinkish white due to the blood vessels under the skin) Skin color is determined primarily by the amount and type of melanin. In general, people with ancestors from tropical regions and higher altitudes (who were hence exposed to greater ultraviolet radiation) have darker skin than people with ancestors from middle latitudes. This is far from a hard and fast rule, however, because many light-skinned groups have managed to survive at the equator through social adaptation. The same can be said of dark-skinned groups living at subtropical and temperate latitudes.Several genes have been invoked to explain variations of skin tones in humans, including SLC45A2,ASIP, MATP, TYR, and OCA2.A recently discovered gene, SLC24A5 has been shown to account for a substantial fraction of the difference in the average of 30 or so melanin units between Europeans and Africans.For facts,Light-skinned persons have about a tenfold greater risk of dying from skin cancer, compared with dark-skinned persons, under equal sunlight exposure. Dark skin prevents radiation of UV-A rays from destroying the essential folic acid, derived from B vitamins.

I myself am Wheatish Fair Complexion and i love being that!! Its just that being Fair is so overated now-a-days that it causes frenzy in a lot of heads. So no matter what your skin color is, just love it and love yourself for it, because it looks great on you !! Skin color is really deep, much deeper than the superficial use of bleaching agents, cucumbers, honey, tomato, rose water. It is too much controlled by your melanin and even more locked up in your genetic make up, even if you hate your ancestral gene pool you are bound to it till you take birth again, might as well learn to love it and respect it. Maintaining and taking good care of your skin is essential but being obsessed with looking fair is just not worth it !! There may be more important things to change about oneself than the color of the skin.