Month: October 2015

CELEBRATION OF THE FALL HARVEST

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fall-harvest-celebration

CELEBRATION OF THE FALL HARVEST

Why is there a celebration of the harvest?   Is it just held in one specific area, region or country?   Can anyone attend and participate?

A harvest festival is an annual celebration and that occurs around the time of the main harvest of a given region. Given the differences in climate and crops around the world, harvest festivals can be found at various times at different places. Harvest festivals typically feature feasting, both family and public, with foods that are drawn from crops that come to maturity around the time of the festival. Ample food and freedom from the necessity to work in the fields are two central features of harvest festivals: eating, merriment, contests, music and romance are common features of harvest festivals around the world.

In North America, Canada and the US each have their own Thanksgiving celebrations in October and November.

In Britain, thanks have been given for successful harvests since pagan times. Harvest festival is traditionally held on the Sunday near or of the Harvest Moon. This is the full Moon that occurs closest to the autumn equinox (around the 22nd or 23rd of September). The celebrations on this day usually include singing hymns, praying, and decorating churches with baskets of fruit, and food in the festival known as Harvest Festival, Harvest Home, Harvest Thanksgiving or Harvest Festival of Thanksgiving.

In British and English-Caribbean churches, chapels and schools, and some Canadian churches, people bring in produce from the garden, the allotment or farm. The food is often distributed among the poor and senior citizens of the local community, or used to raise funds for the church, or charity.

In the United States, many churches also bring in food from the garden or farm in order to celebrate the harvest. The festival is set for a specific day and has become a national holiday known as Thanksgiving which falls on the fourth Thursday in November. In both Canada and the United States, it has also become a national secular holiday with religious origins, but in Britain it is both a Church festival giving thanks to God for the harvest and a more secular festival remembered in schools.

Harvest festivals in Asia include the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival, one of the most widely spread harvest festivals in the world. In Iran, Mehrgan was celebrated in an extravagant style at Persepolis. Not only was it the time for harvest, but it was also the time when the taxes were collected. Visitors from different parts of the Persian Empire brought gifts for the king all contributing to a lively festival. In India, Makar Sankranti, Thai Pongal, Uttarayana, Lohri, and Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu in January, Holi in February–March, Vaisakhi in April and Onam in August–September are a few important harvest festivals.

 

Harvest is from the Old English word hærfest, meaning “Autumn”.   It then came to refer to the season for reaping and gathering grain and other grown products. The full moon nearest the autumnal equinox is called the Harvest Moon. In ancient traditions Harvest Festivals were traditionally held on or near the Sunday of the Harvest Moon.

An early harvest festival used to be celebrated at the beginning of the harvest season on the 1st of August and was called Lammas, meaning ‘loaf Mass’. The Latin prayer to hallow the bread is given in the Durham Ritual. Farmers made loaves of bread from the fresh wheat crop. These were given to the local church as the Communion bread during a special service thanking God for the harvest.

By the sixteenth century a number of customs seem to have been firmly established around the gathering of the final harvest. They include the reapers accompanying a fully laden cart; a tradition of shouting “Hooky, hooky”; and one of the foremost reapers dressing extravagantly, acting as ‘lord’ of the harvest and asking for money from the onlookers. A play by Thomas Nashe, Summer’s Last Will and Testament, (first published in London in 1600 but believed from internal evidence to have been first performed in October 1592 at Croydon) contains a scene which demonstrates several of these features. There is a character personifying harvest who comes on stage attended by men dressed as reapers; he refers to himself as their “master” and ends the scene by begging the audience for a “largesse”. The scene is clearly inspired by contemporary harvest celebrations, and singing and drinking feature largely.

Another widespread tradition was the distribution of a special cake to the celebrating farmworkers.  Nowadays the festival is held at the end of harvest, which varies in different parts of Britain. Sometimes neighboring churches will set the Harvest Festival on different Sundays so that people can attend each other’s thanksgivings.

Until the 20th century most farmers celebrated the end of the harvest with a big meal called the harvest supper, to which all who had helped in the harvest were invited. It was sometimes known as a “Mell-supper”, after the last patch of corn or wheat standing in the fields which was known as the “Mell” or “Neck”. Cutting it signified the end of the work of harvest and the beginning of the feast. There seems to have been a feeling that it was bad luck to be the person to cut the last stand of corn. The farmer and his workers would race against the harvesters on other farms to be first to complete the harvest, shouting to announce they had finished. In some counties the last stand of corn would be cut by the workers throwing their sickles at it until it was all down, in others the reapers would take it in turns to be blindfolded and sweep a scythe to and fro until all of the Mell was cut down.

Some churches and villages still have a Harvest Supper. The modern British tradition of celebrating Harvest Festival in churches began in 1843, when the Reverend Robert Hawker invited parishioners to a special thanksgiving service at his church at Morwenstow in Cornwall. Victorian hymns such as “We plough the fields and scatter”, “Come ye thankful people, come” and “All things bright and beautiful” but also Dutch and German harvest hymns in translation helped popularize his idea of harvest festival and spread the annual custom of decorating churches with home-grown produce for the Harvest Festival service.

As British people have come to rely less heavily on home-grown produce, there has been a shift in emphasis in many Harvest Festival celebrations. Increasingly, churches have linked Harvest with an awareness of and concern for people in the developing world for whom growing crops of sufficient quality and quantity remains a struggle. Development and Relief organizations often produce resources for use in churches at harvest time which promote their own concerns for those in need across the globe.

In the early days, there were ceremonies and rituals at the beginning as well as at the end of the harvest.

In some regions the farmers believed that a spirit resided in the last sheaf of grain to be harvested. To chase out the spirit, they beat the grain to the ground. Elsewhere they wove some blades of the cereal into a “corn dolly” that they kept safe for “luck” until seed-sowing the following year. Then they plowed the ears of grain back into the soil in hopes that this would bless the new crop. (1) Church bells could be heard on each day of the harvest; (2) The horse, bringing the last cart load, was decorated with garlands of flowers and colorful ribbons. (3) A magnificent Harvest feast was held at the farmer’s house and games played to celebrate the end of the harvest; (4) Harvest is celebrated by many people but in Christianity, it is widely looked at in schools, and focused on in church; and (5) Harvest is mainly associated with fruit and vegetables, for which we give thanks. This is the whole point of the Harvest Festival.

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THE HISTORY OF TRICK OR TREATING

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Happy Halloween party with children trick or treating

THE HISTORY OF TRICK OR TREATING

Trick-or-treating—going from house to house in search of candy and other goodies—has been a popular Halloween tradition in the United States and other countries for an estimated 100 years. But the origins of this community-based ritual, which costumed children typically savor while their cavity-conscious parents grudgingly tag along, remain hazy. Possible forerunners to modern-day trick-or-treating have been identified in ancient Celtic festivals, early Roman Catholic holidays, medieval practices and even British politics.

Halloween has its roots in the ancient, pre-Christian Celtic festival of Samhain, which was celebrated on the night of October 31. The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, believed that the dead returned to earth on Samhain. People would gather to light bonfires, offer sacrifices and pay homage to the deceased.

Although it is unknown precisely where and when the phrase “trick or treat” was coined, the custom had been firmly established in American popular culture by 1951, when trick-or-treating was depicted in the Peanuts comic strip. In 1952, Disney produced a cartoon called “Trick or Treat” featuring Donald Duck and his nephews Huey, Dewey and Louie.

During some Celtic celebrations of Samhain, villagers disguised themselves in costumes made of animal skins to drive away phantom visitors; banquet tables were prepared and edible offerings were left out to placate unwelcome spirits. In later centuries, people began dressing as ghosts, demons and other malevolent creatures, performing antics in exchange for food and drink. This custom, known as mumming, dates back to the Middle Ages and is thought to be an antecedent of trick-or-treating.

By the ninth century, Christianity had spread into Celtic lands, where it gradually blended with and supplanted older pagan rites. In 1000 A.D. the church designated November 2nd as All Souls’ Day, a time for honoring the dead. Celebrations in England resembled Celtic commemorations of Samhain, complete with bonfires and masquerades. Poor people would visit the houses of wealthier families and receive pastries called soul cakes in exchange for a promise to pray for the souls of the homeowners’ dead relatives. Known as souling, the practice was later taken up by children, who would go from door to door asking for gifts such as food, money and ale.

In Scotland and Ireland, young people took part in a tradition called guising, dressing up in costume and accepting offerings from various households. Rather than pledging to pray for the dead, they would sing a song, recite a poem, tell a joke or perform another sort of “trick” before collecting their treat, which typically consisted of fruit, nuts or coins.

Still another potential trick-or-treating predecessor is the British custom for children to wear masks and carry effigies while begging for pennies on Guy Fawkes Night (also known as Bonfire Night), which commemorates the foiling of the so-called Gunpowder Plot in 1605. On November 5, 1606, Fawkes was executed for his role in the Catholic-led conspiracy to blow up England’s parliament building and remove King James I, a Protestant, from power. On the original Guy Fawkes Day, celebrated immediately after the famous plotter’s execution, communal bonfires, or “bone fires,” were lit to burn effigies and the symbolic “bones” of the Catholic pope. By the early 19th century, children bearing effigies of Fawkes were roaming the streets on the evening of November 5, asking for “a penny for the Guy.”

Some American colonists celebrated Guy Fawkes Day, and in the mid-19th century large numbers of new immigrants, especially those fleeing Ireland’s potato famine in the 1840s, helped popularize Halloween. In the early 20th century, Irish and Scottish communities revived the Old World traditions of souling and guising in the United States. By the 1920s, however, pranks had become the Halloween activity of choice for rowdy young people, sometimes amounting to more than $100,000 in damages each year in major metropolitan areas.

The Great Depression exacerbated the problem, with Halloween mischief often devolving into vandalism, physical assaults and sporadic acts of violence. One theory holds that it was the excessive pranks on Halloween that led to the widespread adoption of an organized, community-based trick-or-treating tradition in the 1930s. This trend was abruptly curtailed, however, with the outbreak of World War II, when children had to refrain from trick-or-treating because of sugar rationing.

At the height of the postwar baby boom, trick-or-treating reclaimed its place among other Halloween customs, quickly becoming standard practice for millions of children in America’s cities and newly built suburbs. No longer constrained by sugar rationing, candy companies capitalized on the lucrative ritual, launching national advertising campaigns specifically aimed at Halloween. Today, Americans spend an estimated $6 billion annually on Halloween, making it the nation’s second-largest commercial holiday.

By the early 1920’s young trendsetters were beginning to throw lavish Halloween parties and there was renewed interest in “guising”. Stores started selling pre-made costumes that people could wear to disguise themselves and indulge in a little good natured Halloween fun. During WWII Halloween celebrations were toned down due to sugar rationing and the generally somber mood of the nation. By the time the war was over and people started the mad exodus to build homes in the suburbs the celebration of Halloween had gotten popular. The 50’s and 60’s were the decades when Trick-or-Treating became the important Halloween ritual they are today. Trick-or-Treating became the focus of Halloween celebrations because going Trick-or-Treating was seen as a wholesome activity for the whole family. Trick-or-Treating also became popular in the 50’s and 60’s because that was when living in subdivisions and newly built suburban neighborhoods became popular.

Trick-or-Treating remained popular through the 70’s and 80’s but by the 90’s the practice of Trick-or-Treating began to change. Many different factors like the rise of people living in apartment buildings instead of free standing houses in suburban neighborhoods and the rise in non-traditional households contributed to the major changes that shaped Trick-or-Treating at the end of the 90s. In order to accommodate parents with busy schedules and in an effort to make Trick-or-Treating safer for kids it was moved largely indoors. Malls began to open for specific Trick-or-Treating events where kids in costume could go to different stores to receive candy and coupons. These structured Halloween events also usually feature games, activities, and clowns and other performers to make the event even more special. Many neighborhoods have also designated special Trick-or-Treat hours to prevent a lot of Halloween mischief and help protect the safety of Trick-or-Treaters.

Kathy Kiefer

HISTORY AND TRADITIONS BEHIND THE HALLOWEEN COSTUME

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pumpkin-varieties

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN PUMPKINS AND GOURDS?

There are so many forms and types of gourds, but what are the major differences?   How can I tell what is what?     I’ve discovered a plethora of information while I’ve been researching this topic myself.

October is synonymous with pumpkins, gourds and squash. Throughout the month, they are used for décor, the main ingredient of seasonal dishes and as children’s whimsical canvas for spooky designs. However, did you know pumpkins and gourds, as well as squash, come in more shades of color than orange or yellow?

It’s time to decorate for the season. Pumpkins, squash and gourds are now readily available for the season’s décor. Over the years, I’ve discovered considerable confusion exists when trying to distinguish one from the other. One simple, non-scientific definition I’ve heard is pumpkins are something you carve, squash are something you cook and eat, and gourds are something you look at but don’t eat. The fact is the genetic history of these three items is so intertwined that it’s extremely difficult to tell them apart. All three are fruits of herbaceous vining plants that seem to possess more similarities than differences.

With over 300 varieties of pumpkins, gourds, and squash grown annually, it is amazing to discern the color palette of nature: oranges, greens, yellows, blues, whites, striped, splotched, and spotted. Textures also vary greatly. Due to the close familial orientation of the three, it can often be difficult to tell them apart. All are members of the Cucurbita family, with each variety belonging to a different sub-category. It seems the stem is the primary way to distinguish a pumpkin from the group. If the stem appears woody and hard, it can be deemed a pumpkin.

Those recognized as true pumpkins (including the jack-o-lantern) belong to the Cucurbita pepo species. Varieties in this group have distinctly furrowed woody stems and yellow flowers. The skin of the fruit is hard and usually bright orange. Most pumpkins, acorn squash, summer squash and courgette (zucchini) belong to the C.pepo species. There are even some smaller varieties in this species that are referred to only as gourds.

The maxima species is slightly different from the pepo in that it is less hardy and has a softer, spongy stem. The skin is yellow rather than orange. The maxima species is frequently branded as a squash-type pumpkin or pumpkin-squash. They include winter squashes such as the banana squash and the buttercup squash.   Cucurbita moschata cultivars are generally more tolerant of hot, humid weather than cultivars of C. maxima or C. pepo. Butternut squash is an example of this species.

Gourds vs Pumpkins

Gourds and pumpkins are both bush-like plants which are popularly seen in the northern part of America. These two have almost the same properties and have a maturity period of about 100 to 129 days. As gourds and pumpkins belong to the same family, they do not differ much.

A gourd is mainly used as a vessel or a container at home. Gourds are also used as musical instruments such as drums and stringed instruments. When comparing the two, gourds are mostly ornamental in type. On the contrary, pumpkins are edible and are eaten when ripe.   Yet another difference that can be seen between the two is that gourds can be only dried when mature and pumpkins can be roasted, baked, steamed, or boiled when mature.   Both the gourd and the pumpkin are unique in themselves. During the times of Halloween, pumpkins are used as jack-o’-lanterns at houses. As said earlier, gourds are used as musical instruments as they can vibrate sounds. When comparing gourds and pumpkins, the latter are more often used as table vegetables as they are more edible. As the flesh of a pumpkin is a bit coarse or has a strong flavor, it is more often used as a vegetable after baking.

There are also many differences in the harvesting season of pumpkins and gourds. While pumpkins are harvested once the rinds become hard and when the skin turns orange, gourds are allowed to mature as long as possible. The more they mature, the better they are. But when on the vines, they have to be protected from very cold temperatures.

Some of the differences and similarities between them include: (1) Gourds and pumpkins are both bush-like plants; (2) Gourds are mainly used as vessels or containers at home. Gourds are also used as musical instruments such as drums and a stringed instrument; (3) During Halloween season, pumpkins are used as jack-o’-lanterns at houses; (4) When comparing gourds and pumpkins, the latter are more often used as table vegetables as they are more edible; (5) As the flesh of a pumpkin is a bit coarse or has a strong flavor, it is more often used as a vegetable after baking; (6) While pumpkins are harvested once the rinds become hard and when the skin turns orange, gourds are allowed to mature as long as possible; and (7) Another difference that can be seen between the two is that gourds can be only dried when mature and pumpkins can be roasted, baked, steamed, or boiled when mature.

Yellow summer squash is slender and bright yellow; crookneck squash is similar, but with a hook end and darker yellow coloring. Zucchini squash is oblong and dark green, sometimes with white striping. Gem squash is a small, spherical squash with solid, dark-green coloring. Pattypan squash is mint green in color, resembling a flattened circle with scalloped edges. Spaghetti squash features an oblong shape with yellow to orange rind and yellow or orange flesh that is stringy like spaghetti noodles. Styrian oil pumpkins are largely processed for pumpkin seed oil; they are small and round with yellow-orange and green stripes. A winter squash, acorn squash is acorn-shaped and dark green, sometimes with a touch of orange coloring. Another winter squash, delicata squash, features long fruits with thin green stripes set against a yellow background. Banana squash can be identified by its elongated shape with a slightly tapered tip, yellow-orange flesh and rind color that varies among creamy orange, pink and light blue. Hubbard squash has a rounded teardrop shape, yellow-orange flesh and varieties with rind colors including dark orange and blue-gray. Buttercup squash, enjoyed for the buttery flavor of its yellow-orange flesh, features olive to dark-green skin and a rounded, flat-topped shape. Jarrahdale pumpkin makes an appealing fall decoration with its short, round shape, ribbed rind and color ranging from blue-gray to steel gray.

Butternut squash, a favorite in recipes for the nutty flavor of its bright orange flesh, is cylindrical in shape with a base that is slightly wider than the stem end; color varies from yellow-tan to orange. Dickinson field pumpkin, commonly used for canned pumpkin puree, is tan in color, with a shape that ranges from long and cylindrical to a prolate spheroid — a slightly elongated sphere. Ranging in shape from a flattened sphere to tear-drop, Kentucky field pumpkin has light orange skin and dark orange flesh. Long Island cheese pumpkin, shaped like a cheese wheel, has soft yellow flesh. Tan to pale orange neck pumpkin are bulbous at the base with a narrow, curved neck up to about 18 inches long. Long of Naples squash are usually dark green with light green or pale orange streaks and yellow-orange flesh; they might be curved and cylindrical or feature a bulb at one or both ends.

Cucurbita mixta is less well known than other squash and gourd species, largely because its subspecies were previously classified as C. maschato or C. maximus. The species mostly comprises varieties of cushaw pumpkin, a variety of squash with a vase shape and straight or crooked, elongated neck. As its name suggests, green-striped cushaw has dark green and white stripes. White cushaw is bright white to ivory white in color. Golden cushaw is golden orange in color; color might be solid or striped with ivory white. Seminole pumpkin, native to Florida, is a small, spherical or teardrop-shaped pumpkin. The developing fruit is mottled with white over a dark green to yellow-tan base color.

Kathy Kiefer

HISTORY AND TRADITIONS BEHIND THE HALLOWEEN COSTUME

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36096_halloweenHISTORY AND TRADITIONS BEHIND THE HALLOWEEN COSTUME

Halloween costumes are costumes that are worn on or around Halloween, a festival which falls on October 31st . An early reference to wearing costumes at Halloween comes from Scotland in 1585, but they may pre-date this. There are many references to the custom during the 18th and 19th centuries in the Celtic countries of Scotland, Ireland, Mann and Wales. It has been suggested that the custom comes from the Celtic festivals of Samhain and Calan Gaeaf, or from the practise of “Souling” at Hallowtide. Wearing costumes and mumming has long been associated with festivals at other times of the year, such as on Christmas. Halloween costumes are traditionally based on frightening supernatural or folkloric beings. However, by the 1930s costumes based on characters in mass media such as film, literature, and radio were popular. Halloween costumes have tended to be worn mainly by young people, but since the mid-20th century they have been increasingly worn by adults also.
The practice of wearing costumes on Halloween may have originated in the Cletic festival of Samhain, which was a pre-Christian celebration that fell on October 31st or November 1st in various Celtic nations. It was seen as a liminal time, when the spirits or faries, and the souls of the dead, could more easily come into our world. After the Christianiztion of Ireland in the 5th century, some of these customs may have been retained in the Christian observance of All Hallows’ Eve in that region, and some continued to call the festival by the name of the ancient Celtic one, Samhain, blending the traditions of their ancestors with Christian ones.
From at least the 16th century, the festival included mumming and guising, which involved people going house-to-house in costume (or in disguise), usually reciting verses or songs in exchange for food. In 19th century Scotland, youths went house-to-house with masked, painted or blackened faces, often threatening to do mischief if they were not welcomed. In parts of Wales, men went about dressed as fearsome beings called gwrachod. In some places, young people dressed as the opposite gender. In parts of southern Ireland, a man dressed as a Láir Bhán (white mare) led youths house-to-house reciting verses in exchange for food. Elsewhere in Europe, mumming and costumes were part of other yearly festivals. However, in the Celtic-speaking regions they were “particularly appropriate to a night upon which supernatural beings were said to be abroad and could be imitated or warded off by human wanderers”. It is suggested that the costumes were a means of imitating, or disguising oneself from, the Aos Sí. It has been suggested that the ancient pagan festival included people wearing masks or costumes to represent spirits, and that faces were marked with ashes taken from the sacred bonfire. It has also been suggested that the wearing of Halloween costumes developed from Christian customs created in Western Europe around the 15th century. “Soaling”, the custom of baking and sharing soul-cakes for all christened souls, has been suggested as the origin of trick-or-treating, and “used to consist of parties of children, dressed up in fantastic costume, who went round to the farm houses and cottages, signing a song, and begging for cakes (spoken of as “Soal-cakes”), apples, money, or anything that the goodwives would give them; the practice was mentioned by Shakespeare in his play The Two Gentlemen of Verona. The custom of wearing costumes has been explicated by Prince Sorie Conteh, who wrote: “It was traditionally believed that the souls of the departed wandered the earth until All Saints’ Day, and All Hallows’ Eve provided one last chance for the dead to gain vengeance on their enemies before moving to the next world. In order to avoid being recognised by any soul that might be seeking such vengeance, people would don masks or costumes to disguise their identities”. In medieval Christian celebrations of All Hallows’ Eve, individuals paraded through the streets with statues and replicas of the martyred saints, some of the less wealthy churches could not afford these things and so they dressed like saints instead. Some believers continue the practice of dressing as saints, biblical figures, and reformers in Halloween celebrations today.
Many Christians in continental Europe, especially in France, acknowledged “a belief that once a year, on Hallowe’en, the dead of the churchyards rose for one wild, hideous carnival,” known as the danse macabre, which has been commonly depicted in church decoration, especially on the walls of cathedrals, monasteries, and cemeteries. This danse macabre, which was enacted by “Christian village children who celebrated the vigil of All Saints” in the 16th Century, has been suggested as the predecessor of modern day costume parties on this same day.
The custom of guising at Halloween in North America is first recorded in 1911, where a newspaper in Kingston, Ontario reported children going “guising” around the neighborhood. In 19th century America, Halloween was often celebrated with costume parades and “licentious revelries”. However, efforts were made to “domesticate” the festival to conform with Victorian era morality. Halloween was made into a private rather than public holiday, celebrations involving liquor and sensuality de-emphasized, and only children were expected to celebrate the festival. Early Halloween costumes emphasized the and gothic nature of Halloween, and were aimed primarily at children. Costumes were also made at home, or using items (such as make-up) which could be purchased and utilized to create a costume. Halloween costumes are often designed to imitate supernatural and scary beings. Costumes are traditionally those of monsters such as vampires, werewolves, zombies, ghosts, skeletons, goblins, trolls, devils, etc. or in more recent years science fiction-inspired characters as aliens and superheros. There are also costumes of pop culture figures like presidents, athletes, celebrities, or characters in film, television, literature, etc. Another popular trend is for women (and in some cases, men) to use Halloween as an excuse to wear sexy or revealing costumes, showing off more skin than would be socially acceptable otherwise. Young girls also often dress as entirely non-scary characters at Halloween, including princesses, fairies, angels, cute animals and flowers.
There have been controversial costumes over the years. One that sparked enormous controversy well before Halloween in 2015 is a “Caitlyn Jenner” corset costume. Despite public outcry claiming that the costume is offensive, popular retailers plan to go full steam ahead with selling the costume; one defending their conviction to sell the costume as a celebration of Jenner.
Halloween costume parties generally take place on or around October 31st , often on the Friday or Saturday prior to the holiday.
Researchers conducted a survey for the National Retail Federation in the United States and found that 53.3 percent of consumers planned to buy a costume for Halloween 2005, spending $38.11 on average (up $10 from the year before). They were also expected to spend $4.96 billion in 2006, up significantly from just $3.3 billion the previous year. The troubled economy has caused many Americans to cut back on Halloween spending. In 2009, the National Retail Federation anticipated that American households would decrease Halloween spending by as much as 15% to $56.31. In 2013, Americans spent an estimated $6.9 billion to celebrate Halloween, including a predicted $2.6 billion on costumes (with more spent on adult costumes than for children’s costumes) and $330 million on pet costumes.
Halloween costumes in the contemporary Western world sometimes depict people and things from present times and are sometimes read in terms of their political and cultural significance. Halloween costumes are sometimes denounced for cultural appropriation

Kathy Kiefer

n when they uncritically use stereotypical representations of other groups of people.

” BONSAI- AN HISTORICAL LOOK “

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Schermata 2015-10-19 alle 21.38.57

” BONSAI- AN HISTORICAL LOOK “

How can I learn to do Bonsai?   Are the plants easy to take care of?   What do they come and require?

japanese-bonsai-treeBonsai is a Japanese art form using miniature trees grown in containers. Similar practices exist in other cultures, including the Chinese tradition of penjing from which the art originated, and the miniature living landscapes of Vietnamese hon non bo. The Japanese tradition dates back over a thousand years, and has its own aesthetics and terminology.   “Bonsai” is a Japanese pronunciation of the earlier Chinese term penzai. A “bon” is a tray-like pot typically used in bonsai culture. The word bonsai is often used in English as an umbrella term for all miniature trees in containers or pots. This article focuses on bonsai as defined in the Japanese tradition.

The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower). By contrast with other plant cultivation practices, bonsai is not intended for production of food, for medicine, or for creating landscapes. Instead, bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container.

A bonsai is created beginning with a specimen of source material. This may be a cutting, seedling, or small tree of a species suitable for bonsai development. Bonsai can be created from nearly any perennial woody-stemmed tree or shrub species that produces true branches and can be cultivated to remain small through pot confinement with crown and root pruning. Some species are popular as bonsai material because they have characteristics, such as small leaves or needles that make them appropriate for the compact visual scope of bonsai.

The source specimen is shaped to be relatively small and to meet the aesthetic standards of bonsai. When the candidate bonsai nears its planned final size it is planted in a display pot, usually one designed for bonsai display in one of a few accepted shapes and proportions. From that point forward, its growth is restricted by the pot environment. Throughout the year, the bonsai is shaped to limit growth, redistribute foliar vigor to areas requiring further development, and meet the artist’s detailed design.

The practice of bonsai is sometimes confused with dwarfting, but dwarfing generally refers to research, discovery, or creationgrape-bonsai-tree of plant cultivars that are permanent, genetic miniatures of existing species. Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees, but rather depends on growing small trees from regular stock and seeds. Bonsai uses cultural techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees.

In 1351, dwarf trees displayed on short poles were portrayed in the Boki Ekotoba scroll. Several other scrolls and paintings also included depictions of these kinds of trees. Potted landscape arrangements made during the next hundred years or so included figurines after the Chinese fashion in order to add scale and theme. These miniatures would eventually be considered garnishes decidedly to be excluded by Japanese artists who were simplifying their creations in the spirit of Zen Buddhism.   Around the 14th century, the term for dwarf potted trees was “the bowl’s tree.”   This denoted the use of a fairly deep pot, as opposed to the shallow pot denoted by the term bonsai.

Bonsai placed in the grand setting of the Imperial Palace had to be “Giant Bonsai,” large enough to fill the grand space. The Meiji Emperor encouraged interest in bonsai. Government officials who did not appreciate bonsai fell out of favor. Soon all members of the ministry had bonsai whether they liked the tradition or not. Prince Itoh was an exception: Any bonsai that the emperor gave him were then passed to Kijoji Itoh. Kijoji Itoh was a statesman of great influence behind the scenes, and a noted bonsai collector who conducted research and experiments on these bonsai.

Bonsai shaping aesthetics and techniques were becoming more sophisticated. By the late 1860s, thick combed and wetted hemp fibers were used to roughly shape the trunk and branches of miniature trees by pulling and tying them. The process was tedious and bothersome, and the final product was unsightly. Tips of branches would only be opened flat. Long, wavy-branched tako (octopus)-style trees were mass produced and designed in the [renamed capital] Tokyo for the increasing foreign trade, while the more subtle and delicate bunjin-style trees designed in Kyoto and Osaka were for use in Japan. Tokyo preferred big trunks out of proportion and did not approve of Kyoto’s finely designed slender trunks.

In 1910, shaping with wire was described in the Sanyu-en Bonsai-Dan (History of Bonsai in the Sanyu nursery).  Zinc-galvanized steel wire was initially used. Expensive copper wire was only used for trees that had real potential. Formal rooms and tea rooms became the main place for bonsai display. The shaped trees now shared space with other items such as scrolls, incense burners, Buddhist statues and tea ceremony implements.

bonsai_3_l1Bonsai has now definitively reached a world-wide audience. There are over twelve hundred books on bonsai and the related arts in at least twenty-six languages available in over ninety countries and territories. A few dozen magazines in over thirteen languages are in print. Several score of club newsletters are available on-line, and there are at least that many discussion forums and blog. Educational videos and just the appearance of dwarf potted trees in films and on television reach a wide audience. There are at least a hundred thousand enthusiasts in some fifteen hundred clubs and associations worldwide, as well as over five million unassociated hobbyists. Plant material from every location is being trained into bonsai and displayed at local, regional, national, and international conventions and exhibitions for enthusiasts and the general public.

All bonsai start with a specimen of source material, a plant that the grower wishes to train into bonsai form. Bonsai practice is an unusual form of plant cultivation in that growth from seeds is rarely used to obtain source material. To display the characteristic aged appearance of a bonsai within a reasonable time, the source plant is often mature or at least partially grown when the bonsai creator begins work. Sources of bonsai material include: (a) Propagation from a source tree through cutting or layering; (b) Nursery stock directly from a nursery, or from a garden center or similar resale establishment (c) Commercial bonsai growers, which, in general, sell mature specimens that display bonsai aesthetic qualities already; and (d) Collecting suitable bonsai material in its original wild situation, successfully moving it, and replanting it in a container for development as bonsai. These trees are called yamadori and are often the most expensive and prized of all Bonsai.

The practice of bonsai development incorporates a number of techniques either unique to bonsai or, if used in other forms of cultivation, applied in unusual ways that are particularly suitable to the bonsai domain. These techniques include: (1) Leaf trimming, the selective removal of leaves (for most varieties of deciduous tree) or needles (for coniferous trees and some others) from a bonsai’s trunk and branches; (2) Pruning the trunk, branches, and roots of the candidate tree; (3) Wiring branches and trunks allows the bonsai designer to create the desired general form and make detailed branch and leaf placements; (4) Clamping using mechanical devices for shaping trunks and branches; (5) Grafting new growing material (typically a bud, branch, or root) into a prepared area on the trunk or under the bark of the tree; (6) Defoliation, which can provide short-term dwarfing of foliage for certain deciduous species; and (7)   Deadwood bonsai techniques called jin and shari simulate age and maturity in a bonsai.

Small trees grown in containers, like bonsai, require specialized care. Unlike houseplants and other subjects of containerimages gardening, tree species in the wild, in general, grow roots up to several meters long and root structures encompassing several thousand liters of soil. In contrast, a typical bonsai container is less than 25 centimeters in its largest dimension and 2 to 10 liters in volume. Branch and leaf (or needle) growth in trees is also of a larger scale in nature. Wild trees typically grow 5 meters or taller when mature, whereas the largest bonsai rarely exceed 1 meter and most specimens are significantly smaller. These size differences affect maturation, transpiration, nutrition, pest resistance, and many other aspects of tree biology. Maintaining the long-term health of a tree in a container requires some specialized care techniques: (1) Watering must be regular and must relate to the bonsai species’ requirement for dry, moist, or wet soil; (2) Repotting must occur at intervals dictated by the vigor and age of each tree; (3) Tools have been developed for the specialized requirements of maintaining bonsai; (4) Soil composition and fertilization must be specialized to the needs of each bonsai tree, although bonsai soil is almost always a loose, fast-draining mix of components; and (5) Location and overwintering are species-dependent when the bonsai is kept outdoors as different species require different light conditions. It is important to note that few of the traditional bonsai species can survive inside a typical house, due to the usually dry indoor climate.

Kathy Kiefer

Travel unforgettable & magical places. Hotel Gli Dei, Pozzuoli (Napoli), Italy.

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HOTEL GLI DEI

Travel unforgettable, magical places, where the body and mind find their center thanks to an energy that stems from three factors: beauty, harmony, quality.

 

vista-dall-hotelI have gotten to know this hotel via photographs posted by my editor, Alessandro Sicuro. Since then I have had an in-depth interest to know what happened here. And know more about this fabulous hotel with the spectacle of nature mixed with myth and history.

If we take a bay in front of us like that of Rio de Janeiro. A dominant position in the face of this scenario. A dream location, with Olympic swimming pools, terraces with breathtaking views. The interiors are warm, inviting and refined. The rooms are comfortable and spacious, each with a balcony of 80 meters, overlooking the sea. An outstanding restaurant offering a cuisine of the first order. As well as a health club that boasts an upscale spa. Tourist paths around the hotel make for interesting walks leading to archaeology sites, as well as art, culture, food and beverage venues. It has the most beautiful sea to be found anywhere that is warm and crystal clear. Well and clear that with all these connotations we can find at the Gli Dei Hotel in Pozzuoli.

I have noticed that staff of The Gli Dei Hotel warmly welcomes its guests to their two-story Mediterranean-style Hotel, which12166894_10153083604301363_1679939744_n offers great views of the sea, exploring the Gulf of Pozzuoli. In its breathtaking views making a spectacular backdrop, it was also designed for business meetings and conferences. In fact, the Gli Dei Hotel has 3 meeting rooms that can accommodate up to 550 people.

Additionally, with the impressive backdrop of the sea, the deck is the perfect setting for hosting ceremonies, parties and banquets.    With a huge ballroom as well, it is suitable for major events such as wedding receptions and other major events such as New Year’s Eve parties.  The staff will also ensure that ever you desire to eat and drink at your event will   surpass your expectations.

The space and facilities available at the Gli Dei Hotel meet your needs precisely and makes for an impressive conference setting.

Kathy Kiefer

Special thanks to Hotel Gli Dei Pozzuoli  (NA) Italy

http://www.hotelglidei.it/

Click on the pictures for slideshows ⬇︎

 

 

 

GREVE – CHIANTI

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GREVE – CHIANTI

 

This is the region of Tuscany popular for vineyards and wine industry, with an impressive history, culture and traditions.

Greve developed predominantly as a market town, with a large market being held in the unusual triangular piazza lined with porticoes, which is still always busy and lively.

The parish church of the town, dedicated to the Santa Croce, contains a triptych by Bicci di Lorenzo.

The Museo di Arte Sacra has very recently been opened in the former convent of San Francesco; it houses an important collection of paintings, sculptures, vestments and liturgical furnishings, a tangible sign of the artistic vitality of the local district.

Greve in Chianti (the old name was Greve; in 1972 was renamed Greve in Chianti after the inclusion of that area in the Chianti wine district) is a town and comune (municipality) in the province of Florence, Tuscany, Italy. It is located about 31 kilometers (19 mi) south of Florence on A1 highway, and 42 kilometers (26 mi) north of Siena.

Sitting in the Val di Greve, it is named for the small, fast-flowing river that runs through it, is the principal town in the Chianti wine district which stretches south of Florence to just north of Siena. Until recently it has been a quiet, almost bucolic town because it was, and still is, well off the main roads.

Even in ancient days Greve was not isolated because it was well-connected by secondary roads to the Via Volterrana and via Francigena. Nowadays, it is connected to the A1 superstrada between Florence and Rome and the main road between Florence and Siena. The old road network ensured easy access to Florence and to other places such as Figline where its tradesmen and farmers found ready markets for their goods and produce.

The site of Greve and the surrounding territory has been long settled, probably well before the Etruscans and then the Romans dominated the area. Historical documents of the 11th century refer to an ancient monastic settlement on a nearby hill, which is now called the hill of San Francesco. Before the Franciscans established their monastery in the 15th century, an earlier monastery dedicated to Santo Savi had already been built, and also a small hospital. Larger scale settlement occurred in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Although an independent town for most of its history, Greve ultimately came under Florentine control and remained so until the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was absorbed into the unified Kingdom of Italy in 1861.

The Franciscan monastery is still at the heart of the old part of the city, as is the triangular main piazza, where a market has been running more or less continuously for centuries serving the nearby castle communities and hamlets.

The piazza is fronted by numerous medieval aged buildings, including the 11th century Chiesa Santa Croce which was rebuilt in 1325 after being burned to the ground, along with the rest of the town, by the Duke of Lucca, Castruccio Castracani. After further renovation, the church, which houses paintings of the school of Fra Angelico, now features a neo-classical façade. In the piazza there is also a monument to navigator Giovanni da Verrazzano, who was possibly born nearby, however more recent scholarly work places his birth at Lyon France.

In the frazione of Montefioralle is the church of Santo Stefano, with a late 13th-century Madonna with Child and a 15th-century Trinity and Saints. Also in the hamlet is a house which, according to the tradition, belonged to other explorer Amerigo Vespucci. In the nearby is a Romanesque Pieve with narthexed façade and two mullioned windows.

At 2 kilometers (1 mile) from the centre of Greve is the castle of Verrazzano, sitting on a 348 meters (1,142 feet) high hill. Built probably by the Lombards, it was a possession of the explorer’s family and in the 17th century was turned into a villa. Of the 13th-century manor a tower remains.

In the neighborhood of the frazione of Panzano is the Pieve of San Leolino, known from the 10th century. The interior houses a 13th-century panel by Meliore di Jacobo, a 15th-century polyptych by the so-called Master of Panzano, as well as works by Raffaellino del Garbo and Giovanni della Robbia.

With the enlargement of the Chianti wine district in 1932, Greve suddenly found itself in a noble wine area. The Chianti region supports a variety of agricultural activities, most especially the growing of the grapes that go into the world-famous Chianti and “Super Tuscan” wines. Olive oil production is another staple of the local economy. Extra virgin Tuscan olive oil is highly prized for its delicate flavor, as opposed to the stronger, thicker olive oils of the south. Truffle harvesting is a distinguishing feature of local food production. Both black and white truffles are hunted in Chianti. The region is also noted for its meat. The Cinta Senese pig is unique to this region and produces pork of superior quality. Wild game is a common feature on local menus, including rabbit, pigeon, venison, and, especially, cinghiale (wild boar). Greve is home to one of Italy’s oldest and most renowned butcher shops, the Macelleria Falorni.

Due largely to this intense agricultural activity, and the wine and food production industries that have been built on top of it, since early medieval times, Greve evolved as the principal market town at the center of an (increasingly) densely populated area with an abundance of villages, parish churches, villas and castles. The latter were built mostly by the rich merchants and noble classes of Florence who enjoyed the country life, and developed their estates to earn additional income and also to supply their in-town tables.

The town of Greve’s busy quaintness and the lushness and diversity of the undulating landscape which surrounds it, have long attracted tourists and travelers. The current flow of tourism to the area and the purchase of homes by both Italians and foreigners are fully integrated with viniculture, wine-making and various related enterprises to form a highly integrated and highly productive local economy.

Chianti Classico wine festival – every year on second weekend of September and the preceding Thursday and Friday. On Thursday, the festival starts at about 5 pm and on Saturday and Sunday at about 11 am and the stands close at about 8 pm. Local merchants display their products, and wine tasting is offered for free. The visitor must purchase a glass, and then go to the displays. Olive Oil (locally grow and produced) is also available for tasting, served on fresh sliced Italian bread. Local cheeses are also available. This is an event not to be missed.

Kathy Kiefer