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Monthly Archives: October 2007

All Hallows Eve in Spain

Traditionally celebrated on the night of October 31, Halloween is the day before All Saints’ Day as its name entails the vigil or “All Hallows Eve” (Hallowe’en) of all saints. As many other Catholic traditions such as Christmas and New Year’s, the festivity of All Saint’s’ starts the evening before, so even though most people only think of candy, costumes, pumpkins and witches on Halloween, and even though it is widely thought to be a pagan tradition, this celebration actually has its origins in the Roman Catholic Church since “the date is simply the eve of the feast of All Saints,” and “many customs of Halloween reflect the Christian belief that on the feast’s vigils.”
In the Celtic tradition, “Samhain” was celebrated on the night before November 1st, and this was the pagan festivity that marked the end of the summer and harvest season and the beginning of the cold and dark-day season. Celtic tribes believed that the Lord of the dead made the souls of deceased come to life, which allowed the druids (priests, soothsayers, judges, poets, etc. in ancient Britain, Ireland, and France) to communicate with ancestors and invoke the dead. They started bonfires and cast spells to scare away the deaths, and people used to leave food at their doorways so that spirits would leave happy and leave them alone unharmed. After the roman invasion, the two cultures began to mix and the sketches of the primitive Halloween celebration began to appear, and it transformed through the years until it became the traditional Halloween celebration that people commemorate these days and that has little or nothing to do with what it primarily intended.

Some controversy still revolves around the origins of Halloween and on whether it is genuinely Catholic or Pagan. Although its origins are Pagan, the holiday seems to have more elements of the Catholic Church. For example, the start of the current “trick-or-treat” custom can be found between the ancient and modern European history, in which “poor people in the community begged for ‘soul cakes,’ and upon receiving these doughnuts, they would agree to pray for departed souls.” In the States Halloween is actually not an evening to cry or remember saints or the departed, but rather a night n which kids wear costumes and go door-to-door asking for candy. In addition, the trick-or-treating tradition remains as such mainly by custom since “the naughty and destructive tricks once associated with Hallowe’en seem mostly to have disappeared.”

In the same manner, people dress in evil costumes and wear frightening masks to mock evil, confuse and scare evil spirits while looking like them “because as Christians, it has no real power over us.” The tradition of the jack-o-lantern also developed originally in Europe as a way of decorating streets during the eve of All Hallows Day, and therein the Witch Night evolved. However, some people believe that the tradition of the pumpkins is uniquely American, but the truth is that it has its origins in an old Irish custom according to which a dead man had to walk every night with hollowed-out turnip lantern as punishment for all his sins, which relates to the “authentic Catholic teaching about Purgatory and the need for every soul’s purification from the effects of sin before entering Heaven.”

Being the traditional Halloween colors, orange and black represent the color of “ripe pumpkins, falling leaves and glowing sunsets and candlelight;” and the “traditional color of mourning in the West” respectively. The latter is believed to represent sins and evil, as it is the liturgical color of All Souls’ Day (the day after All Saints) while the previous one is believed to represent the fall season and the blazing of bonfires and candles.

Nowadays, the “Halloween” tradition is considered a secular festivity, and it is the result of the different customs that European immigrants took with them to the U.S., many of which are just part of the past in Europe since they only make sense in the integration that the American culture has given to this festivity. Although the tradition remains strong in the U.S. and has been widely Americanized while it has disappeared in most parts of the world, some European countries are resorting back to this holiday. In Spain, October represents the month of candy and every year more schools throw costume parties for the children. Spaniards have and are everlastingly adopting their own version of the tradition, which I have found surprising even though the celebration hasn’t extended as much as it has in the States.

Today was the second Halloween that I spend in Spain and both last and this year my family and I got kids on our door asking for “Truco o Golosina” or “Truco o Trato.” It was kind of cute as I had never listened to kids trick-or-treating in Spanish, so I was all excited watching the kids wearing their Halloween costumes and collecting candy around the neighborhood. Even if the tradition remains primarily American and it isn’t officially observed in Spain, people from this and other cultures are embracing it as well, and I think it is a matter of time before the tradition becomes more popular and we start seeing imposing Halloween decorations and customs around the entire European land.

Image by: Mark Miller @ Stock.Xchng

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Posted by on October 31, 2007 in días como hoy

 

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Adeje’s Patron Saints’ Holiday

Being the city center and capital of the county receiving the same name, Adeje is proud of its heritage and celebrates every year its ancestral traditions during the city’s local festivities on the occasion of the town’s patron saints: Saint Sebastian, Saint Ursula and Virgin Incarnation. The county’s Mayor, the Culture Councilor and the local parish priest presented the schedule for this year’s festivities last October 4th. This year the celebration lasted from the 6th until the 21st of October and the detailed outline for the different religious and secular activities to take place during those days was also announced.
I’ve only been living in this county for twelve months, and although I couldn’t attend to the rest of the galas this year, I was able to join the crowd of pilgrims for the closing event during the town’s festivities. Splendid, colorful and decorated carts together with traditional Canary groups of dancers and singers wearing classic Canary costumes flooded the town’s streets as they paraded through Adeje. Hundreds of people from the neighborhood and adjacent cities in the South of Tenerife’s Island traveled through the streets as well while they followed and walked next to the many carriages that the different city’s neighborhoods and associations rode.

What I enjoyed the most was the fact that the people riding each carriage would give out to pedestrians typical Canary food and drinks as they walked along and at the same time that singers and dancers livened up the passage. Glasses of wine, beer, sangria, and sodas; typical Canarian potatoes, “gofio” and hard-boiled eggs were some of the items on the menu. Grilled pork chops, chicken skewers, chickpeas, sardines and stew were also part of the list of options. Everything was cooked on the moving carriages and dished out for free when ready; it is the first time I participate in a celebration of the kind, and also the first time I am aware of one like it. The distribution of alcoholic bevera ges would be unthinkable in the U.S. and even worse if it is during midday hours.

Pilgrims also honored the patron saints with offerings of fruit, flowers and vegetables, which they placed at the saints’ feet once they finished the journey. The ambience was pretty warm and emotional, and people’s happiness could be felt as they sang along and enjoyed the Canarian live music. Adeje’s traditions have found their way into people’s culture and allow citizens to bond together while they live those customs in their own way. This is precisely what makes the town and its people special, because their ethnic foods, decorations, music and special activities help them become distinctive.

The entire celebration flowed smoothly as no incidents took place. The local police and a Civil Protection team looked after the multitude, which along with the neatness of the event demonstrated the great organization behind it. It is amazing how the traditions of this town are kept and passed on through generations by means of that symbolic communication that goes past what words can express. It’s wonderful to see how the entire family, from the smaller ones in the house to the elderly participates actively in the festivities, thereby creating a bridge between family members, their present and their past.

I was glad to participate in this event, and I enjoyed not only the music and food but also the carriages. I couldn’t stay until the end of the celebration, but I’ll make sure to attend again next year. Adeje’s festivities are observed year in and year, and regardless of what else may happen, the town’s traditions will not change. Their importance surpasses the economic, cultural and religious lines, and there comes a point at which it doesn’t matter what the tradition is or how it came about, but only that it is practiced. Adeje’s traditions grant great value to their culture, and it is a kind of value that lasts far beyond the moment because it comes from the stability, continuity and identity that it provides for those who participate in such traditions while they make this town unique, link generations, and offer something for every person to hold on to and to rely upon.

“Traditions are group efforts to keep the unexpected from happening”

Images by: Lito Brau & Coraline

 
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Posted by on October 29, 2007 in días como hoy

 

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Spring Forward; Fall Back.

With the purpose of reducing energy consumption, the Daylight Saving Time (DST), also known as Summer Time in some countries, is a practice that was first set forth by Benjamin Franklin during the late 1700’s when he insisted on the idea of French people rising early, completing their work throughout sunlight hours, and thereby reducing the amount of lamp oil used and candle money spent by calling it a day earlier. However, this idea wasn’t implemented until the early 1900’s in Europe during World War I (WWI), a few years after “London builder William Willett … proposed advancing clocks 20 minutes on each of four Sundays in April, and retarding them by the same amount on four Sundays in September.”
Back then, and after the approval of several acts relating to DST by the U.S. Parliament, the time established for changing the clocks was 2:00 a.m. on a Sunday. Nevertheless, the observance of this practice was soon revoked in the U.S. and employed again in the early years of World War II (WWII) for the period of the energy crisis in 1974 through a “double daylight saving time (2 hours ahead) during the summer months.” Finally, during the mid-1900’s the Uniform Time Act set forth the rules of regular DST all over the U.S. extending such period from the Sunday following the third Saturday in April until the first Sunday in October. This provision was later revised during the late 1900’s to change the DST period so that it would extend from the first Sunday of April until the last Sunday of October.

Even though the point in DST has been explained for years and may be obvious to most people, a great portion of the population still doesn’t get it. The rationale behind DST is to facilitate the adjustment of daylight hours with waking time and work hours so that the amount of artificial light needed in residences and the workplace can be reduced. As a result of this, the consumption of limited resources such as oil and coal is also reduced, which allows the world to simply conserve energy and make better use of daylight. This is so because the amount of human activity is greater in the early evening than in the early morning, so the shift forward in time during the period of the year with the most hours of daylight (late spring, summer and early fall) results for instance, in longer summer days, which means people save electric power since they will be home fewer hours or simply don’t need to use power until after the sun sets at night.

It has been proved that the energy reduction in the evening when people go to bed early outbalances the amount of electricity consumed by people who wake up before dawn. This wouldn’t be the case if the DST was not in place because early birds would still consume more energy in the morning without saving any energy in the evening resulting from the extended sunlight that DST entails. In other words, DST “saves energy for lighting in all seasons of the year, but it saves least during the four darkest months of winter (November, December, January, and February,) when the afternoon advantage is offset by the need for lighting because of late sunrise.”

Although the “power use in the commercial and institutional sectors … tends to be more or less constant throughout the day,” DST has been shown to save about 1% of electricity every day in the U.S., which is a small but significant quantity when we take into account that this percentage amount is equal to “100,000 barrels of oil per day.” In other countries the proportion of energy saved reaches the 3.5 and even 5%, “yet, the implementation of Daylight Saving Time has been fraught with controversy since Benjamin Franklin first conceived of the idea,” and outbreaks of confusion and resistance have made obvious that “not everyone is a fan.”

Ever since DST was first implemented, farmers have argued that the time shift gets in the way of their customary work schedule, IT professionals have been worried about technical malfunctioning, and authorities have mentioned “that energy is not always saved.” Furthermore, some complaints have been filed regarding the increase in sleep disorders due to difficulties in adjusting to new sleep schedules, the increment in accidents, and the inconvenience of changing clocks. Other arguments revolve around the increase in oil consumption due to people running errands and visiting relatives during the early evenings of long summer days and those using their air conditioning (AC) devices at their homes for extended periods of time on warm summer afternoons.

Moreover, some people propose leaving the time alone and having darker mornings rather than earlier darker afternoons during winter, reasoning that if “it stayed lighter longer, we would use less energy to light up our homes,” but what they fail to consider is that what we called the “’Normal’ time is the way we set our clocks in winter — when it gets dark in the late afternoon (5:00 PM or earlier).” This means that we actually apply the DST not during winter, but spring, when we set our clocks an hour forward, which allows us “to sleep in until 6:00 AM and not be awakened by the sun at 5:00.” During spring, the days tend to be longer and the sun rises earlier, let’s say at 5:00 AM, but since we shift time an hour ahead, it will then be 6:00 AM when the sun rises. During this time of the year we have more light both in the morning and in the early evening, but since we need most of the daylight during nights, we shift that hour from morning to night.

Although the main idea behind DST is to save priceless energy, an extra public health benefit to DST has been recognized, as it is “supposed to lower the incidents of traffic accidents and crime, and boost the morale of people suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder;” this is supported by several American and British studies revealing that the net number of traffic incidents during DST (evening hours) is reduced by almost 1%, which offsets the smaller increase in accidents occurred during dark winter mornings. In addition, and due to the shifting of one daylight hour from morning to evening, individuals have also more daylight time and sunny summer evenings to enjoy from outdoor activities after work or school.

Different latitudes have different DST clock-change dates, and some countries are not affected by this practice. For instance, there is no DST in India, Japan, and China, and countries near the tropic and the equator are also immune to DST since “day and night are nearly the same length (12 hours)” all year round; however, those countries that are closer to The Poles tend to have longer daylight periods during the summer season.

In the European Union (EU) DST starts the last Sunday in March at 2:00 AM (GMT time), and it ends at 2:00 AM the last Sunday in October (it was today for me,) and the change in all time zones in the union occur at the same instant following the 1996 DST regularization. In the States, the traditional DST as established under the Uniform Time Act has been recently changed with the endorsement of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which states that beginning 2007, the U.S. DST will begin at 2:00 AM and extend from the second Sunday in March (rather than the first in April) and will revert to standard time on the first Sunday in November (rather than the usual last in October.) Unlike in the EU, “in the U.S., each time zone switches at a different time,” and the implications of the new DST seem to be varied.

The new U.S. proposal for extending the DST is assumed to save further energy based on the previous 1975 study yielding the 1% power saving. However, some officials have argued that the study is not only outdated but also inconclusive and that it “failed to consider the net energy impact of extending DST into March.” More recent studies examining the effects of undertaking DST three weeks earlier this year on energy consumption have concluded that such practice is likely to yield only modest improvements on energy conservation, traffic safety and crime prevention. For this reason, “Congress retains the right to revert to the by-now traditional American DST schedule” after the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) completes a study on the net energy impact of extending DST and reveals whether the overall results show a “peak electricity use by shifting some electricity consumption from the high-demand evening hours to lower-demand – and, incidentally, cheaper – morning hours.”

In Canada, some controversy emerged since in certain regions, extending the DST as suggested by the U.S. would possibly call for the amendment of existing provincial laws, as would be the case in Quebec. Canadian authorities initially refused the proposal by claiming that “extending DST by four weeks is unlikely to significantly alter energy consumption patterns in this country” since in some cities such as Ontario “the sun would have set by the time most people get home, even with DST.” Nevertheless, and considering the interrelation and integration of both the U.S. and Canadian economies, Canada decided to follow the U.S. lead this year and adopt the American DST policy.

Some countries observe DST and some others do not, and “throughout history there have been several variants on this, such as half adjustment (30 minutes) or double adjustment (two hours), and adjustments of 20 and 40 minutes have also been used.” Each country or region observes DST it in a different way as it was the case with the extended DST in the U.S. and Canada this year, so although the future of DST can’t be predicted, this practice works and it does save energy.

“Just as sunflowers turn their heads to catch every sunbeam, so too have we discovered a simple way to get more from our sun.”

Image by: Jenny Rollo @ Stock.Xchng

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2007 in conservation, DST, energy, history, office, power, savings, time, work

 

Breast Health is Wealth

Defined by the World Health Organization as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity,” health is the word used to describe how one’s body, mind, and spirit feel. Health involves knowing our limits and making informed decisions when it comes to food, exercise, medication, hygiene and other lifestyle choices in order to commit to a better life. Health is a basic human right that entails physical capabilities and social welfare; it is determined by different factors, it changes regularly, and it is subjective since individuals experience it in their own way.
Mental and physical health are interdependent; when individuals are both mentally and physically healthy, their bodies are capable of responding to diseases and restoring their systems to attain homeostasis or balance, and their mind functions the way it is supposed to while they’re free of any kind of illness. When individuals are healthy, they’re also more capable of responding effectively and performing well in every aspect of life, so health is one of life’s blessings that people sometimes take for granted until they lose it. 

Although there are many different health topics, today I’m focusing on the importance of breast health. Last week my mom was performed an emergency surgical intervention because she had a protuberance in one of her breast to which she hadn’t paid too much attention. It got to the point where it got infected; it had been growing for a couple of weeks and she decided to go for a self treatment until she realized her breast wasn’t getting any better and if anything, it was getting worse, so after a few days wishing it would go away, she had to go to the doctor because she couldn’t stand the pain.

She went through emergency last Saturday October 20th, and they told her that she had to be immediately intervened. They didn’t have any readily available surgeons, so she was supposed to remain intern and under treatment until further notice. She refused to be confined to a hospital bed on a weekend, so they prescribed some antibiotics and she went back to the hospital on Monday. At that point she still didn’t know what she had, and it wasn’t until later when they told her she had an infection that they couldn’t easily remove and because of it, she had to be “immediately” intervened, so they didn’t let her go.

It was the first time in our lives that one of us in my family is hospitalized, so the news was pretty shocking for me and everyone. Her condition wasn’t too serious, but I was still scared shitless. On Monday the 22nd I went to the hospital after I got out from work and stopped by the house to pick up some stuff she needed. I realized then that the “immediate” wasn’t so immediate. She was sharing rooms with a couple of elderly ladies who seemed to have pretty bad conditions, which also made me realized how healthy my grandma is. he’s almost 80 and she’s energetic and healthy; these other two ladies are younger than she is and still couldn’t take care of themselves.

We stayed at the hospital until the visitors time was over and then I got home exhausted. We still didn’t know when she was going to have the surgery performed, and it wasn’t so until Wednesday October 24th, so my dad, my siblings and I kept coming back to the hospital to keep her company. We’re not too fond of hospitals and also aren’t used to visiting them, so the feeling of being there was kind of scary. As far as my family concerns, we tend to take health very lightly maybe because of the way we’ve been raised, but at the hospital I saw lots of sick people with a whole bunch of different illness, so it made me aware of how essential health is and how our entire life depends on it and yet we don’t always pay to it the importance it has.

The week was pretty catastrophic for me, but the surgery went well and my mom was okay, so it was all good. During the surgery and apart from the infections she had, the doctor also removed a couple of cysts in her breast. Those she had had examined in the past, but different doctors had told her they were benign, so she didn’t have them removed before, not only due to doctors’ advice but also the fact that we didn’t have access to health care resources in the U.S.

After the surgery my mom was relieved although in a bit of pain, and it wasn’t until Thursday midday when she got discharged from the hospital. She’s still under treatment and taking some antibiotics and other medication; we got her flowers on Wednesday and are taking good care of her, but everything she went through could have definitely been avoided if she had only gone to the doctor as soon as she noticed there was something wrong with her breast. It only seems a coincidence that this is the breast cancer awareness month, so although what she had has nothing to do with cancer, I still thought l would write this post and share this information.

Even though small lumps, size changes or pain in the breast area might seem insignificant to some women, they may actually be early signs of breast cancer or other breast diseases, so all women need to be breast aware and pay attention to the breast changes that are not cyclical in their bodies or due to women’s regular hormone shifts. Apart from performing self examinations, scheduling regular clinical breast checks and mammogram screenings is a good step in addressing and helping the early detection and treatment of breast infections, especially for women over 40 and those who have family history of breast cancer since the risk of breast diseases increases with these two factors.

Individuals’ most valuable possession is health, and even though being healthy might be difficult nowadays due to people’s lifestyles, emotional state and even genetic composition, being healthy is a key element in our lives, which depends in part on us, so we need to be active in making the right decisions and forgoing some of our favorite foods, habits or activities to improve our lives and achieve balance. There are obviously many things that we can’t prevent, but even then, asking for help and expert advice when needed is an advantage in weathering the difficult times and treating a potential disease on time. Treasure yourself and remember that if you don’t make time for health, you’ll certainly have to make time for illness.

Image by John Knill @ GettyImages

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2007 in ojo pelao

 

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My Movie Review: The Orphanage (2007)

Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, a Catalonian filmmaker born in Barcelona, Spain who was awarded Best Short Film for the movie “Mis Vacaciones” in the year 1999 by the Barcelona Curt Ficcions and also won the Audience Award given by Toulouse Cinespaña on the same movie; filmed under Picturehouse and distributed by Warner Brothers, with a screenplay from Sergio G. Sánchez and produced by Pan’s Labyrinth director and Oscar-Nominee Guillermo Del Toro, “El Orfanato” (The Orphanage) is a horror/suspense movie that narrates the story of a woman who after thirty years returns to live at the large, old and long-abandoned orphanage where she was raised as a kid.
 
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Posted by on October 21, 2007 in cosas que molan

 

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Protected: The Laughs of Nature

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Posted by on October 20, 2007 in los milagros existen

 

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Protected: Franco De Vita: A Dream Come True

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Posted by on October 15, 2007 in cosas que molan

 

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