Welcome to the David Victor Vector Blog

Welcome to the David Victor Vector blog. This is blog that covers religious observances around the world international affairs and global business. This blog describes religious holidays for most major religions as well as raising issues dealing with globalization, international business ethics, cross-cultural business communication and political events affecting business in an integrated world economy. I look forward your discussion and commentary on these articles and subjects. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

"Which is the Best Language to Learn?"


"Which is the Best Language to Learn?"  In business, if the team on the other side of the table knows your language but you don’t know theirs, they almost certainly know more about you and your company than you do about them and theirs—a bad position to negotiate from. Many investors in China have made fatally stupid decisions about companies they could not understand. Diplomacy, war-waging and intelligence work are all weakened by a lack of capable linguists. Virtually any career, public or private, is given a boost with knowledge of a foreign language.

That is the question posed in the title of Robert Lane Greene recently posted an article in March/April 2012 issue of The Economist's More Intelligent Life online culture and lifestyle ezine  (http://moreintelligentlife.com/).  Greene himself is the author of You Are What You Speak (Delacorte Press: 2011), a fun little book on language usage.

Greene's short article "Which is the Best Language to Learn?" is a fun read raises a few good points about language learning in the English-speaker world.  You can read the article at:

http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/ideas/robert-lane-greene/which-best-language-learn
Greene gives the usual compelling reasons for learning another language. The first reason he cites is that  
learning any foreign language helps you understand all language better—many  Anglophones first encounter the words “past participle” not in an English class, but in French.
Well, for me, this was in Latin class, but the point holds true regardless of the language.
Greene goes on to say that song lyrics and poetry lose much in translation. Song lyrics seems the more popular motivator (at least, for most people that I know, when compared to poetry). When someone is in his or her teens or twenties, knowing song lyrics is a driving force. This is good for learning English as a second language as much of the world's popular music continues to be in English. I know several people who speak at least in part in English popular song lyrics. When people of my generation who grew up in Germany or France here the word "yesterday" with a pause, they often seem tempted fill in "all my troubles seemed so far away" and so on.

Actually, this can work for English speakers as well. I have trouble hearing the French third person present verb "repose" without hearing in my head "Marilou repose sous le neige" from Serge Gainsbourg. I associate other phrases with Jacques Brel songs and so on.


Alexander Pushkin
As for poetry... well, I love poetry myself, yet I don't know for how many poetry provides the impetus to learn another language. Nonetheless, it was poetry far more than song lyrics that was a motivator for me to at least get a passable reading ability in several languages. I have never mastered Russian, yet virtually every Russian I have met (even those without higher education) seems to love Pushkin.
Joseph Brodsky

 Back in my college days, I had the great honor of sharing meals on several occasions with one of the greatest Russian poets of the last century, the late Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky.  When Brodsky began to wax eloquent on Pushkin, I shrugged and made a face. Let me say here that at the time my arrogance  (still a monster I must fight to keep in check today, and sadly not always successfully)  was beyond bearing. Even now, when I think back on the gall I had to smirk at what someone on Brodsky's level had to say about poetry at all, let alone RUSSIAN poetry, I am deeply embarassed.... but not then! When the great man glared at me and asked how I dared to denigrate a poet like Pushkin, I told him honestly that  I had read four different translations of selected works by Pushkin, none of which seem to did much for me. "That," Brodsky said with a thump on the table, "is because Pushkin is not Pushkin in any language but Russian." I then asked him whether that meant that poetry could not be read in translation at all... after all, Brodsky himself was one of the century's greatest translators of English into Russian. Brodsky answered that some poets could not be read apart from their own language, most poets could be experienced in another language in the hands of the right translator, and some poets work seemed to transcend translation. In the latter category, he suggested fell the Greek poet C. P. Cavafy. "Cavafy," he said, "was an empty pedestal." He did not go on to explain what that meant but it has been a metaphor that I have carried with me for decades. By the way, I don't speak Greek, but I DO love Cavafy's poetry in translation. I especially like the 1975 translation by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard that I bought and read after this memorable dinner.
In any case, for me at least, song lyrics and poetry WERE motivators just as Greene described.  I would add to that list of the literary and popular the realm of movies, humor and jokes as well.

Greene's last point is actually at the heart of the field to which I have dedicated my professional life: international business communication. Greene writes:
In business, if the team on the other side of the table knows your language but you don’t know theirs, they almost certainly know more about you and your company than you do about them and theirs—a bad position to negotiate from. Many investors in China have made fatally stupid decisions about companies they could not understand. Diplomacy, war-waging and intelligence work are all weakened by a lack of capable linguists. Virtually any career, public or private, is given a boost with knowledge of a foreign language.
A bit simplistically put, and yet still correct. Language usage is intimately interconnected to international business communication success. This is a major part of the book that I am currently working together with my two good friends and colleagues Bertha Du-Babcock and Richard Babcock. This is at the center of my two earlier books and dozens of presentatons and articles of mine and of many others as well. In short, I believe this very strongly indeed.

So up to here, Greene's article simply makes the case for WHY you should learn other languages. The problem is that the article goes on to try to answer "Which is the Best Language to Learn?" Despite my praise for the article up to this point, this is, in my opinion, the wrong question to ask.
In any event, there can be no ONE best language to learn for all people learning another language or even a best language to learn for all English speakers. In short, the BEST language is NOT -- as the article concludes -- French.

This is a question that I am asked often. Very often. In the International Business Program that I direct at Eastern Michigan University, we require a second language for graduation. As a result, students regularly ask me what "the best language to learn" is. I never answer this question for them... rather I lead them to find the answer that best fits what their purposes and goals would lead them to choose.

I frequently give talks ranging from business consulting to governmental advice to high school gatherings. In these settings, someone often asks the question with a set language in mind. "Isn't the best language to learn for business X?" they ask filling in Chinese or Spanish or Japanese or whatever they happen to be biased toward themselves. I always deflect the response and answer that ANY language can be the "best language" -- this is not a question with a right or wrong answer.
In fact, I am not being coy in these cases. The best language to learn is entirely up to the individual learning the language. No language is intrinsically more helpful in business at least as long as it is a spoken language somewhere (in short, I have reservations about Latin and Akkadian (although if your business happens to be dealing with archaeology or ancient writings, even this has its benefits for business).

Instead, I try to add the two-word phrase "FOR YOU" to the the question Greene asks of "What is the Best Language to Learn?"

So what IS the best language to learn FOR YOU? It may be that FOR YOU French COULD be French as it was for Robert Lane Green in writing this article. French would be the best language for you if that is the language that you believe you will keep using or that appeals to you for some particularly compelling reason whether that be the song lyrics of Gainsbourg or an interest in doing business in Canada. For that matter, it seems odd that the Greene's article concludes the choice of French without bringing up one the strongest arguments for French -- the need for French both politically and pragmatically in Canada.

Yet French is NOT universally the best language for English speakers to learn. No language in and of itself can ever be that. So how do I respond to the request for guidance in selecting a language?

Know that there is no ONE best choice. People (well, at least English-speaking students) then ask me what language is most USEFUL? I suppose that the answer I give here, if pressed, is the language that you will master and -- let's get to the heart of the semantics of USEful -- the language that you will actually USE.  

I don't much like the argument of how widespread a language is because how widespread a language is does not actually predict how useful it may be. By the "widespread" logic, one has to first determine issues of language reach (how many other people speak the language even if it is not their first language). For language reach, Greene's conclusion of French has much to commend it... but then again, so does Spanish or many other widely understood languages.

If language reach is left out of the equation, the "best" language could just as easily be Chinese for the most number of speakers. Several people who left comments following Greene's article argued just that.

One could argue for future markets and needs, choosing on this line perhaps Portuguese for the growing strength of both the populations and the economies of Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. Indeed, one could add to that East Timor if political upheaval are one's interests or, for that matter, Portugal itself if one's interests run to economic upheaval and concern for the Eurozone. Just to fill out the list, the other officially Portuguese-speaking countries are Guinea-Bissau, São Tomé and Príncipe and Cape Verde, all interesting in their own right for the right person. 

I often find that a language that is little spoken by other English speakers (or whatever your language is) places people who DO speak it in higher demand in business settings. Many people speak both English and Spanish (or Russian or French or German) relative to the number of people who speak fluent English relative to, say, Thai, Yet as Thailand grows in economic or political importance, Thai grows in demand giving you an edge for having a much-needed but less common qualification -- and that is quite aside from the appeal of Thai to those simply interested in Thailand or who have Thai friends! I had a Armenian-speaking student who said she wanted to learn a third language besides Armenian (and English) because she felt that "Armenian is a useless language." I am glad to say that I convinced her otherwise and we discussed wasy in which she could embrace the opportunities opened up by Armenian language skills.  Only after that did we discuss the possibility of learning a third language as well (she chose to study Spanish). 

So all of this is to say simply that ANY second language is a useful language and the language that is the BEST language is the one that is best for YOU.

I welcome your input and thoughts on this ramblings.

Clip Art Sources:

Image of French newspapers is from Robert Lane Green's article itself: http://moreintelligentlife.com/content/ideas/robert-lane-greene/which-best-language-learn

More Intelligent Life logo: http://torsionmobile.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/intelligent_life_logo.png

Marilou sous la neige album: http://beyondthenoize.blogspot.com/2010/12/marilou-sous-la-neige-ou-la-melancolie.html

Yesterday album: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_q0ykZ7g_t1k/S8jp481IwYI/AAAAAAAAAAM/frURTDGPVbM/s1600/beatles.jpg

Brodsky: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Joseph_Brodsky.jpg

Pushkin: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:A.S.Pushkin.jpg

Languages image: http://www.thw.coventry.sch.uk/MFL/MFL.gif

Multicolor conversation image: http://www.learnthailanguage.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/08/conversation.jpg

Falamos Português: 
http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_wnQXNkCRh7k/TSEW8Zkwn3I/AAAAAAAAAGE/DCnbenBembY/s1600/falar-portugues.jpg  

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lenten Season 2016



Praying woman with
ashen cross on her forehead

Introduction and Religious Significance

As part of my ongoing posts about religious holiday observance, I would like to share another religious tradition that starts this week: the Christian Lenten season. Lent begins on different days depending on which branch of Christianity is involved.

This year, 2015, Lent begins as follows:



  • Ash Wednesday, February 10 begins Lent for Christians in the Roman Catholic, Chaldean, Anglican, Episcopalian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist and several other Western Christian traditions following the Gregorian (which is the same as the secular) calendar.
  • Clean Monday, March 7 begins Great Lent in the Coptic and Syro-Malabar traditions and  Abiy Tsom for Christians in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo, and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo traditions following the Coptic and Ethiopian calendars
  • Clean Monday, March 14 begins Great Lent for Christians in the Eastern Orthodox, Coptic and most other Eastern tradition following the Julian calendar
In most years, the dates of the different churches vary depending on which calendar each church uses. In 2014, the Gregorian and Julian calendars aligned. Thus for that year Christians of both Western and Eastern Orthodox traditions, the season started on the same week. In most years, the two calendars do not align.

For those Christians following the Julian calendar, the 2016 season begins with Clean Monday of February 14. This includes most people who follow the Eastern Orthodox tradition. Three Orthodox rite religions, however, follow their own non-Julian calendars: the Coptic, Syro-Malabar, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo, and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo. For these four churches, the Lenten season begins on Clean Monday as well, but the date of that holiday differs from other Orthodox Christian observances. 

In 2016, Great Lent for the Coptic and Syro-Malabar Churches and Abiy Tsom (as the holiday is called in Amharic) for the  Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo, and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo  Churches starts on March 7.

Ash Wednesday, Clean Monday and the season associated with Lent, Great Lent and Abiy Tsom are all very important holidays in their respective traditions, and you should accommodate employees, students or others who may need to miss activities during at least part of the day in observance.

It should be noted that while many Protestant traditions observe Lent, other Protestant traditions specifically bar the observance of Lent. Some Protestant denominations are divided in their view of the season; for example, some United Church of Christ and Baptist congregations oppose its observance while others support its observance. Additionally, some Protestant denominations, such as the Mennonites, that formerly opposed the observance of Lent have begun to recognize its practice in varying degrees in recent years.


Variations in Dating the Holiday


The season itself runs for 40 days and is called Lent in the Western traditions and Great Lent or the Great Fast in the Eastern traditions.  is a time of introspection for many Christians, and often focuses on questions of mortality and on Jesus' sufferings and sacrifice.  In the Western traditions, Sundays are not counted in the 40 days. In the Eastern Orthodox traditions, Sundays are counted. Within the Coptic, Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church and Eritrean Orthodox Tewahedo Churches the Lenten season lasts for 56 days in which period, traditionally only one meal per day is eaten.

To keep in the spirit of these somber subjects, many Christians observe some sort of restrictive behavior, for example many people abstain from alcohol or from attending parties.  In some traditions, observers fast during the day or restrict themselves to one meal only.  For others, observers maintain a vegetarian diet.  For still other traditions, observers give up something they particularly enjoy such as sweets or ice cream.  In many traditions, the fast or abstinence is lifted on the six Sundays during Lent. In Irish tradition, the fast is lifted for St. Patrick's Day (March 17).



Observance

Priest placing an ashen cross
on worshiper's forehead

For Roman Catholics, Episcopalians and Anglicans, Ash Wednesday is usually observed by attending Mass and having the priest mark one's forehead with ashes that have been blessed.  The ashes are traditionally made from the palm fronds used in the preceding year’s Palm Sunday. The day is often observed as a full fast day.  Ashes have a long traditional association with repentance in these traditions. Many other traditions have modified observance with sermons or other recognition of the holiday.

The holiday itself has its origins in the New Testament, which relates that Jesus spent 40 days in the desert fasting before he began his ministry. While in the desert, Jesus withstood the temptations of Satan.

Pre-Lenten Festivities

 
Because the tradition of Lent is so somber, many Roman Catholic cultures have embraced a massive celebration on the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday. This will take place this year usually starting on Friday, February 5 and all culminating on Tuesday, February 9. Many of the festivities begin well before this date as well.


Brazil: Carnaval


The most significant celebration of the day, however, is not in the US at all, but is the Carnaval of Brazil.  The festival begins on the Friday before Ash Wednesday (this year starting on February 13) and runs until Ash Wednesday begins. Most Brazilian cities hold a Carnaval celebration (as do Brazilian communities worldwide).  While Rio is, by far, the largest Brazilian Carnaval celebration, it is far from the only one. Most regions and major cities of Brazil have their own Carnaval, each with its own distinctive traditions.

Carnaval of Rio

Elaborate floats are part of
the Rio Parade
The largest of the Brazilian celebrations is the Carnaval of Rio de Janeiro. It is claimed that the Rio Carnaval is the largest annual gathering of people in the world; although this claim is often disputed, it is unquestionably the largest annual gathering of people in South America. For example, this year, the Rio Carnival is estimated to have attracted over 2 million people. 


Elaborate costumes at the Rio Carnaval
The Carnaval of Rio is also one of the oldest pre-Lenten celebrations, taking place annually since 1641. The Rio Carnaval has at its core the so-called blocos or block parades tied to individual neighborhood blocks. Participants dress in elaborate costumes with a particular theme for each year. Blocos compose original music and dances which they combine with traditional songs and samba dances. Various samba schools prepare all year to compete in dance and music competitions, the most important of which are held at the The Sambadrome Marquês de Sapucaí for four consecutive nights from 8:00 PM until the following morning. The five winning samba schools then are allowed to parade on the Saturday following Ash Wednesday.

São Paulo Carnaval


Samba competitors
at the Anhembi Sambodrome
The São Paulo Carnaval, like that in Rio, centers on samba competitions with annual themes. The São Paulo competitions usually last for two nights are held at the Anhembi Sambodrome.

Trio Elétrico 
at the São Paulo Carnaval
The São Paulo Carnaval is additionally famous for the use of the trio elétrico (also called the carros alegóricos) which are huge floats or trucks. The trio elétrico is fitted out with sound systems which amplify the performances of the singers who stand on their roof. 


Bahian Carnaval

The trio elétrico is the central focus of Carnaval in the state of Bahia, and indeed it was in Bahia that the trio elétrico was first introduced.

 Juliana Ribeiro with Amor e Paixão's Carnival Trio
atop a trio elétrico at the Salvador Carnaval
The largest of the Carnavals in Bahia is in the city of Salvador, but most cities in the state have their own version. The festivities throughout the state last roughly for a week, each day going on for 16 hours.

Afoxés

The Bahian Carnaval has many elements that are quite separate from the Roman Catholic Church. These focus on the Afro-Brazilian afoxés who perform puxada do ijexá drumming that honors the orixás  (dieties of the Afro-Brazilian religions of Candomblé and  Santería). Because of the influence of the Afro-Brazilian religions, the music and dance of the Bahian Carnavals differs significantly from that of those in Rio and São Paulo, with significantly greater African influences.

Carnaval in Pernambuco

The Recife and Olinda Carnavals in the state of Pernambuco also differs musically from the rest of Brazil. As in Bahia, the celebrations last a week; however, unlike Bahia (or Rio or  São Paulo), the Recife and Olinda Carnavals have no group competitions. The music played and dancing performed in Pernambuco is unique to the state.


Frevo dancer

There are two main varieties: the frevo and the maracatu. Frevo is an intense, fast-paced form that is supposed to make performers (and viewers) feel as if the ground beneath them is boiling (the word frevo has its origins in the Portuguese word ferver meaning “to boil”).  Frevo danccers are called passistas, and they are famous for their athleticism, their endurance and especially their acrobatic dance moves based on the Brazilian martial art of capoeira. The music of frevo has a polka-like element to it and is played largely by trumpets, trombones, tubas and saxophones accompanied by percussion.



Maracatu de nação percussionists
Maracatu is actually the name of two dance forms unique to Pernambuco: maracatu de nação and the maracatu rural. Maracatu de nação (national maracatu) has its roots in the Brazilian slave community when slaves would crown “Kings of the Congo” as leaders within their communities. The accompanying investiture ceremony was heavily influenced by the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé, and the influence of the dance and music continue to carry rich symbolism from that religion.  Maracatu de nação is primarily based on Afro-Brazilian drumming with groups of up to 100 percussionists performing.

Alfaias
Many of the percussions instruments used are unique to Pernambuco. Among these drums is the alfaia (sometimes simply called the (maracutu drum). Alfaias come in a variety of sizes, but all have roping along their sides that the drummers use to tighten or loosen the drum head to give differing pitches. Other special drums include caixa-de-guerra (“war snare-drum”) and the tarol (a somewhat thin snare drum). Additionally, percussionists use agbês (special gourds filled with beads), mineiros (metal tubes filled with dried seeds) and cowbells. The singing that accompanies maracatu de nação is a unique call-and-response form with a male caller and female chorus.

Caboclo de lança  
The maracatu rural more closely resembles the sort of music performed elsewhere in Brazil. It combines elements of the maracatu de nação with brass instruments (especially trombones) and musical styles from elsewhere in Brazil. The name means “maracutu of the countryside” because maracatu rural grew out of the countryside among sugar plantation workers.   Maracatu rural traditionally includes dancers in special costumes such as the caboclo de lança warrior.
For more on the Brazilian Carnaval, see



United States: Mardi Gras

Mardi Gras in New Orleans
The best known pre-Lenten celebration in the United States is the New Orleans' Mardi Gras.  In French, Mardi Gras means "Fat Tuesday" and  evolved from the French tradition of indulging on the last day before Lent, particularly eating fatty things which traditionally would be given up for Lent.  

In New Orleans, Mardi Gras activities run roughly for two weeks, culminating on Mardi Gras day. There are several local parades and a major central parade in which Carnival krewes parade on elaborate floats while wearing elaborate costumes. During the parade, participants throw special coins and necklaces of plastic beads to the spectators. Several special parades elect various monarchs. The most important of these are the Zulu King elected by the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club and the King of Carnival elected by the Rex Krewe. Several older Krewe kings were disbanded when they refused to comply with anti-segregation laws that the United States began to enforce in 1991.

Mardi Gras is not limited to New Orleans, however, with other notable US Mardi Gras celebrations in other Louisiana cities, as well as in Mobile, Alabama; Pensacola, Florida; Saint Louis, Missouri; Austin, Texas; Houston, Texas;  San Diego, California and Woonsocket, Rhode Island (among others).

For more about Mardi Gras, please see

http://mardigrasday.com/
http://www.mardigras.com/


The Caribbean: Trinidad Mas

Carnival celebrations are also held in many Caribbean islands. The most famous of these is the one held at Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, with its associated steel drum competition. Carnival is celebrated as well elsewhere in the Caribbean including Barbados, Jamaica, Grenada, Dominica, Haiti, Belize, Cuba, St. Lucia, St. Thomas and St. Maarten. Carnival celebrations are also held in some cities in Colombia and Honduras. The Caribbean communities of Notting Hill in London as well as those in Brooklyn, New York and Toronto, Ontario also celebrate an annual Caribbean Carnival.

While Carnival is celebrated to varying degrees throughout much of the Caribbean, the biggest of these celebrations is the Trinidad Carnival in Port-of-Spain. Trinidad Carnival begins in January and lasts until Ash Wednesday; in other words, the festivities can last for months. The entire festival climaxes with the week before Ash Wednesday with Dimanche Gras (Fat Sunday), J’Ouvert (also called Carnival Monday, with the name from the French Creole jour ouvert or break of dawn) and on Tuesday with Mas (short for “masquerade”).

Steel pan player
Trinidad Carnival has its own unique traditions. These include the famous steel pan competitions held in the weeks leading up to Dimanche Gras. Other music competitions include those in soca, calypso and rapso (the combination of rapping with calypso). Additionally, there are stickfighting and limbo competitions.
Man Feteing at Trinidad Mas

Throughout Trinidad Carnival spectators and performers alike are encourage to fête, that is to burst into a free-form revelry of dancing, singing or whatever else may be inspired.

The Trinidad Carnival hosts numerous competitions for parades, costumes and music. On Dimanche Gras, the Calypso King and Queen are chosen in a costume competition. They are then the central figure in their own special float in the following parades. J’Ouvert features people dressing in politically-barbed satiric costumes 


Jab Jabs
A J’Ouvert King and Queen are likewise chosen for the most politically astute commentary. J’Ouvert is also the day in which one sees running through the streets the famous “Jab-Jabs” (people dressed as red, blue and black devils with pitchforks).


Moko Jumbies
Mas itself is marked by the most elaborate of costumes, usually enhanced with body paint and intricate wire extensions as well as “Mas boots” which are worn both as decoration and to ensure comfort during the long marches of the parades. Among the most distinctive traditional characters depicted for Mas are the Moko Jumbies, stilt walkers representing protecting spirits (Moko was an African god whose worship was brought over by slaves and "jumbie" is Caribbean patois for ghost).  Other traditional characters are the Midnight Robber (who speaks in "Robber Talk" of exaggeratedly boastful claims), the Bookman (a devil with a book wearing special gown with a massive headmask with horns and a frightening stare) and various clowns and animals. Large cash prizes are awarded to winners on the central performance stage for best costume and music.

For more on the Trinidad celebrations, please see


India: Goa Carnaval

The Indian state of Goa, formerly a Portuguese colony, also has annual Carnaval celebrations throughout the state when the local cities and towns are taken over by the rule of the legendary King Momo. The largest of these is held in Panaji with a celebration that runs for three days and three nights, concluding with its "red and black" dance. The Varco Dine and Dance is centered more on the dancing and eating than on the parade. Other Carnival celebrations Goa take place in the cities of Margoa, Ponda, Vasco and Mapusa.

The Goa Carnival dates back nearly five centuries when it was introduced by the Portuguese. The opening of the Goa Carnival is overseen by the Carnival King Momo who orders the his "subjects" to celebrate wildly. The event goes far beyond the famous parades to include street dancing, formal balls, and public plays and performances throughout the state.

Goa Carnival
For more on the Goa Carnival, please see

http://www.goforindia.com/goa-carnival.html

http://www.indiamart.com/seven-seaz-vacations/goa-carnival.html

http://www.mustseeindia.com/articles/goa-carnival-the-sweet-taste-of-goa-culture/1454

Poland:

Polish American Pączki Day and Polish Tłusty Czwartek


Pączki
In Southeast Michigan, Buffalo, Milwaukee, Chicago and other areas with large Polish-American populations, Polish Americans celebrate “Pączki Day” after the Polish tradition of eating filled doughnuts called pączki. Pronounced “poonch-kee,” pączki are traditionally filled with prune, plum or rosehip jelly, though more modern interpretations include strawberry, apricot, raspberry, lemon and other jellies. A recipe for traditional pączki can be found at:

http://www.cooks.com/rec/view/0,1918,151170-232196,00.html

 Incidentally, pączki is the plural of the word, a single pastry is called a pączek 

Pączki Day is a major event for many local Polish-American communities. In Evanston, Illinois, an annual pączki-eating contest takes place to see who can eat the most of the pastries (with the contest held on the weekend closest to the appropriate Tuesday). Arguably the strongest tradition of celebrating Paczki Day is in the heavily Polish-American city of Hamtramck (a city with so strong a Polish tradition that the late Pope John Paul II even visited the city). For more on the Hamtramck Pączki Day, please see

While Pączki Day is celebrated in southeast Michigan, Chicago and Buffalo on the same Tuesday as Mardi Gras, the Polish equivalent in Poland itself is called Tłusty Czwartek actually means Fat Thursday. This is because in Poland itself, the celebration starts on the Thursday preceding Ash Wednesday (February 16 this year) to leave enough of time to celebrate the Polish Karnawał (Carnival). Shrove Tuesday itself is marked not by eating pączki but rather herring and is sometimes called “Herring Day” or Śledzik.


Lithuania: Užgavėnės


Lašininis burnt in effigy 
The Lithuanian Pre-Lenten festival is know as Užgavėnės. The festival centers around a play battle enacted out by Lašininis (meaning "Fatso") who symbolizes winter and Kanapinis (or the Hemp Man) who stands for Spring. Kanapinis is always victorious and the battle concludes with Lašininis being burnt in effigy. Throughout the battle, people go through the crowds dressed as witches, ghosts and other characters.
Varškės spurgos 
The traditional treat for the holiday is a pancake alternately called sklindziai or blynai. Also popular are the fried cakes known as spurgos. Spurgos differ from their Polish pączki counterpart in that they may be filled not only with fruit (as in Poland) or made with no fruit but a cottage cheese dough for a dough only version known varškės spurgos. A recipe for varškės spurgos can be found at Celtnet Recipes at  http://www.celtnet.org.uk/recipes/miscellaneous/fetch-recipe.php?rid=misc-varskes-spurgos

For more on Užgavėnės, please see http://lithuanianmha.org/holiday-traditions/uzgavenes/.

Italy: Carnevale and the Battle of the Oranges


Masks are the hallmark of the Carnevale of Venice

In Italy, the Carnevale of Venice technically begins on the Saturday before and ends on Tuesday before Ash Wednesday. In reality, the Carnevale of Venice runs for weeks. It is a major celebration with masked parties, and is probably the oldest annual celebration of the season, having started in 1268. Roughly 3 million visitors descend on Venice each year for the celebration. Central to the Venice Carnevale are its elaborate masks and ach year, a competition takes place for the best mask.


You can read more about Carnivale on the official website at

 http://www.carnivalofvenice.com/area.asp?id=4   

Another famous Italian Carnival-related tradition takes place annually in the city of Ivrea with its “Battle of the Oranges.” Since the Middle Ages, the people of Ivrea have participated in a three-day pre-Lenten battle among its citizens.  For centuries, the combatants used beans, which changed in time to fruit and has been since the 19th century exclusively oranges. You can read more about the Battle of the
Oranges at  http://www.carnevalediivrea.it/english/battaglia.asp


Ivrea Battle of the Oranges

Belgium: Carnival of Binche

Many cities throughout Belgium have Carnival celebrations. These include those at the Walloon cities of La Calamine, Nivelles and Malmedy, the Flemish cities of Heist and Aalst, and the city of Eupen in the German-speaking region.  By far the most famous of these, though, is the Carnival of Binche, which was named a UNESCO Oral and Intangible Heritage Masterpiece in 2010.

Gilles at the Carnival of Binche
The Carnival of Binche dates to the 1300’s, making it among the oldest continuously held annual celebrations in Europe. Activities begin seven weeks before Carnival week and climax with the arrival of the Gilles on Shrove Tuesday. Roughly 1000 boys and men parade through the streets in the costume of a Gille: linen suits in the Belgian national colors with hunchbacks stuffed with straw, elaborate white lace cuffs and collars, bells hanging from their belts, wooden clogs (called sabots) and wax masks. Some also wear feathered hats. The Gilles carry ramons – special branches for warding off evil spirits. The appearance of the Gilles begins at 4:00 AM and lasts most of the day. In the morning they parade to the town all. In the afternoon, the Gilles remove their masks and parade through the city carrying ramon branch baskets filled with blood oranges that they throw at the spectators.

For more on the Carnival of Binche please see



German Catholic Regions:  Fasching and Karneval

Several pre-Lenten traditions are carried on the the Catholic German-speaking regions. Technically, what the Germans call the "silly season" (die närrische Saison) begins on 11-11 at 11:11 AM, the celebrations being in earnest only after Epiphany (January 6) and intensify in the weeks leading up to Ash Wednesday. 

What's in A Name: Fasching? Karneval?

The name of the silly season's main event varies from region to region thoughout the German-speaking world.

In much of the southern German-speaking regions, the Alemannic German term Fasching or some variation of the word  is used to denote the Carnival season.  Fasching is actually the word used in Austria, Bavaria and Berlin. In Baden, the Alsace region of France, most of the German cantons of Switzerland as well as the Amish and Mennonite communities in the United States, people call the celebration Fastnacht or Fasnacht. In Franconia as well as in the city of Mainz, people use the word Fosnat or Fasenacht, while in Swabia people call the same holiday Fasnet.

In much of the north, the Latin-based word Karneval is used. Karneval is the name of the holiday in Cologne, which is the largest Carnival-related event in Europe. Karneval is also the name used in the Rheinland and the Pfalz. This is also term for the major carnival cities of Bonn, Düsseldorf, Eschweil and Aachen.

Finally, in Brandenburg and Saxony, the names Fasching and Karneval are typically used interchangeably.

Kölner Karneval

The Kölner Karneval or Cologne Carnival is the largest Carnival gathering not only in Germany, but in the whole of Europe. Unlike most other carnivals worldwide, the central culmination of the Kölner Karneval comes not on Fat Tuesday(Weiberfastnacht), but rather on the Monday before Ash Wednesday. This is called Rosenmontag or Rose Monday and consists of major parades, parties and notably major stage events and performances.


Die Dreigistirn
Each year at the  Kölner Karneval, three Dreigestirn are named. The Dreigestirn form the Karneval royalty and are comprised of the Jungfrau (Young Woman or Virgin and called "Her Loveliness"), the Prinz (Prince, called "His Craziness") and the Bauer (the Farmer, called Seine Deftigkeit or "His Hugeness" which refers to being hefty in size but in impolite terms has a ribald connotation). All three people are always men, including the Jungfrau who is a man dressed as a woman (the only exception being during the Nazi era, where the authorities intolerance of homosexuality outlawed the cross-dressing).




For more on the German celebrations, see

http://www.germanpulse.com/blog/2012/02/16/fasching-or-karneval-is-there-a-difference/

http://www.carnaval.com/germany/

http://german.about.com/library/weekly/aa020501a.htm

Luxembourg's  Fuesend and Karneval

In Luxembourg, the pre-Lenten holiday season is known as Fuesend.  Throughout the Grand-Duchy, parades and parties are held on the Tuesday before Lent begins. 

The commune of Pétange is the home of the Grand-Duchy's largest pre-Lenten Karneval celebration. Annually hosting a calvalcade with roughly 1200 participants and thousand of participants, the official name is Karneval Gemeng Péiteng or Kagepe (the initials in Luxembourgish are pronounced Ka, Ge and Pe).

The Stréimännchen over the Remich Bridge
The town of Remich holds a three-day-long celebration. Remich is notable for two special events in addition to its parades. The first of these is the Stréimännchen, which is the burning of a male effigy from the Remich bridge that crosses the Moselle River separating the Grand Duchy from Germany. The Stréimännchen symbolizes the burning away of winter. The other special event at the Remich Fuesend celebrations is the Buergbrennen or bonfire that closes the celebration.

Like Remich, the town of Esch-sur-Alzette also holds a three-day celebration.  Other major Fuesend parades in Luxembourg are held in the towns of Diekirch and Differdange.

For more on Fuesend, see http://yourlivingcity.com/luxembourg/lifestyle/luxembourg-life/luxembourgish-culture/top-carnivals-in-luxembourg/

Greece

As noted above, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition, Ash Wednesday is not observed. Instead, Eastern Orthodox Christians celebrate Clean Monday as the start of what is called Great Lent (the equivalent holiday but so-named to differentiate the holiday from another observance called Winter Lent which corresponds to the Western tradition of Advent).  

Greek Orthodox adherents began celebrating Greek Orthodox Carnival with Triodion (which began this year on February 1) and ending on Clean Monday, which is February 23 this for 2015. The largest of the celebrations is Tsiknopempti or "Burnt Thursday" which was on February 12 this year with two weekends of Carnival the Tsiknopempti Weekend (February 13-15 for 2015) and the Greek Carnival Weekend February 20-22 for 2015).  Annually, the largest Greek Orthodox celebration of Carnival is centered at Patras, Greece’s third largest city. The Carnival at Patras often reflects current social themes, and is at times used as an outlet for social protest in some years. In other years, there is no social statement at all.

Patras Children's Carnival
In all years, though, the Patras Carnival includes a separate “Children’s Carnival”  with thousands of costumed children on parade through the streets.
Bourboulia domino robes and masks

Another unique feature of the Patras Carnival is the Bourboulia, a formal ball in which women come in identical costumes – the so-called domino robes and masks – and ask men, usually uncostumed, to dance with them without their dance partner knowing who is behind the disguise. Other Greek sites also have Carnival celebrations, including annual celebrations on the islands of Corfu and of Crete. To learn more about Greek Carnival traditions see

For more specifically on  the Patras Carnival, you can go to their official website at:

Conclusion

There are many more Carnival-related celebrations around the world. Feel free to share some of your own, or to add to what has been shared here.

As for the religious aspects of Ash Wednesday and the related observances, as always, this post is meant only to be informational. Please share your own views, and note that this post in no way indicates a point of view on what is or is not appropriate religious observance.

Further Reading:

For more on some of the general religious traditions, here are a few websites:

For Roman Catholic traditions, see
and
and


For Eastern Orthodox traditions see http://www.monachos.net/content/lent ,

For Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo traditions, see

 Clip Art Sources

Praying woman with ashen cross on forehead: http://catholicism.about.com/od/holydaysandholidays/p/Ash_Wednesday.htm

Lent image: Christ the King Anglican Church, Lansing, Michigan: http://ctklansing.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/lent-new.jpg

Priest placing ashen cross on worshiper's forehead: Life Assays: http://bobritzema.files.wordpress.com/2010/02/ash-wednesday.jpg

Carnival cartoon clipart: Clip Art Today: http://www.clipartoday.com/_thumbs/022/Celebrations/annual_carnival_188328_tnb.png

Rio parade with King Kong: http://blog.otel.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/Rio-Carnaval.jpg

Rio Carnaval elaborate costume: Travelvivi.com http://www.travelvivi.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/02/rio_carnival06.jpg

Samba competitors at the Anhembi Sambodrome: Sydney Morning Herald:
http://www.smh.com.au/ffximage/2007/02/18/samba2_gallery__470x312.jpg

Trio Elétrico at the São Paulo Carnaval: http://im.r7.com/outros/files/2C92/94A4/2E64/8A75/012E/7830/7A6E/725D/carna%201-tl-201100302.jpg

Juliana Ribeiro with Amor e Paixão's Carnival Trio: http://www.bahia-online.net/Carnival.htm

Afoxés: http://www.brasilcultura.com.br/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/afoxes10.jpg

Frevo dancer: Está com tudo blogsite: http://estacomtudo.blogspot.com/2010/11/frevo_12.html

Maracatu de nação percussionists: Oficina do Barulho: http://www.oficinadobarulho.com/images/camale_o.jpg

Mardi Gras in New Orleans: http://content.answcdn.com/main/content/img/getty/1/3/73376713.jpg

Steel drum player: http://serturista.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Theaterspektakel_2010_2010-09-04_19-02-50.jpg

Man Feteing in Trinidad: Feteing in Trindad, How to Play Mas: http://www.rishisankar.com/Parties/Trinidad-Carnival-2005/Carnival-Tuesday-2005-23rd/S3600163/202578866_XhHuH-XL.jpg

Jab Jabs: http://www.tntisland.com/carnivalcharacters.html

Moko Jumbies: http://www.tntisland.com/carnivalcharacters.html

Map of Goa: http://www.jigneshbapna.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/goa-map.gif

Goa Carnival: http://blog.theotherhome.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/12/goa-carnival.jpg

Lašininis burnt in effigyhttp://lithuanianmha.org/holiday-traditions/uzgavenes/

Varškės spurgos: http://laisvalaikisvirtuveje.blogspot.com/2012/01/varskes-spurgos-su-obuoliu-idaru.html

Venice Carnevale masks: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Venice_Carnival_-_Masked_Lovers_(2010).jpg

Ivrea Battle of the Oranges: The World's Dirtiest Festivals:  http://jetsetta.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/Battle-of-the-Oranges-Ivrea-Italy.jpg

Gilles at the Carnival of Binche: Photograph by Marie-Claire http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Binche_-_Les_Gilles.jpg

Die Dreigistirn: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Dreigestirn_72.jpg

The Stréimännchen over the Remich Bridge: http://www.lequotidien.lu/le-pays/42292.html

Patras Children's Carnival: http://www.1000lonelyplaces.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/childrens-carnival1.jpg

Bourboulia domino robes and masks: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/el/7/79/Bourboulia_6.jpg