Groundhog Day, an American holiday with purely Europeans origins ~

Groundhog Day, on February 2, claim that if a groundhog emerging from its burrow on this day sees its shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks; but if it does not see its shadow because of cloudiness, spring will arrive early. The weather lore come from German-speaking areas where the badger (Dachs, in German) was the forecasting animal. This appears to be an enhanced version of the lore that clear weather on the Christian religious holiday of Candlemas…

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The dark origins of the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of the most famous (and appreciated) fairy tales in the world, first related in 1812 when the Grimm brothers published their collection of tales that had been gathered from old European folk stories. Like many of the Grimm tales, it is supposed that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been in existence since the Middle Ages, passed down through word-of-mouth over the centuries. The version that is universally told today is the most “digestible” by a non-adult audience, and in 1937,…

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La Giubiana: a curious tradition linked to the last Thursday of January in Northern Italy

A great fire that will illuminate the darkness, with the hope that it will burn well and quickly so as to drive away the winter and propitiate the year that has just begun. The traditional ceremony, which this year falls just today, on January 30th, includes a large bonfire where a straw puppet dressed in rags (the Giubiana) is burned, which represents the malaise of winter and the troubles of the past year. The Giübiana, or feast of Giobia is a traditional recurrence very popular in northern Italy, especially in…

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And you have a wheel of cheese to be eaten at your funeral?

Imagine setting aside a wheel of cheese at your wedding. What would it look like if it were served at your  funeral? Probably shriveled and brown, pockmarked from decades of mite and mouse nibbles and, above all, hard as a rock! You’d need an axe to slice it open and strong booze to wash it down. Of course, this is the cheese you  don’t want to cut even though it’s aged to perfection. However, a fossilized funeral cheese means you lived a long life! Jean-Jacques Zufferey’s home in Grimentz, high…

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Maneki Neko: history and legend of the Japanese lucky cat

Japan is a great country for cat lovers: there are, for example, islands with more cats that inhabitants, and the most popular is Tashirojima, or you can drink something in one of the many Cat Cafes, scattered around the country even if, ironically, most apartments don’t allow pets! If you want to obtain cute cat-like items, one of the most popular is without a doubt the Maneki Neko (招き猫), also often known as Lucky Cat. The Maneki Neko, literally the “beckoning cat,” is a very common Japanese figure. Its paw…

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Jack O’Lantern: the Halloween Legend!

The Irish brought the tradition of carving pumpkins into Jack O’Lantern to America. But, the original Jack O’Lantern was not a pumpkin, because they did not exist in Ireland. Ancient Celtic cultures in Ireland carved turnips on All Hallow’s Eve, and placed an ember in them, to ward off evil spirits. The origin of Halloween has its roots in the Roman or Celtic festivals, and in the beginning was the Celtic New Year, the “Samhain”, which is celebrated between October 31st and November 1st, or the Parentalia festival, in which…

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Food and Drink on the Graves. A curious tradition~

Lot of cultures all over the world observe practices that involve leaving food or drink at the graves of loved ones. There are different specific traditions, but often people leave food and drinks that the deceased particularly enjoyed in life, or that held some special significance to them. Even if the Christian churches have, for centuries, regulated the liturgy and ceremonies for the dying and the dead, people everywhere have created their own death traditions and have often retained them in addition to those of the official Church. Food and…

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