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A little history of the 4th Thursday of November: Thanksgiving Day

A little history of the 4th Thursday of November: Thanksgiving Day

Here in the United States, Thanksgiving Day is a national holiday observed on the fourth Thursday of November. Thanksgiving is celebrated in in many different nations, among a variety of cultures, at different times throughout the year. Although it has deep history with roots in religious and cultural traditions, it is now more commonly celebrated in a secular manner. So what is the history of Thanksgiving Day? Why do we still celebrate it? Why does our President “pardon” a turkey? Let us take a look…

In 1621, the Wampanoag Native Americans and other local tribes, who lived in present day Massachusetts and Rhode Island, befriended the pilgrims of Plymouth. The local Native Americans taught the pilgrims how to cultivate corn, extract sap, catch fish and avoid poisonous plants. In November 1621, the Pilgrim’s successfully had their first corn harvest and the Governor organized a celebratory feast and invited their local Native American allies. The festival lasted for three days and now is considered the “first Thanksgiving.” Among the many conflicts between Native Americans and European colonists, this alliance was remarkable and unfortunately, one of few rare examples of peace and harmony during a tragic time period in our history. Since then it was celebrated on and off since 1789, after a proclamation by our first president, George Washington. However, it was President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 during the American Civil War, who proclaimed it an official national day thus recognizing it as a Federal Holiday.

So 395 years later and we are still celebrating this? Of course we are! Just like the Pilgrims at Plymouth, many of us have much to be thankful about. In today’s society we often forget to count our blessings and just focus on the now and our problems. It is always nice to have a day like Thanksgiving, where we are surrounded by family and close friends. Where we can stop focusing on the troubles of our world for just an instance and focus on each other. Where we can be thankful for a delicious meal and great company. Just remember that if you can do any of the above, you are already more fortunate than the majority of the population. Being thankful does not just mean having to say the words. Being thankful can also be a gesture or an action. Give some money to a charity you always wanted to or send some of your leftovers to a food bank or give it to a homeless person. Do you have to? Of course not. Do whatever you believe is best, but remember all our lives are intertwined, meaningful and can be impactful, just like the Native Americans and Pilgrims at Plymouth.

Finally, what is the deal with “pardoning” a turkey by our Commander in Chief? Although the history of why turkey is so commonly used is a bit of a mystery, turkey has become a traditional dish and a norm for Thanksgiving for quite some time. When the Pilgrims and Native Americans celebrated their first feast, it is said that they may have had fowl, venison, fish, lobster and mussels, corn, squash, stew, among other things. It is not for sure if they had turkey, but many say it may have been present. The “pardoning” of a turkey is part of the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation ceremony that takes place at the White House every year. The President is presented a live domestic turkey, which is then spared and free to live out the rest of their days. "It is a little puzzling that I do this every year," Obama said in 2014, "but I will say that I enjoy it, because with all the tough stuff that swirls around in this office, it's nice once in awhile to just say, 'Happy Thanksgiving.' "

So Happy Thanksgiving everyone! 

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Why We LOVE Diwali and Other Tidbits

Why We LOVE Diwali and Other Tidbits

President Obama had Indian supporters on their feet when he wished Saal Mubarak and became the first US president to publicly light the Diya in celebration of Diwali in 2009. Prior to Obama, there was a hilarious episode of The Office titled “Diwali”, written by Indian cast-member Mindy Kaling, that received critical reception. It was a meaningful moment for Indian culture as it was the first time an American comedy series depicted Diwali. As Diwali approaches, we’d like to have our say on why we think people appreciate this beautiful pluralistic Holiday. 

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How to Snack Like an Indian

Indian snacks are amazing. Whether you’re savoring a crispy samosa or moist gulab jamun, it’s hard to go wrong with Indian snacks.  Snacking is a huge part of Indian culture, but it can be confusing where to start. By the end of this article, you’ll know how to snack like an Indian.

 

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Ramadan, Delayed Gratification, and Stoicism

“Until we have begun to go without them, we fail to realize how unnecessary many things are. We've been using them not because we needed them but because we had them.” ― Seneca, Letters from a Stoic

Ramadan is here. Faithful Muslims around the globe prepare for a month-long trek where from sunrise to sunset they refrain from food, drink, sex, smoking, and even anger. The anticipation begins to grow stronger as the first-day approaches.


To go against one's nature may seem daunting, especially to resist base urges like food & water. It takes time for the body to adapt and the first couple of days are anything but easy. But through this stoic practice, a greater appreciation arises. Consider abstaining from food, drink, sex, smoking, and anger from sunrise to sunset as inputs, while reflection, introspection, and a basic understanding of what it means to be human as outputs.

The aim of Ramadan is to experience and to understand that we are no better than anyone else. During Ramadan, Muslims renew their resolve against vices and make resolutions to be better in general. It's a yearly-reset (technically it's a little less than a year as Ramadan occurs every 355 days) where Muslims examine what they are looking for out of life.

Through this stoic Religious practice, they appreciate the little things that a month earlier seemed irrelevant. You’re thoughtful about the words you speak, the people you engage, and the energy you allocate. Fasting slows down your perception of time. Have you ever finished an episode of your favorite show, like Game of Thrones, and wondered where the time went. Time flows fast during these moments of joy, but during moments of suffering, it slows down like water in a choked up hose.

Fasting is the ultimate form of mindfulness for Muslims. So much of modern life is governed by our thoughts and with the addition of the symbiotic relationship we now have with smartphones, it seems we’re never in control. We make promises to ourselves that we don’t keep. We’d like to stay strict to a diet, a morning ritual, a fitness plan, but we’re often unable to follow through. In other words, we are dishonest with ourselves.

For Muslims, by resisting the most instinctive of desires, there is hypertrophy of the will-power muscle. You decide when you should eat or drink, not your urges. Strong-individuals recognize that goals require a certain amount of discipline. By engaging in this month long religious obligation, Muslims attempt to take control of the part of themselves that governs their everyday behavior. During the month of Ramadan, from sunrise to sunset, they are no longer victims of their thoughts and emotions (though what happens from sunset to sunrise may be a different story altogether).

Every year as Ramadan approaches, a little bit of anxiety sets in. How will I have the energy to go about my daily activities? I have to work, take care of my children, make dinner, etc. The Religious obligation seems insurmountable but every year countless Muslims fast, together. It provides them appreciation for things we take for granted in the Western world. The appreciation of water as the essence of life, food as a life force you are consuming, and family and friends with whom you share the food & water. It reminds them that the stoic lifestyle of Ramadan holds its own reward, it teaches us that if you’re not happy with what you have, you’ll never be happy with what you get.

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Turmeric (Haldi): A Reawakened Relic of Ayurvedic Traditions

When I was younger I sprained my ankle playing basketball. Ankle sprains are common in basketball, but that doesn't mean they won’t have you yelling for mommy. My parents were ready with a treatment on hand, Haldi (Turmeric). They claimed it was a herbal medicine that would "absorb the pain". I was immediately skeptical -- but my parents insisted I try it. I followed the R.I.C.E. (Rest, Ice, Compress, and Elevate) protocol but added an extra step where I rubbed Turmeric all over my ankle before wrapping it. They failed to mention the vibrant stain it leaves behind. I still remember the puzzled look on my friends faces when I showed up to school limping on a bright yellow ankle. Recently, I sprained my knee. After limping for days, I gave into the same treatment, a Turmeric wrap. I felt great the next day, it was as if the pain was sucked away. Now, I know what you're thinking (and I'm with you), it's most likely a coincidence. But it made me curious, how did this plant develop its massive reputation?

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