Tag Archive | customs

UK Holiday: UK rules for personal foodstuffs less strict than USA rules

The count down is on for my flight and the excitement is building.  I am making my food shopping list, checking it twice, and going to find out who is naughty and nice! (Couldn’t help the pun).

jerky

You can’t bring the beef jerky into the UK nor bring UK origin beef jerky into the USA. The trail mix is fine going into the UK, but must be declared at customs returning to the USA.

Time to really look at government websites and see what is and is not allowed.  Fortunately my post from yesterday seems to be spot-on with regards to what you can bring into the United Kingdom from outside of Europe.  As specified on gov.uk, the main restrictions relate to meat and dairy.  If you go through the page, HM government is very detailed and very explicit on the matter — which is good because no one wants problems at customs.  You can consume meat and dairy to your heart’s content on your flight from USA to UK — at long as you throw away the leftovers before you land.

The USA is apparently much more strict about food coming home from another country.  Looking at the US Customs and Border Protection site and their FAQ for travelers you cannot bring ANY fresh food of any type into the United States.  Anything you do bring with you (aka you didn’t throw away before you disembark from your plane into the USA) must be declared OR YOU FACE a $10,000 FINE.

$10,000 for not saying “I have some crackers in my bag.”

apricots

These apricots are allowed into the UK without any issues. But if I don’t eat them while on holiday and try to bring them back into the USA, I must declare them at customs — or face a $10,000 fine!

Absolutely NO fresh food is allowed into the USA at all.  According to the FAQ, most dried fruits and nuts ARE allowed — as long as you declare them.  Likewise, as long as you tell them, it’s not an issue if you save your pretzels from your flight to eat while you are waiting to change planes.

But it is a bit telling.  I really never expected the flight back to the USA to be more risky than the flight to the United Kingdom.

Well, maybe this is just the universe’s way of telling me something I already know about myself — and where I am happiest!

Purim Celebrations for Gentiles

Originally posted February 28th, 2012

 

Hamantaschen are delicious cookies traditionally eaten at Purim.

The Jewish Holiday of Purim is a festive, often raucous holiday filled with gaiety, great food, and parties. Yet for the gentile, this holiday is often a bit of a conundrum, even though many gentiles know the essential story behind Purim from the Biblical book of Esther.

Purim is a spring holiday, typically celebrated in March, celebrating Jewish survival in the face of genocide. The word Purim means “lots” and is a reference to the lots drawn by Persian courtier Haman to decide the date of Jewish annihilation. The story itself is told in full in the Biblical book of Esther, the name of a very brave Jewish young woman who, according to the story, was chosen as the new queen of King Ahasuerus (assumed to be Xerxes I of Persia) after his previous queen refused to come to a banquet thrown by Xerxes for several nobles. Queen Vashti’s refusal was probably understandable; the summons came while Xerxes was drunk. Regardless the historical details, if any, Esther’s ascent puts her in a rare position, able to influence the king in a time of crisis. After Haman tricks Xerxes into genocidal slaughter of all the Jews in his realm, Esther skillfully uses Xerxes interest in her to amend the new law-allowing Jews to defend themselves. It is her courage and intelligence (and the ultimate victory by the Jews made in self defense) that is celebrated at Purim-one woman who stopped genocide.

Orthodox Jews celebrate Purim with readings of the entire book of Esther in temple. During the readings, it is customary to shout or make noise whenever the name of Haman is read. Children dress up in costumes (making some describe it as a sort of Jewish Halloween). Adults drink-the much debated standard is “until they can no longer distinguish between ‘cursed is Haman’ and ‘blessed is Mordecai,'” (http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Purim/At_Home/Meal/Drinking_on_Purim.shtml).

These are the parts of Purim that are more or less the real domain of Judaism. Yet it is the other half of Purim that I believe gentiles can robustly embrace and which I keep every spring as a gentile:

  • Charitable giving: giving to those who have less than you do. This part of Purim reminds us that no matter how hard life is or how much we may lack, there is ALWAYS someone who has even greater life challenges-economically and otherwise. Purim reminds us to “count our blessings.”
  • Giving food gifts: certain Jewish foods like hamentaschen cookies are traditional, but any food gift will work. This is related in part with charitable giving; there is always someone we know struggling to have enough to eat.
  • Feasting/enjoying a special Purim meal: this is a merry holiday–of course we celebrate with food.

Purim is more than simply a celebration honoring the courage of a Jewish heroine. The holiday has evolved into a time for charity, food, and humble thankfulness for the blessings each of us receive and too often take for granted. No matter your religious or cultural heritage, each of us can celebrate this very Jewish holiday and its spirit of helping others.

For more about Purim, please see http://www.meirpanim.org/page_e.php?name=Purim andhttp://purim.123holiday.net/purim_customes.html and http://www.myjewishlearning.com/holidays/Jewish_Holidays/Purim/At_Home/Foods.shtml.

 

 

A nice recipe for hamantaschen is at http://www.chabad.org/holidays/purim/article_cdo/aid/1366/jewish/Traditional-Hamantashen.htm

Reblog: History of Halloween

Merry Samhain everyone!  In honor of Samhain and Halloween, I am re-posting a lovely article I found this morning  by Benjamin Radford of Live Science about the history of Halloween.  Enjoy!

 

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Halloween is the season for little ghosts and goblins to take to the streets, asking for candy and scaring one another silly. Spooky stories are told around fires, scary movies appear in theaters and pumpkins are expertly (and not-so-expertly) carved into jack-o’-lanterns.

Amid all the commercialism, haunted houses and bogus warnings about razors in apples, the origins of Halloween are often overlooked. Yet Halloween is much more than just costumes and candy; in fact, the holiday has a rich and interesting history.
Samhain

Halloween, also known as All Hallows’ Eve, can be traced back about 2,000 years to a pre-Christian Celtic festival held around Nov. 1 called Samhain (pronounced “sah-win”), which means “summer’s end” in Gaelic, according to the Indo-European Etymological Dictionaries. [Related: 13 Halloween Superstitions & Traditions Explained]

Because ancient records are sparse and fragmentary, the exact nature of Samhain is not fully understood, but it was an annual communal meeting at the end of the harvest year, a time to gather resources for the winter months and bring animals back from the pastures. Samhain is also thought to have been a time of communing with the dead, according to folklorist John Santino.

“There was a belief that it was a day when spirits of the dead would cross over into the other world,” Santino told Live Science. Such moments of transition in the year have always been thought to be special and supernatural, he added.

Halloween provides a safe way to play with the concept of death, Santino said. People dress up as the living dead, and fake gravestones adorn front lawns — activities that wouldn’t be tolerated at other times of the year, he said.

But according to Nicholas Rogers, a history professor at York University in Toronto and author of “Halloween: From Pagan Ritual to Party Night” (Oxford University Press, 2003), “there is no hard evidence that Samhain was specifically devoted to the dead or to ancestor worship.

“According to the ancient sagas, Samhain was the time when tribal peoples paid tribute to their conquerors and when the sidh [ancient mounds] might reveal the magnificent palaces of the gods of the underworld,” Rogers wrote. Samhain was less about death or evil than about the changing of seasons and preparing for the dormancy (and rebirth) of nature as summer turned to winter, he said.

Though a direct connection between Halloween and Samhain has never been proven, many scholars believe that because All Saints’ Day (or All Hallows’ Mass, celebrated Nov. 1) and Samhain, are so close together on the calendar, they influenced each other and later combined into the celebration now called Halloween.
Costumes and trick-or-treating

The tradition of dressing in costumes and trick-or-treating may go back to the practice of “mumming” and “guising,” in which people would disguise themselves and go door-to-door, asking for food, Santino said. Early costumes were usually disguises, often woven out of straw, he said, and sometimes people wore costumes to perform in plays or skits.

The practice may also be related to the medieval custom of “souling” in Britain and Ireland, when poor people would knock on doors on Hallowmas (Nov. 1), asking for food in exchange for prayers for the dead.

Trick-or-treating didn’t start in the United States until World War II, but American kids were known to go out on Thanksgiving and ask for food — a practice known as Thanksgiving begging, Santino said.

“Mass solicitation rituals are pretty common, and are usually associated with winter holidays,” Santino said. While one tradition didn’t necessarily cause the others, they were “similar and parallel,” he said.
Tricks and games

These days, the “trick” part of the phrase “trick or treat” is mostly an empty threat, but pranks have long been a part of the holiday.

By the late 1800s, the tradition of playing tricks on Halloween was well established. In the United States and Canada, the pranks included tipping over outhouses, opening farmers’ gates and egging houses. But by the 1920s and ’30s, the celebrations more closely resembled an unruly block party, and the acts of vandalism got more serious.

Some people believe that because pranking was starting to get dangerous and out of hand, parents and town leaders began to encourage dressing up and trick-or-treating as a safe alternative to doing pranks, Santino said.

However, Halloween was as much a time for festivities and games as it was for playing tricks or asking for treats. Apples are associated with Halloween, both as a treat and in the game of bobbing for apples, a game that since the colonial era in America was used for fortune-telling. Legend has it that the first person to pluck an apple from the water-filled bucket without using his or her hands would be the first to marry, according to the book “Halloween and Commemorations of the Dead” (Chelsea House, 2009) by Roseanne Montillo.

Apples were also part of another form of marriage prophecy. According to legend, on Halloween (sometimes at the stroke of midnight), young women would peel an apple into one continuous strip and throw it over her shoulder. The apple skin would supposedly land in the shape of the first letter of her future husband’s name.

Another Halloween ritual involved looking in a mirror at midnight by candlelight, for a future husband’s face was said to appear. (A scary variation of this later became the “Bloody Mary” ritual familiar to many schoolgirls.) Like many such childhood games, it was likely done in fun, though at least some people took it seriously.
Christian/Irish influence

Some evangelical Christians have expressed concern that Halloween is somehow satanic because of its roots in pagan ritual. However, ancient Celts did not worship anything resembling the Christian devil and had no concept of it. In fact, the Samhain festival had long since vanished by the time the Catholic Church began persecuting witches in its search for satanic cabals. And, of course, black cats do not need to have any association with witchcraft to be considered evil — simply crossing their path is considered bad luck any time of year.

As for modern Halloween, Santino, writing in “American Folklore: An Encyclopedia” (Garland, 1996), noted that “Halloween beliefs and customs were brought to North America with the earliest Irish immigrants, then by the great waves of Irish immigrants fleeing the famines of the first half of the nineteenth century. Known in the North American continent since colonial days, by the middle of the twentieth century Halloween had become largely a children’s holiday.” Since that time, the holiday’s popularity increased dramatically as adults, communities and institutions (such as schools, campuses and commercial haunted houses) have embraced the event.

Through the ages, various supernatural entities — including fairies and witches — came to be associated with Halloween, and more than a century ago in Ireland, the event was said to be a time when spirits of the dead could return to their old haunting grounds. Dressing up as ghosts or witches became fashionable, though as the holiday became more widespread and more commercialized (and with the arrival of mass-manufactured costumes), the selection of disguises for kids and adults greatly expanded beyond monsters to include everything from superheroes to princesses to politicians.

Staff writer Tanya Lewis contributed to this article.