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Whether it be the year of the dragon or the year of the mouse, Chinese New Year is always a time of great fortune – and great fortune cookies. Chinese New Year is a 15 day celebration during which people of Chinese ancestry let the good times roll by cooking up plenty of eggrolls and by sending Chinese New Year cards. Chinese New Year is observed with impressive celebrations within China, as well as internationally in cities like San Francisco, New York, and London. While the food may leave you hungry in an hour or so, the celebrations will stick with you forever. But don’t forget to send a Chinese New Year card or greeting to friends and family – just make sure to send it in an envelope and not a fortune cookie.
The history of Chinese New Year goes back to ancient Chinese mythology. Chinese villagers sought to avoid attacks from the giant monster Nean, who like most monsters had a big appetite and a bad temper. Eventually they found that by leaving a small child dressed entirely in red, the beast would lose interest. The villagers were so happy that this highly improbable strategy actually worked that they created a 15 day celebration to commemorate it. While you don’t have to send a Chinese New Year card on each day, it’s a great idea to send a few to friends and family during the new year celebrations. Today, the holiday is celebrated with songs, dancing and a healthy dose of “Gung hei fat choy”. The traditional festival begins with a family dinner, during which some believe it is bad luck to use knives – though it is still possible to use very sharp chopsticks. Each of the following days of the celebration is then used to honor varying figures in Chinese mythology, or to visit specific family members. At the end comes the traditional “Lantern Festival”, in which friendly spirits are invited into the homes of each family with candles, colorful lanterns, and if that doesn’t work, tasty rice dumplings. With all of the family-related celebrations, it’s always a good idea for those too far away to visit to send a Chinese New Year card or greeting, though you probably shouldn’t put “in bed” at the end.
The luck of the Irish be with ye on St. Patrick’s day, unless of course you forget to wear something green, in which case you’ll have to endure endless mockery. Yes, St. Patrick’s Day (alternatively known as St. Patty’s Day, Saint Paddy's Day or St. Pat’s Day) is closely associated with the color green. But don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s environmentally friendly; St. Patrick’s Day has famously been celebrated in Chicago by dumping green dye into their river, not to mention the rampant littering at celebrations across the country. And while St. Patrick’s Day remains best known for its parades and festivals, as well as being the most difficult day to get a reservation at an Irish pub, it’s also an occasion to share some of the merriment with friends and family, one St. Patrick’s day card or cheesy green plastic hat at a time.
St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t always green, initially its official color was blue. But in the 1700s, green became increasingly popular as the public became more aware of the history of St. Patrick, who was said to use the shamrock to demonstrate Christian beliefs to the people of 4th century Ireland. Eventually, many other practices of St. Patrick became incorporated into the March 17 festivities as well, though the tradition of pinching people who don’t wear green remains firmly rooted in American elementary schools. St. Patrick’s day has also become a recognition of Irish pride, with prominent celebrations held in cities with large Irish communities such as Boston, New York, and Chicago. So if you can’t join family or friends celebrating, be sure to send them St. Patrick’s day cards from Card Gnome. Parades, Irish craft festivals, greeting cards, and Celtic music concerts abound, make St. Patrick’s day in America the next best thing to kissing the Blarney Stone.
From the land of 1001 Nights comes one night that can’t be missed. It’s the night of Nowruz, also known as the Persian New Year! Famous in the West for their cuisine and elegant rugs, the Persians use their New Years festival to prove to the world that they also know how to cut a rug. Elaborate celebrations and festivals abound, in Persia and in Persian communities around the world. There are concerts, celebrations, and fine cuisine; thankfully, you don’t have to be a sword swallower to enjoy Persian food. But it’s also fairly common to take this time to stay in touch with friends and family, Nowruz greeting cards are often sent wishing a happy night of celebration. And the best part about a greeting card for Persian New Year is that you don’t have to deal with the time change for family on the other side of the world.
The Persian New Year is calculated to take place during the spring equinox, but since it’s calculated by the Persian calendar, it can take place on between March 20 and March 22. Traditionally the New Year has been a time for cleaning; Persians actually refer to their tenacious tidying as “shaking the house”, though that could also come from the fact that Persia is prone to periodic earthquakes. Tradition also dictates that the time after the New Year should be reserved for a twelve day long visit with family, followed by a picnic. But some of the most rowdy celebrations for Persian New Years are actually held by the Kurds, who celebrate by lighting a large fire and jumping over it – this tradition became a lot more practical after the invention of the fire extinguisher. But no matter how you celebrate it, Persian New Year is a great time to keep in touch with friends and family. By sending a greeting or a card, you can help ensure that the New Year will be good for you and your family. Don’t forget to wish them luck in hopping over the fire!
From the banks of the Red Sea comes a holiday celebration of Biblical – make that
Torahesque - proportions. It’ s Passover, the most important holiday of the Jewish month
of Nisan (that’ s either March or April on modern calendars). The holiday commemorates
the escape of the Hebrews from Egypt, named in honor of the God’ s “ passing over” of
the Hebrew first born immediately before their departure – as opposed to the Egyptian
first born, who God, shall we say, didn’ t pass over. The holiday celebration lasts an
impressive seven days total. And while modern Passover is generally a bit more relaxed
than its Exodus origins, it’ s still a big effort to pull off. But ultimately, the celebration
is rewarding for those in the Jewish community and all who observe it, a time to cherish
family ties and traditions, and definitely not something to pass over.
As is the case with many Jewish holidays, the rituals of Passover are intricate enough
to require a graduate level college course. Chief among the Passover ceremonies is
the baking of the Matzo bread, left flat to honor the lack of cooking time the Hebrews
had before the Exodus, as well as in recognition of the fact that fully cooked bread is
sometimes associated with inflated egos. By tradition, Matzo has to be cooked within
twenty-two minutes, resulting in whirlwind kitchen sessions. But thankfully observers of
Passover are allowed more time to buy the ingredients; perhaps the original observances
of Passover foresaw the disastrous supermarket lines that would exist in modern times.
Other important Passover traditions include the Seder dinner on the first night, the
Counting of the Omer on the second night, the retelling of the Red Sea parting on the
seventh night, and one more Seder on the final night.
For those in the family who might not be able to make the festivities, it’ s a good time to
send a Passover greeting card. It’ s always been traditional to send wishes for a warm and
joyous Seder with a card, and your family will love that you wish them Chag Sameach
even as you’ re rushing to get the Matzo done on time.
Springtime is here, and what better way to recognize the changing of the season than to combine solemn religious ceremony with delicious chocolate bunnies? We’re talking Easter! The holiday commemorates what is arguably the most important event in Christian tradition, even if it is overshadowed a bit by a certain other Christian holiday. But even outside the circles of the faithful, Easter is the perfect time to send a greeting to friends and family, and to celebrate that you won’t have to shovel your sidewalk for another six months.
As the history goes, Easter traces back to the year 33, which Christian scholars generally agree to be the year in which Jesus died and came back to life. After Christianity became a widely recognized religion in Rome, Christian leaders decided that the date of Easter each year would be determined by a complex calculation involving the vernal equinox and the lunar cycle, thus making any hope for an Easter equivalent of advent calendars next to impossible. While religious ceremonies reflect as much as possible the Christian teachings surrounding the holiday, popular Easter traditions also include key elements of Pagan springtime celebrations. The use of rabbits and lilies as symbols of Easter stem from their use as fertility symbols in Norse mythology; thankfully, the other Norse springtime tradition of slaughtering oxen did not endure. Comparatively little is known about the history of Easter egg hunts, though some have speculated that the tradition of hiding chocolate eggs for children to find is a way for them to let out their repressed rage after not getting an advent calendar.
After religious services, many families traditionally hold a large meal on Easter day. It’s also common to send greetings to distant family members, ranging from bible verse cards for the more faithful to playful or funny cards for others. For Easters which fall earlier in the year, it may even be cool enough to observe the slightly goofy tradition of one member of the family dressing in a giant rabbit suit, though this of course requires the wearer to be free of rabbit allergies and to have a high tolerance for humiliation.
April Fools’ Day: a day of gags and gotchas, a day when the most reputable news sources run fake stories and even the most stiff-lipped, Ben-Stein-in-Ferris-Bueller boring among us show a bit of humor. It’s a day for pranksters far and wide to exercise their funny bones and a day for the more credulous among us to believe phony headlines saying that their local municipality has been attacked by Godzilla. A day when everyone has their eye out for stink bombs and soda cans stuffed with spring snakes. April Fools’ Day: the perfect time to send a joke message to old friends – or at least leave a flaming bag of something unpleasant on their doorstep.
There are many differing histories of April Fools’ Day, most of which are hoaxes themselves. One story holds that the holiday goes back to Noah’s ark; when Noah sent out one of the doves too early, the story goes, he was effectively playing the first April Fools’ prank in history. Luckily for Noah, he knew better than to play any pranks against God. Another story claims that the holiday goes back to ancient Druid festivals in Scotland, while one of the more accepted theories maintains that the tradition began after the shifting of the New Year’s celebration from Spring to Winter in 16th Century France. During this time, villagers who had received news of the new date would send others who didn’t know about it to do phony New Year’s tasks, or “fool’s errands.” Today, fool’s errands are performed throughout the year.
Whether you’re a goofball or the sullen serious type, take a moment on April Fools’ day to revel in the jokes, pranks, and merriment. But be sure to remember that the photo in your local paper of a three-headed sea monster attack is probably just some clever Photoshop work.