Na Ceiltigh in Éire

Fáilte. This was the first thing I read after my plane had landed at Dublin Airport. In Irish this means ‘Welcome’. I’d always known that the Irish had a language of their own, but I figured that they’d completely adopted English. But, of course, there’s still a lot that remains of the Gaelic language.

The origin of the Gaelic language

It’s assumed that around 600 B.C. the Celts, from Northern France, made their way to Ireland. Shortly after their arrival, the Celts mixed with the original inhabitants of the island and formed about 150 small kingdoms, in which the Druids, as mediators between the gods and the people, wielded power.

As the Celts didn’t have a writing system, all we know of them derives from archaeological findings. We also know that the Druids generally passed on their knowledge to the next generation orally. In this way, their secrets were kept. Later, the Celts invented an early medieval alphabet called Ogham – a simple form of writing only used by Druids. The inscriptions on tombs, for example, were the first records in the Irish language.

The Gaelic language today

Although the Celtic culture ceased to exist centuries ago, the Irish preserve their Celtic heritage by keeping their Gaelic language alive. Even though English is the dominant language, Irish is still an official language; in 2007 it became one of the twenty-four official languages in the European Union. Although only 1% of the Irish population actually speak the Celtic language at home, at least 30% say that they can or could speak it, but don’t. There are a few parts of the country called Gealtacht in which Irish is still the predominant language, most of which are located on the west coast. For example, the Aran Islands in County Galway, so tourists wouldn’t be able to communicate in English here.

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Irish in public and media

The Irish language is very present in today’s Ireland. Official signposting is not only in English but in Irish as well; legal texts have to be published in both languages and some official institutions only have Irish names, for example, the parliament is called An tOireachtas which basically just means ‘assembly’. And there are many radio stations and TV channels broadcasting only in Irish, but compared to the small number of speakers, there’s a huge variety of Irish literature in Irish.

Irish in the educational system

In schools, Irish is compulsory. As one of the official languages, everyone has to learn it, but most lessons are usually in English. There are a few schools called Gaelscoileanna in which Irish is the language of instruction. Thus, all subjects are taught in Irish.

Celtic heritage: the importance of the Gaelic language

The Gaelic language is of utmost importance for Ireland. The Irish identify with it; it’s part of their identity. For example, the Gaelic language distinguishes them from Northern Ireland and it increases their sense of solidarity.

Text and pictures: Aileen Reifenrath

Are you a ‘Faschingsmuffel’?

fachingI always feel like a stranger in my hometown Füssen in the Allgäu. The reason for this is simple: Fasching, the traditional carnival in southern Germany. But thankfully, the Fasching euphoria in Füssen is rather moderate compared to the villages surrounding it, like Buching, Hopferau and so on, which you most certainly don’t know if you’re not from the area.

Reasons to dislike Fasching

But why is that? I simply don’t get it. Okay, some of the costumes at the parades are in fact quite funny but – in my opinion – the majority aren’t. Most of the costumes are even worse! Hordes of badly-dressed cowboys and Indians! For every creative costume produced after hours and hours of work, there are hundreds of boring Wild West reenactments. And then there’s the horrible music. Every year, the same tasteless Schlager playlists penetrate my ears and leave me speech- and breathless (“Atemlos”…)! But for most people at Fasching, it doesn’t matter, since the majority of people just need a reason to get drunk and – even fasching.worse – they can’t cope with being drunk and behave aggressively.

Any chance of escape?

You might be wondering if it’s possible to escape from this madness. Well, if you’re living in one of these previously-mentioned Fasching strongholds, there’s only one way to do so: build yourself a soundproof air-raid shelter. Sorry. If you’re lucky and you live a safe distance away from these danger areas, take advantage – stay away and let the others have their fun. Tastes differ and so do ideas about what a good party looks like.

By the way, in case you have to hand in a seminar paper or something similar by the end of February, see the positive side of it: in the library, you’re safe from drunkards in fancy dress and Helene Fischer.

Authors: Thomas Kienast, Sebastian Reimann
Pictures: Noemi Hehl

New year, new me

You might think it’s a bit late for a New Year article, but is it really? It’s only one month into 2017 and I don’t know about you, but I’ve already ignored half of my New Year’s resolutions at least once. If experience in the past few years is anything to go by, though, I’ll have to wait until next year to give it a go again. But there’s a way to break the trend and still achieve your goals. Yes, even today!

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Less chocolate, more sports

Judging from the commercials and articles I see around this time of the year, the top resolutions are: being healthier (including doing more sports, losing weight and downing smoothies for breakfast), as well as classics like quitting smoking. Being more organized is also a favorite, at least for me anyway. I don’t know how you feel, but the Christmas holidays, including New Year’s Eve, are (also) exceptional compared to other times of the year. So this might be the worst time to start working on goals that you want to continue to work on when you’re back in your normal routine. But that doesn’t mean
that you shouldn’t have them.

Start next Monday 

Know the feeling when it’s 3:11 p.m. and you have to study, but you just can’t because 3:11 isn’t the right time? You have to wait until 4 p.m.! I think most of us struggle with our resolutions in a similar way. But here’s the good news: you don’t have to wait a whole year to achieve your goals. There are so many new beginnings: start in the next hour, next Monday, next month – whenever you feel like it!

Small steps 

Needless to say, goals require a plan, and plans require to-do lists (written on pretty paper because that makes you more organized, of course). Instead of writing “Be a perfect student from next week on“, you might prefer “set aside fifteen minutes a day to keep track of assignments“. This not only sounds more doable and motivating, but actually ticking off things on your list will give you a good feeling.

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Help! 

Still thinking this won’t work for you? It’s time to look for someone you can tell what you’re about to do. Whenever I tell someone about my plans, I get motivated on the spot. The next time you see this person, you’ll obviously want to tell him or her about what you’ve done since you last saw each other. And answering “Hmm…nothing“ doesn’t feel too good, does it? Let’s try to achieve our goals together (in 2017, not 2018)!

Author & Pictures: Laura Annecca

How to cure a New Year’s Eve hangover

Each of us has once vowed never to drink anything again, particularly after having had a hangover. Do you remember the odd feeling when your head is killing you, when you feel like vomiting all day and simply feel like **** most of the time? Well, we all know that sticking to your vow of sobriety is sometimes hard, and even harder on New Year’s Eve when you have the impression that everybody around you does nothing except drink and party. Suddenly, you find yourself looking at your glass thinking: “one glass of champagne has never killed anybody – have just one.” And then you find yourself waking up on January 1st with a huge headache and start wondering “how did I get here?” Of course, we’re all human and things just happen, so here are some tips how to get over your hangover. In this way, you’ll easily keep the damage under control.

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Water

I bet you would never have guessed! We seem to forget about drinking water, although we keep hearing how much water we should drink – doctors, mothers, everybody seems to be obsessed with its benefits. But believe me – they’re right. Water, the essence of life, is the best hair of the dog. Alcohol robs your body of the fluids it needs to function properly. By drinking more water, instead of vodka, you can avoid getting dehydrated. You’ll start feeling better in an instant. Do you want an extra boost? Add some ginger and lemon. It’ll work wonders if you feel nauseous. Give it a try; your body will thank you for it.

Coconut

Coconut? I know I’m nuts for drinking too much, so why do I need a coconut? You shouldn’t have a coconut as such, but you should have coconut water. It’s considered to be the queen or king of fluids and will help you cure your hangover asap. Honestly, this is better than any other remedy, because coconut water contains large amounts of potassium. This is why it’s an amazing drink after a workout because of its ability to provide your body with electrolytes, which you lose while drinking or while engaged in physical activity. And it’s easy to get your hands on coconut water. Because of its popularity, you can find it at any major grocery store.

Sleep

If you have time to sleep, you should definitely do so. The best way to make your sleep especially effective is to darken your room. This will stimulate the production of melatonin – the sleeping hormone. When you sleep, your body has time to restore its cells and work on things it doesn’t have time to during the day. And we all love sleeping, don’t we?

Don’t mix it – never!

Fast rewind back to your party – don’t ever mix the beverages you have. NEVER EVER DO THAT. Stick to one beverage and thank me later 😉

Avocado

You love guacamole? Great! If you don’t want to drink your potassium, just have an avo. It’ll help you restore the electrolytes in your body. And, because of its fats, it’ll also stabilize your sugar cravings, which usually occur after the excessive consumption of booze. Your jeans will thank you for that, too 😉

So, I hope these tips have been helpful. There are many more on the internet, so feel free to google them.

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I wish you a Happy New Year and good luck getting rid of your hangover 🙂

Author: Astrid Szegedi
Pictures: Henrike Wilhelm

Christmas in the Park

100_0354When visiting California, USA, there are a lot of different things to see that come to mind. Whether it’s San Francisco with the Golden Gate Bridge, the Victorian Houses and Pier 39, Los Angeles with its famous Sunset Blvd., Beverly Hills and Hollywood, Monterey with its great Monterey Bay Aquarium and Whale Watching Tours or national parks like Yosemite or fun parks like Disneyland, these sights are all well known and you already know about these tourist magnets I’m sure. But what you mightn’t already have heard of is “Christmas in the Park”, which takes place every year for about five weeks in San Jose.

Festive displays and brimmed trees

Christmas in the Park (CITP) dates back to the 1950s. Free to the public – donations are appreciated – every year there are around five 100_0365hundred decorated Christmas trees on display in the park, which is located in Plaza de Cesar Chavez Park in Downtown San Jose. The trees are decorated with different kinds of ornaments by school classes, kindergarten classes, local companies and community organizations. Every tree is very unique and shines with all its really individual embellishments. In addition to firs, you’ll find a set of displays that are set up lovingly. There are, for example, elf woodcrafters, a candy store, a Little Swiss Clockmaker’s Shoppe, a melting snowman and let’s not forget Santa’s booth. Of course, there are also vendors – food or other merchandise – so everyone will find a way to spend money, if they want to.

Not only for kids

100_0363Obviously, Christmas in the park is a well-designed family venue, as it offers a lot for kids to discover. They’re bound to love the fact that Santa’s actually sitting there in his booth and they can tell him about their dearest wishes for Christmas, while their parents are taking snapshots. For those who prefer to have professional photos, there’s even a photographer. The quality pictures can be picked up a few minutes later. But not only are the youngest among us bound to enjoy the decorated park. The festive trees might also give adults some new ideas for trimming their own tree at home – or they can simply enjoy the park.

“Christkindlesmarkt” is different

100_0367What I really liked during my visit was the special atmosphere. You can walk around the park with all the nicely-decorated trees and the other festive displays. It can’t be compared to a “Christkindlesmarkt” that we’ve been very familiar since we were small. While you’re surrounded by the holiday glitter, you se e the large palm trees in the Californian setting, which gives you a unusual kind of experience, especially if this is the first time you’ve spent the holiday season away from the usual “Let’s hope there’s snow at Christmas” thinking. Don’t hope for snow in San Jose because, you know, it’s not gonna happen.

Address: Plaza de César Chávez, 1 Paseo de San Antonio, San Jose, CA 95113, USA

You need more information? Go to www.christmasinthepark.com

Author & Pictures: Angela Czygann

Happy Thanksgiving!

The origin of Thanksgiving

In the year 1620, a group of 102 men, women and children also known as the Pilgrims, wanted to find religious freedom and they sailed on the Mayflower to a shore in America called Plymouth, Massachusetts. They arrived in America on December 11, 1620. The first winter was very harsh and 55 of the 102 Pilgrims died of hunger or sickness. Thankfully, in the following year some friendly Indians called Wampanoag helped them by teaching them how to grow corn, how to harvest berries, and where and how to hunt and fish. Because of this the next harvest was good and the Pilgrims had enough food to store for the next winter. In October, 1621 they celebrated the first Thanksgiving to thank God for helping them. In 1863, US President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving Day to be a national holiday. He proclaimed the last Thursday of November an official day of celebration.

Why Thanksgiving Day is my favorite Holiday

hamThe spirit of Thanksgiving has endured throughout the years and has made it one of the most important holidays in the USA.

Born to an American mom and a German dad, my life has been shaped a lot around American holidays and traditions and my favorite holiday is Thanksgiving. To me it’s special time of the year with memorable moments, as different things are shared on this special day: preparations, typical smells of homemade dinner rolls and sweet pies spiced with cinnamon and cloves. I love the warm comfortable atmosphere, good conversations, family quality time and friends coming to visit and not to forget all the delicious food like roast turkey, baked ham, cranberries and sweet potatoes.

What did the chicken say on Thanksgiving Day?
What did the chicken say on Thanksgiving Day?
The chicken said: “hey!”,
I’m glad I’m not a turkey
I’m glad I’m not a turkey on “Thanksgiving Day“

Same procedure as every year

The turkey and ham are ordered a week before. Even though Thanksgiving is always celebrated on the last Thursday in November, my family celebrates Thanksgiving on a Saturday. It would not be possible during the week here in Germany. We prepare pumpkin and pecan pies the day before. The first thing to be done on Saturday is to pick up the turkey at the local poultry farmer, as it’s too big to fit in the fridge! The bird weighs 8-9 kg, as we’re always a big group getting together in the evening. The bird is prepared and stuffed with old-fashioned bread stuffing and put into the oven. One hour for each kilogram – makes nine in total. Only then can we begin with the cranberry sauce, glazed ham, mashed potatoes, rolls, sweet potatoes with marshmallows and the vegetable sticks.

What did the rabbit say on Thanksgiving Day?
What did the rabbit say on Thanksgiving Day?
The rabbit said: “hey!”,
I ‘m glad I’m not a turkey
I ‘m glad I’m not a turkey on “Thanksgiving Day“

Getting ready for the feast

TurkeySlowly but surely the house fills; family first, to help with cleaning up and laying the table and then the friends arrive around five o’clock. Everybody mingles. The whole house smells amazing. We’re all starving since we haven’t eaten much during the day in order to have enough space in our stomachs for the feast. Finally we gather around the beautifully laid-out dinner table and say grace.

The tension increases when the star of the evening is taken out of the oven. How did it turn out? Is the meat juicy, tender and the skin crisp? This delicious smell of cooked turkey adds to the other aromas in the air: scents of stuffing with celery and sage, toasted marshmallows and candied sweet potatoes, roasted sizzling ham and red wine.  My brother-in-law cuts the turkey. When everybody has filled their plates we finally start.

Yummy!

What did the turkey say on Thanksgiving Day?
What did the turkey say on Thanksgiving Day?
The turkey said „hey!”,
It’s tough to be a turkey
It’s tough to be a turkey on “Thanksgiving Day.” (Carolyn Graham, Holiday Jazz Chants)

Time for dessert

cakeHaving eaten far too much, we start emptying the table, put the leftovers in containers to go, and pick off the last pieces of the turkey meat for turkey sandwiches the next day. Before we get ready for the sweet finale, we retell the story of the first Thanksgiving or we take a moment and write down what we are thankful for. Then it is time to enjoy the pies.

Author & Pictures: Elisabeth Stützel

An ode to ice cream

20160715_205335I like ice cream a whole lot.
It tastes good when days are hot.
On a cone or in a dish,
this would be my only wish,
vanilla, chocolate, or rocky road,
even with pie a la mode.

 

 

These are the wise words of budding poet Vada Sultenfuss, lead character of the coming-of-age classic My Girl. In this little poem, she sums up what practically the whole world thinks when it comes to ice cream. And her words couldn’t be more fitting than right now, since July is National Ice Cream Month in the USA. And even though it seems like there is no such thing in Germany, I still think we should celebrate it anyway. Probably every person on the planet loves ice cream to some extent, and so it’s great to see that there are still some things that unite everyone in times of division (of course, there is also enough to fight about when it comes to ice cream, but that’s a different story).

Let’s focus on the positive side of it all, for example, the fact that eating ice cream makes us happy. Or that it contains many nutrients like B vitamins and proteins. What’s more, ice cream lessens the negative effects of stress and also reduces the risk of suffering from cancer.

So everything would be absolutely perfect if the ice cream industry didn’t insist on driving a popsicle stick through an ice cream lover’s heart like mine every now and then by suspending the production of a favorite kind of ice cream, in my case Langnese Cremissimo’s Gone with the Wind Ice Cream. However, I quickly managed to mend my broken heart by binge eating the birthday cake ice cream made by Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. Believe
me – their ice cream is to die for and if you’re ever in Savannah, Atlanta, Charleston, or Nashville
you just have to check it out.

So no matter if you’re a popsicle addict or a gelato lover, in the end we should all just celebrate the divinity of ice cream. It’s (Inter)National Ice Cream Month after all.

Author & Pictures: Alisa Lechky