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Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Global Immersions Recruiting - Monday, January 20, 2014

Today, January 20, is a very important commemorative day in the United States. Every third Monday in January is a national holiday to honor the life, ideals, and achievements of Martin Luther King Jr.  Assassinated in April of 1968, his legacy still lives on today through the observance of this holiday. Best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs, Martin Luther King was also a pastor, activist, humanitarian and leader in the African Civil Rights Movement.  During this period of American history the American Civil Rights Movement was at its height as minorities, mainly African-Americans, protested the many laws and racial prejudices that maintained their status as second-class citizens.  As a Christian minister, Dr. King's main influence was Jesus Christ and Christian gospels with strong emphasis on Jesus’ commandment of loving your neighbors as yourself, loving God above all, and loving your enemies by praying for them and loving them. He was also strongly influenced by Mahatma Gandhi’s success with non-violent activism. With such inspiration Dr. King and several other civil rights activists founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) created to harness the moral authority and organizing power of the black churches to conduct non-violent protests in search of civil rights reform. 

One of these protests was the March on Washington in 1963, where King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the most well-known speeches in American history and marking King as one of the greatest orators in American history. In 1964 he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in combating racial inequality through nonviolence. In the final years of his life he expanded his work to include poverty and the Vietnam War. In 1968 he was planning another occupation of Washington relating to these issues when he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee by a white man who opposed King’s views on racial equality. Nationwide riots ensued in response to his murder and a national day of mourning was issued by the president days after his death. Although his life was cut short at an early age, King’s legacy still lives on today. Just days after his assassination Congress passed the Civil Rights Act of 1968 that prohibited discrimination in housing based on race, religion, or national origin that was later expanded. He was also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal after his death. In 1986 Martin Luther King Jr. Day became a national holiday as he became a national icon in the history of American progressivism. The only other two people who have national holidays honoring them are George Washington and Christopher Columbus which exemplifies the significance Dr. King has had on American history. Outside the U.S. this day is also recognized in Hiroshima, Japan through a banquet held by the mayor, and in Toronto, Canada, though neither country considers this day a federal holiday. And although inequality is a tremendous issues still facing the U.S. and the world today, commemorating an idol who fought to better the world through nonviolence helps inspire change and improvement in us all and is what makes this holiday so important.  

Martin Luther King has influenced the lives of all Americans, but how has his life and achievements affected you in your life? We want to know! 

Secondary Education Across the Globe

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Although for many of us the words ‘secondary education’ conjure up memories of brightly clad sports teams and painful social standards that often govern the locker-lined hallways of American high schools, in many parts of the world this level of education is vastly different. In fact, in most countries the final formal years of education before the possibility of entering into higher education are not mandatory and are not even four years long.  For most countries, compulsory education is required for nine years and only those who plan to continue to higher education attend the final years of education before this step towards university can be taken. Most countries also require rigorous entrance examinations for students to be admitted into secondary education.  Working with students from all over the world inspired our Go Global Blog this week as we examine secondary education in the home countries of many of our high school age international visitors.

In China the Chinese Communist Party has had strong influence in the education system for years, making marked improvements in the quality of education as part of their modernization plan to strengthen the country. There, high school consists of three years of costly voluntary education after nine years of mandatory education. The basic curriculum for secondary education includes Chinese, Mathematics and English as they are the three subjects in which all students must pass in their final exam called the Gaokao. These final exams are highly competitive as they determine acceptance into university. Most provinces of China also examine students in subjects such as natural science, physics or biology, and social sciences, which include history and geography. Extracurricular activities are uncommon as the school day typically lasts from early morning to early evening and they are not nearly as important as the Gaokao for university acceptance. After secondary school these students are considered educated although almost all continue on to higher education or vocational schools afterwards.

In Japan, the education of students is also measured by rigorous examinations. Students must pass exams in Japanese, English, mathematics, science, and social studies to even be accepted into secondary education and are examined once again at the end of the three year period for entrance into the most prestigious universities. Education in Japan is generally much more rigorous than in the U.S. with an average of 240 school days a year, compared to 180 in the average American school and with classes often held on Saturdays. Uniforms are also mandatory and students are often required to collectively clean the entire school building at the end of each day. The typical student has two hours of homework a night and most students choose one extracurricular activity in which to take part in for their entire high school career, each taking about 2 hours after school each day. In both China and Japan, the amount of mandatory courses a student must take make it almost impossible for students to take elective courses.

In Denmark we see a similar secondary schooling structure.  Much like in Japan and China, the objective of upper level schooling is to prepare students for higher education after nine years of mandatory education. A marked difference in the Danish system is the ability of students to choose which area of interest in which they would like to pursue their educational career at the secondary level. Students must take an exam at the end of their nine year mandatory education and with those results they choose to continue education in a program focusing on business and socio-economic disciplines, called HHX, humanities or social or natural sciences, called STX, or technologic and scientific subjects, called HTX.  All maintain a core curriculum containing basic subjects along with the specialized courses. Another marked difference in the Danish education system is that student must accept the lesson plans of their teachers. Unlike in Japan and China where the governments control the curriculum and the teachers choose how to teach it; in Denmark each school’s curriculum is self-governed and it is required that students approve a teacher’s lesson plan prior to teaching.

In all three of these countries, the challenging level at which students compete for entrance into universities enhances educational competitiveness in ways in which many college level students in the United States can sympathize with after years of studying for tests such as the SAT and ACT.  Although the ways in which classrooms are taught and governed are different all over the globe, the pressure for students to do well in hopes of entrance into higher education is a phenomenon experienced youths all over the world. 

Guide to Boston's Best Hot Chocolate

Global Immersions Recruiting - Monday, January 06, 2014

Hot chocolate is a classic American beverage; warm and chocolatey it’s perfect for warming up during chilly winter days.  Originally invented in South America, the first hot chocolates were made using ground cacao beans and chili peppers and heated with water to make a spicy and bitter concoction. Today drastic changes from the original Mayan drink have developed the American classic. Now hot chocolate has many variations in both name, also known as hot cocoa or drinking chocolate, and ingredients. The main ingredients that make up the hot chocolate we know today are cocoa, sugar, and either milk or water.  In the United State hot chocolate is usually much thinner and often made using powdered mix while in Europe it is often much thicker and uses actual melted chocolate. In Boston, one of the coldest cities in the Northeast, this drink is a staple in the winter months and enjoyed by people of all ages. And many inventive variations on this winter staple are visible throughout Boston alone.  If you’re interested in trying out an American winter classic, or already have an acquired taste for the sweet and decadent drink here is a guide to the best hot chocolates in the Boston area, all MBTA accessible.


L.A. Burdick Chocolate Shop & Café: Harvard Square
Real ground chocolate mixed with cocoa powder and milk is the key to this thick, rich, gourmet hot chocolate that comes in either white, milk, or dark chocolate flavors and can be enjoyed with a variety of pastries and other beverages.


The Thinking Cup: Downtown Boston
This hot chocolate is the French classic, also known as sipping chocolate. Valrhona chocolate is melted down and mixed with cream to make this dense, decadent “drink”.


Flour Bakery & Café: Cambridge
In this bakery the spicy hot chocolate brings this American classic back to its origins by mixing its homemade ganache-based hot chocolate with spicy cayenne, chili powder, vanilla, sugar, and cinnamon, sure to warm you inside and out.


Café Fleuri: Langham Hotel
For the chocolate lovers, every Saturday afternoon this café holds their “Chocolate Bar”: a buffet of over 100 chocolate desserts including a signature chocolate bread-pudding, made with melted chocolate and fresh croissants.


Paris Creperie: Coolidge Corner
For any Nutella fans, this creperie is known for its Nutella hot chocolate, made with the Italian hazelnut spread and milk. Other flavors available also include peppermint and raspberry. And our exclusive insider says the crepes are both delicious and affordable too! 


Met Back Bay: Back Bay
Here they offer a hot chocolate sampler for the more adventurous, including four small samples of Taza hot chocolate including the flavors Classic Hot Chocolate, Mexican Hot Chocolate, Salted Almond Hot Chocolate, and Peppermint Hot Chocolate.


Max Brenner’s: Boylston St.
Here, too, a variety of inventive hot chocolate creations are available ranging from crunchy hot chocolate that contains crunchy magic waffle marbles, or do-it-yourself hot chocolate with hard lava chocolate chunks or volcano milk. Options of white, milk, or dark chocolate are also available.


Canto 6 Bakery & Cafe: Jamaica Plain
For those looking for a more traditional experience this bakery makes a sinfully good hot chocolate, starting with homemade chocolate ganache and adding steamed milk.  A variety of cookies and other pastries are also available to pair with the drink.


Caffe Vittoria: The North End
For the traditional Italian approach to hot chocolate or “cioccolato caldo” this decadently thick hot chocolate uses melted chocolate and tops each cup with a hearty helping of whipped cream.

1369 Coffee House: Cambridge
Here they offer an unusual hot chocolate, the Almond Joy hot chocolate. This hot chocolate has the added flavors of coconut and almond, just like the candy bar. And for those looking for the more traditional hot chocolate that is also available made with Dutch-process cocoa.

Diesel Café: Davis Square
Made with homemade chocolate sauce, steamed milk, and whipped cream this hot chocolate pairs perfectly with the inviting atmosphere of the quirky café and can be made with its signature additions of caramel and hazelnut syrup.

With this guide to the best of the best hot chocolates in Boston, including American and European classics as well as inventive new takes on the hot chocolate of today, you will be sure to keep warm during the cold winter months ahead.  

Source: Boston.com


New Year's Superstitions

Global Immersions Recruiting - Thursday, December 19, 2013

As the year 2014 approaches, many Americans prepare for the New Year in hopes that it will be a good one. Some people want to ensure that their year will be prosperous so much that they prescribe to various different behaviors. Many countries around the world have superstitions about a variety of things and the United States is no different!  While not everyone may believe in them, there are quite a few superstitions about what and what not to do on New Years.

1. Pay Your Bills

All household debt and personal debts should be paid off before January 1st. If they’re not, you’ll be paying back debts all year long.

2. Stock up on Food

It is believed that cupboards stocked up with food and wallets and purses full of money bring prosperity in New Year. Similarly, empty pockets or empty cupboards on New Year’s Eve portend a year of poverty.

3. The First Footer

One must never leave the home before someone comes in first. The "first footer" in the house should be ushered in with a warm welcome and should not have flat feet, cross-eyes or eyebrows that meet in the middle. It would be even better if he came bearing certain small gifts.

4. Kiss at Midnight

It is believed that kissing at midnight ensures that affections and ties will continue throughout the New Year. If you do not do this, it would set the stage for a year of coldness.

5. Don’t Leave the House

In several countries, people do not let money, jewelry, precious items or other invaluable things leave home on New Year Day. Therefore one should not pay loans and bills or lend things to anybody. People go to the extent of not taking out garbage or even not dusting their carpets on this day to ensure that nothing leaves the house during the year. If you have to deliver presents on New Year morning, you should leave them in the car.

6. Wear Something Pretty

People believe that one should wear new clothes on a New Year's Day in hopes of receiving more new garments during the year. Red clothing is preferred for New Year's Day since red is considered a happy color and is sure to attract a brighter future.

7. Let the Old Year Out

At midnight, all the doors of a house must be opened to let the old year escape unimpeded.

8. Be Loud

People believe that devils and demons hate loud noise. People scare them away by being as loud in New Year celebrations as possible. Church bells are rung at midnight for the same reason.

9. Don’t Cry

One should avoid breaking things or crying on the first day of the year if you don't want to continue the pattern for the entire year.

10. Eat Black Eyed Peas

In Southern part of the United States it is said that eating black-eyed peas on New Year's Day will attract both general good luck and money in particular. 

Do any of these superstitions sound familiar? What sorts of things do you do before New Years? We want to know! 

Sources: HappyWink.com 

International Cinema Treats

Global Immersions Recruiting - Thursday, December 12, 2013

Americans, like so many other people around the world, love movies. Whether it’s watching the latest superhero movie or romantic comedy, people really like seeing stories unfold on the silver screen. Trips to the cinema are great opportunities for friends and family members to spend time together relatively cheaply. The hard part is agreeing on a movie to watch!

Unsurprisingly, Americans also love to snack while they’re at the theater. Popcorn and candy are among the top most popular snacks in the United States, but this is not always the case throughout the world. In fact, the things people eat at the cinema range anywhere from sweet to savory and the drinks are not only limited to soda or slushies!


  • Pocky
  • Iced Oolong Tea
  • Japanese Beer


  • Dried Squid Strips
  • Fried Meatballs with Chili Sauce
  • Papaya Salad


  • Coconut Juice
  • Tofu gan (dried bean curd in a sweet or spicy sauce)
  • Roasted Sunflower Seeds
  • Salty Plums


  • Sweet Popcorn
  • Ice-cream Bars
  • Chocolate


  • Pasteli
  • Ouzo
  • Souvlaki
  • Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
  • Yogurt with Honey
  • Roasted Chestnuts


  • Drop (salty licorice)
  • Ijsje (ice-cream on a stick)

Have you tried any of the snacks listed above? What did you think of them? We want to know!

Source: Cooking Light Magazine

Holiday Activites in Boston!

Global Immersions Recruiting - Thursday, December 05, 2013

The holidays have arrived in Boston and everyone is excited for the season’s festivities! Along with the annual tree lightings throughout the city, Bostonians also enjoy caroling, ice-skating, and holiday markets. For visitors staying in the city for the holiday season, the Global Immersions team compiled a list of fun activities to enjoy!

Harvard Square Holiday Fair
The Harvard Square Holiday Craft Fair, one of the oldest and most popular fairs in Boston, will celebrate its 28th season in 2013. It takes place in the basement and courtyard of the First Parish Church on the corner of Church Street and Massachusetts Avenue and runs for 12 or so days in December, the dates varying from year to year. The fair is juried and includes a changing mix of New England craftspeople and world travelling importers featuring many wonderful gift items. There is always a great selection of beautiful, original and affordable gifts. Talking to the craftspeople who make what they sell gives shoppers a connection to what they are buying that is just not possible at the mall, through a catalogue or online. It's a high energy alternative marketplace with a great soundtrack, where people see old friends and make new ones - a taste of the old Harvard Square. Admission is always free.
Join Assembly Row for Holiday Arts & Eats Festival on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, December 6th, 7th and 8th. This will be the largest holiday event in greater Boston featuring 25 of New England’s best food trucks, a large holiday market featuring 60 Etsy artists – and more with inspiration from traditional European Chriskindl markets. Save some of the holiday shopping for this market- there are more artists, more food, and more finds for everyone! 

SoWa Holiday Market 
This year's Holiday Market will feature the very best of New England's independent designers, artists and crafters. From the fashionably chic to the hip and cutting edge, shoppers are sure to find an original gift for everyone on their list. Expect to find an exceptional array of indie goods, including: handbags, jewelry, pottery, letterpress stationery, silk-screened t-shirts, baby clothes, re-purposed wool accessories and more! This handmade holiday spectacular will be held in the spacious and historic main building of the Benjamin Franklin Institute, located in the heart of Boston's South End. Within walking distance to Boston's best galleries, boutiques and international cuisine, the SoWa Holiday Market is at the center of Boston's most diverse and exciting neighborhoods!

First Night Boston 2014
Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the City of Boston are proud to continue this beloved tradition. All First Night outdoor events are free, and admission to indoor events requires the purchase of a First Night button. The City of Boston originated the First Night concept -- an alcohol-free New Year's Eve celebration for the entire family.  Boston's city-wide First Night party includes hundreds of different indoor and outdoor locations, performances, and a thousand musical, dance, theater and other artistic performers. First Night is a daylong Festival celebrating art and community in Boston. 
Enjoy the 72nd annual lighting of Boston’s Official Christmas Tree provided as a gift by Nova Scotia. Singers Joey McIntyre and Erica Van Pelt will top the bill at Boston’s 72nd Common on Thursday, December 5, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. The holiday decorations throughout Boston Common and the Public Garden, including the City of Boston’s official Christmas tree from Halifax, a 47-foot white spruce donated by Mary Lou Milligan of Millcove, Lunenberg County, Nova Scotia, will light up in sequence shortly before 8 p.m. when Mayor Thomas M. Menino and the Honourable Andrew Younger, Minister with the Government of Nova Scotia, are joined by members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and Santa Claus. The show will close with a pyrotechnic display by MagicFire, Inc.

These are only a few of the fun holiday activities that are happening around town! Boston has a lot to offer this time of year in terms of entertainment; one never has to look far for holiday cheer. Have you already been to a holiday event in the city? We would like to hear your thoughts! 

Thanksgivukkah: When Thanksgiving Meets Hanukkah

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, November 26, 2013

For the first time in 125 years, Thanksgiving and Hanukkah fall on the same day! Both holidays are cause for great excitement for a variety of different reasons and many look forward to them every year. For some Jewish Americans, however, combining an American secular holiday with a religious holiday is a source of some confusion and consternation. 

In the United States, Thanksgiving occurs on the fourth Thursday of every November. On this day, friends and family gather together for a large dinner usually composed of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, and lots and lots of pie. What is eaten on Thanksgiving varies from family to family, but a traditional dinner always includes turkey. This holiday began in 1621, when the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast together. It is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations in the colonies. Americans are still gathering together almost 400 years later in celebration of the first Thanksgiving feast.

Hanukkah, which has been celebrated by the Jewish community since the 2nd century BCE, commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem, where according to legend Jews had risen up against their Greek-Syrian oppressors in the Maccabean Revolt. The Hanukkah celebration revolves around the lighting of a nine-branched menorah. On each of the holiday’s eight nights, another candle is added to the menorah after sundown; the ninth candle, called the shamash (“helper”), is used to light the others. Jews typically recite blessings during this ritual and display the menorah prominently in a window as a reminder to others of the miracle that inspired the holiday. Traditional Hanukkah foods are fried in oil – potato pancakes (known as latkes) and jam-filled donuts (sufganiyot) are particularly popular in many Jewish households. Other Hanukkah customs include playing with four-sided spinning tops called dreidels and exchanging gifts.  

Since both holidays involve the gathering of friends and family, large quantities of food, and giving thanks, many members of the Jewish community are excited. Others find the overlap more difficult than they would like. An article in Time Magazine, however, lists five reasons why this holiday, dubbed Thanksgivukkah, is something to cherish:
  1. Both are great excuses to stuff yourself silly 
  2. Both holidays are rooted in religion
  3. Both were started by groups who found refuge in America
  4. Both are about being thankful
  5. Both are a reason to go home  

Two other reasons to be excited about this holiday include fantastic Thanksgiving and Hanukkah recipe combinations; and the fact that the two holidays will not fall on the same day for another 79, 043 years.

Experiencing American Culture

Global Immersions Recruiting - Thursday, November 21, 2013

Watching a lot of Hollywood films and American television shows can give people from other countries interesting conclusions about the United States. In fact, there are usually things that seem typically American that are, in fact, completely false. When visitors come to the U.S. for an extended period of time, they usually find something that blows their notions of the U.S. out of the water.

What sorts of things about American culture surprised you when you visited? We want to know!

Some of the things that shocked visitors include:

Customer service: In stores, when a sales assistant says “Can I help you?” s/he actually means “Can I help you?”

Humility: How open Americans are about their shortcomings and always ready for self-criticism.

Public Transport: There is almost no public transportation except in a few large cities. People actually have to have cars to get places. Cars are necessity, not luxury.

University Concentrations: The idea of a liberal art education is strange. A student can still acquire marketable skills, expand his or her horizons, get a job after graduation, and, what is even more surprising, obtain an advance degree in a totally different field later. Yes, accountant can attend a med school and become a doctor and musician can go for a master degree in computer science.

Portion sizes: The typical food portion in America is humongous.  A person can easily share one meal with another guy and not feel hungry for hours to come.

These are only some of the things that people thought were surprising about the United States. With such a large and vibrant population, the diversity you will find in our country is amazing! There is always something new and different happening here and what someone may find surprising may seem normal to someone else. For this reason, the Global Immersions team always stresses the importance of keeping an open mind. If you approach something with a positive outlook, then you will find your travels much more enjoyable! For more insights on what aspects of American culture shocks visitors, check out this article on Thought Catalog

source: Thought Catalog

Boston Architecture Tours

Global Immersions Recruiting - Thursday, November 14, 2013

Boston boasts a lot of history and culture, which is why our city sees so many new visitors and residents every year. When a person walks up and down the street, he or she can clearly see the eclectic mix of old and new. Many of the buildings that we see have a history all their own from the architecture to the person who built them. With so much construction of new buildings occurring day in and day out, it can be hard to figure out how old these structures actually are. For those visitors interested in architecture, we have compiled a list of ways to identify the old houses throughout the city. So take a stroll throughout our neighborhoods! How many of these styles can you find?

1. First Period

These houses were built in the 1600’s to the 1700’s and can be found within Boston and in its surrounding towns. An example of this style is the Paul Revere House in the North End! Salem, Ipswich, and Newburyport are also good places to find some of these old homes. First Period architecture is also known as the Post-Medieval style. You can identify it by its iconic boxy shape, steeply pitched roof, and a large central chimney. Many have casement windows with multiple panes and are sided with narrow clapboards. These houses were meant to reflect the houses that colonists lived in while in England.

2. Federal

This style of home was common in the 1780’s to the 1820’s. Beacon Hill and the State House are two examples of this in Boston. You can also find the Federal architecture in Marblehead, Newburyport, and Salem. These houses were made to emulate ancient Greek and Rome style of architecture and are similar in shape to the Georgian style of homes. They are more refined, however, and have low-hipped roofs, decorative moulding on the cornices, and delicate fanlights on the front doors. 

3. Italianate

Built in the 1840’s to 1885, this style of house can be found in the following Boston neighborhoods: Back Bay, Dorchester, Jamaica Plain, and Roxbury. Lowell, Lynn, and New Bedford also feature this style. Common to this type of architecture are wide, bracketed eaves; and arched double or triple windows; paired, arched doorways; structural masonry or decorative wood corner quoins; and centered or full-width porches.

To learn more about the types of architecture found in Boston, check out the Boston Globe Magazine! You will find many more old houses and how to recognize them. In the mean time, see if you can find these styles around the city and guess how old they are! 

Boston also offers many different tours that deal specifically with architecture. Boston By Foot offers an architecture boat tour from May until October. Get Your Guide also gives many options for architectural tours and many other Boston events. 

Source: Boston Globe Magazine

The Origins of Halloween

Global Immersions Recruiting - Thursday, October 31, 2013

It’s that time of year again! Millions of children in the Unite d States and around the world will run around in colorful costumes and ask for sugary treats. Did you  know that a quarter of all candy sales in the U.S. are from Halloween? For Americans, Halloween is all about the candy! Not everyone celebrates Halloween, but there are many spooky celebrations around the world! In this blog post, we the origins of the holiday, how the American Halloween came to be, and a special holiday celebrated in Mexico! 

Do you celebrate Halloween? How? We want to know

Halloween Origins

Halloween's origins date back to the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain (pronounced sow-in). The Celts, who lived 2,000 years ago in the area that is now Ireland, the United Kingdom and northern France, celebrated their new year on November 1. This day marked the end of summer and the harvest and the beginning of the dark, cold winter, a time of year that was often associated with human death. Celts believed that on the night before the new year, the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. On the night of October 31 they celebrated Samhain, when it was believed that the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. In addition to causing trouble and damaging crops, Celts thought that the presence of the otherworldly spirits made it easier for the Druids, or Celtic priests, to make predictions about the future. For a people entirely dependent on the volatile natural world, these prophecies were an important source of comfort and direction during the long, dark winter. To commemorate the event, Druids built huge sacred bonfires, where the people gathered to burn crops and animals as sacrifices to the Celtic deities. During the celebration, the Celts wore costumes, typically consisting of animal heads and skins, and attempted to tell each other's fortunes. When the celebration was over, they re-lit their hearth fires, which they had extinguished earlier that evening, from the sacred bonfire to help protect them during the coming winter.

American Halloween

Did you know that the average American eats 25 pounds of candy per year? That’s equal to 200 Snickers bars! Did you know that it actually takes 364 licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop? Well, now you do. The American tradition of dressing up in costume and collecting candy is rather iconic around the world. It wasn’t always that way! The first celebrations included "play parties," public events held to celebrate the harvest, where neighbors would share stories of the dead, tell each other's fortunes, dance and sing. Colonial Halloween festivities also featured the telling of ghost stories and mischief-making of all kinds. In the second half of the nineteenth century, America was flooded with new immigrants. These new immigrants, especially the millions of Irish in 1846, helped to popularize the celebration of Halloween nationally. Taking from Irish and English traditions, Americans began to dress up in costumes and go house to house asking for food or money, a practice that eventually became today's "trick-or-treat" tradition. Young women believed that on Halloween they could divine the name or appearance of their future husband by doing tricks with yarn, apple parings or mirrors. In the late 1800s, there was a move in America to mold Halloween into a holiday more about community and neighborly get-togethers than about ghosts, pranks and witchcraft. At the turn of the century, Halloween parties for both children and adults became the most common way to celebrate the day. Parties focused on games, foods of the season and festive costumes. Parents were encouraged by newspapers and community leaders to take anything "frightening" or "grotesque" out of Halloween celebrations.

El Día de Los Muertos (Day of the Dead)

In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, Day of the Dead, which takes place on November 2, is commemorated with a three-day celebration that begins on the evening of October 31. The celebration is designed to honor the dead who, it is believed, return to their earthly homes on Halloween. Many families construct an altar to the dead in their homes to honor deceased relatives and decorate it with candy, flowers, photographs, samples of the deceased's favorite foods and drinks, and fresh water. Often, a wash basin and towel are left out so that the spirit can wash before indulging in the feast. Candles and incense are burned to help the deceased find the way home. Relatives also tidy the gravesites of their departed family members. This can include snipping weeds, making repairs, and painting. The grave is then decorated with flowers, wreaths, or paper streamers. On November 2, relatives gather at the gravesite to picnic and reminisce. Some gatherings even include tequila and a mariachi band.

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