Category Archives: North America

What Makes the Fall Season So Special in the United States?

Standard

Meeting people from around the world, I have noticed that they are often surprised by how much Americans love the fall season. To many people (at least in the northern hemisphere), fall means the end of summer and the beginning of winter. In the United States, fall is arguably the best season of the year. Why?

1. Throughout the fall season, tree leaves change colors for some of the most beautiful natural views of the year. Along with the brightly colored trees, the air is crisp and sweet, making it very inviting for you to go outside and explore.

Source: Picstar

Source: Picstar

2. Fall flavors are warm and comforting. In the United States, you will find pumpkin-flavored everything. Pumpkin pie is typically a family favorite, but you will find pumpkin-flavored coffee, pastries, and more! Apple flavor is also popular. The flavors of Thanksgiving are some of the most memorable, including turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, and sweet potatoes.

Source: bpkwesthartford.com

Source: bpkwesthartford.com

3. Fall activities bring your family and friends together. Apple picking is a great way to get outside with your loved ones and pick apples that you can eat right off the tree or use in recipes, such as apple crisp or apple pie. Common in the Midwest and Northeastern United States is visiting cider mills, which serve fresh apple cider, homemade donuts and pastries. They also often have farm animals and outdoor activities for you to enjoy while eating your treats. Carving pumpkins is another fall favorite, as you can make a jack-o-lantern to decorate your porch and you can bake the pumpkin seeds for a nice snack!

My favorite cider mill in my hometown, Rochester, Michigan!

My favorite cider mill in my hometown, Rochester, Michigan!

4. Halloween (October 31 every year) provides the perfect opportunity to disguise yourself as your favorite character or silly costume that is guaranteed to make your loved ones laugh. Along with wearing costumes, you can eat your favorite candies with little remorse, visit haunted houses, experience hayrides, and go to Halloween parties. Children also have the opportunity to go trick-or-treating, where they visit their neighbors and ask for candy while dressed up in adorable costumes.

One of my favorite personal pumpkin carvings!

One of my favorite Halloween pumpkin carvings!

5. American football, played in the fall, has more spirit than any other sport in the United States. You will see football spirit at all levels, from middle and high school to college to professional football. Americans enjoy tailgating before football games, which involves eating barbeque food, drinking beer, playing games such as cornhole, and cheering for your favorite team. The spirit exists every weekend and has created tremendous rivalries across the United States. I have had an interesting experience with football having moved throughout the Midwest and now to the Southern United States – my loyalties have shifted, but I will always root for my alma mater (University of Michigan) first!

University of Michigan Football Stadium - holds the largest crowd (over 114,000 people) in the United States!

University of Michigan Football Stadium – holds the largest crowd (over 114,000 people) in the United States!

I hope this gives you a taste of all the special qualities of fall in the United States. Just writing about it makes me grateful that fall is here. I would be grateful to hear why fall is (or is not) your favorite season and how it compares to other seasons throughout the world!

Advertisements

Respecting the Significance of Cinco de Mayo

Standard

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

As many people in Mexico, the U.S. (including me), and throughout the world celebrate the holiday, it is important to remember its significance to Mexico.

Source: HLNTV

Source: HLNTV

I have read several articles about Cinco de Mayo and appropriate ways to acknowledge its symbolism. One of the most insightful articles I read was by Raul A. Reyes, an attorney and member of the USA Today board of contributors. Below I have captured his article, On Cinco de Mayo, celebrate, don’t stereotype, on CNN:

“Time to pass the margarita pitcher? For most Americans, Cinco de Mayo calls to mind tequila shots, mariachi music, and special promotions at Mexican restaurants. The Fifth of May usually means that it’s time for a mid-week fiesta.

Not so fast. It’s worth knowing more about Cinco de Mayo, our homegrown holiday. We should at least recall its true meaning and context. With Cinco de Mayo, the U.S. has gone straight to commercialization with little thought to its original significance.

That’s a shame, because Cinco de Mayo is a seminal date in Mexican history. It is a holiday that deserves respect, and it can even be seen as a metaphor for the Hispanic experience.

Contrary to popular assumption, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. Mexican Independence Day is September 16 — and dates back to 1810, more than 50 years before the first Cinco de Mayo.

Cinco de Mayo marks the date of a Mexican military victory over France — not Spain. On May 5, 1862, several hundred Mexican soldiers defeated a much larger contingent of the French army in the Battle of Puebla. France had sent troops to Mexico after the country suspended payments on foreign debts. Although Mexico ultimately lost this war (and the French did not withdraw until several years later), the Battle of Puebla was a huge morale booster for Mexicans.

It was a David-vs.-Goliath situation, as the French army was then considered one of the best in the world. If only more Americans knew this! For if Americans love anything, it’s come-from-behind victories.

It also might surprise people that Cinco de Mayo is more of a big deal in the U.S. than Mexico. Though the date is a holiday in Mexico, it is celebrated mostly in Puebla, the site of the 1862 battle. In the U.S., the observance of Cinco de Mayo is thought to have originated among Mexican laborers in the in the mid-1800s as a celebration of national pride.

A century later, Mexican-American activists in the 1960s claimed it as a symbol of ethnic identity. Then corporations discovered Cinco de Mayo as a way to market to Latino consumers, and the holiday went mainstream. So here is a celebration that began among lowly immigrant workers that has now been recognized by Madison Avenue and Wall Street. It’s a process that mirrors the assimilation of Latinos into the fabric of society.

Cinco de Mayo is an imported celebration that has now become as American as the Fourth of July. How amazing is that?

Unfortunately, the American celebration of Cinco de Mayo often results in a parade of stereotypes. Last year alone: An MSNBC morning show apologized for a misguided segment that featured a producer shaking a maraca and doing a shot of tequila; an ABC News anchor apologized for wearing a sombrero and adopting an accent on what she called “Cinco de Drinko”; a Seattle radio station drew anger from local Hispanics after sponsoring a festival that encouraged people to “come dressed in the celebratory attire of festive Mexico”; and at a North Carolina college, some students took offense at Cinco de Mayo being observed with students donning sombreros and chocolate “mustaches.”

The sad thing about all these incidents is that the parties involved probably had a good impulse to mark Cinco de Mayo. Yet they showed poor judgment in how they did it.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating Cinco de Mayo at a local bar or restaurant. I just hope people remember that there is more to it than Corona happy hours. Cinco de Mayo remains a meaningful date in Mexico and a point of pride for Mexican-Americans as well. Besides, we can never go wrong by showing a bit of cultural sensitivity. Just consider how it would strike us if we saw another country marking the Battle of Gettysburg with binge drinking and Uncle Sam hats.

This Cinco de Mayo, let’s ditch the sombreros, fake accents, and mustaches. Instead let’s honor the shared heritage of Mexico and the U.S. with joy and without stereotypes.

In fact, I’ll drink to that.”

As many North Americans and others throughout the world consider celebrating Cinco de Mayo, we should remember to celebrate respectfully, honoring the Mexican heritage that it represents.