Tag Archives: holiday

Tips to Help You Enjoy St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Happy St. Patty’s Day!

For those that may be new to the countries where this holiday is celebrated, or for those who would like to know a bit more about the beginnings of this day, please read on.

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17th in many countries, especially Ireland, England, Canada and the USA. It is a day that you can celebrate by yourself or preferably with friends by doing the following:

1.  Wear some green clothing

Young or old, you can add a bit of green to your ensemble or, if you are more daring, be obvious about your love of this day and dress head-to-toe in green!  Some like to wear a shirt with a shamrock on it, or better yet, attention-getting slogans like “Everybody’s Irish!” or “Kiss me I’m Irish!” 

2.  Drink green beer

It is not uncommon to drink green beer at the pub on this day, though traditionalists look down upon this gimmick.  Don’t worry – harmless green food dye is used.  So if old enough, you should drink at a pub, preferably Irish or British, and take part in their promotions. Most pubs and restaurants will have some promotional games or contests, perhaps sponsors like Guiness, Harp or Kilkenny (Irish beers) will offer freebies (giveaways at no cost).  If you do want to drink in a local pub be warned – Irish and British pubs fill up quickly on this day, well before the 5 pm whistle is blown.  It’s the place to be on St. Patty’s Day!

3.  See a St. Patrick’s Day parade

Today’s St. Patrick’s Day celebrations are all about having fun.  A number of years ago the parades were seriously Irish, but these days, you can see a lot of diverse floats, clubs, bands and costumes.  I remember when I was young seeing a cowboy at a St. Patrick’s Day parade and wondering “What’s he doing there?”  LOL

4.  Re-tell the original story of St. Patrick:

A young English boy was stolen from his home and brought back to then-wild Ireland and held as a slave. During these difficult years the young man turned to his Christian faith to keep him going. One night he dreamed that he would walk over a hill and discover a boat that would rescue him. Shortly thereafter he escaped and found such a boat. He finally made it back to his home in England.

Later, as a priest, he decided to return to Ireland, where he knew the language and customs, to convert them to Christianity. Other missionaries had been killed, but he was successful.

He added the circle to the cross which represented the sun, and created the “Celtic cross.”

He used the 3-leaf clover to explain the Holy Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Spirit) to the Irish people. That is why the clover or “shamrock” is a strong symbol not only on St. Patrick’s Day but of Ireland itself.

This is just a brief background description. If interested, please do more research to learn about this fun and interesting holiday, and don’t be shy to get into the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day!

Cheers!

History and Rituals of Halloween

Halloween is almost upon us!

I would like to take this opportunity to remind all the readers of this blog that even though the category is called ‘Speak English Better’, the blogs’ focus is also on learning and understanding culture.  Why?  Because as I have said a hundred million ka-billion times – English language cannot be used solely as a tool of grammar and spelling.  To truly ‘speak English better’ you must understand the history and culture of English-speaking lands, especially if you are living in one now, permanently or temporarily.

I love Halloween.  As kids we got to make our own costumes (with the help of Mom and Dad of course) and go out ‘trick or treating’ to get a bag full of candy!  What more could a North American kid want?  (All that sugar is soooo bad for you though….but we didn’t care!)

Now as adults we might dress up in costume and go to bars or house-parties to drink instead, or we might stay at home and give out candy to little trick-or-treaters who visit our homes.  It’s still fun!  And we MUST watch scary horror movies as well!

In the olden days, the costumes were ‘evil’ creatures, like devils, goblins, vampires, ghosts, and any of the other Silver Screen Matinee classic monsters.  In the olden-olden days, when Halloween was first being ‘developed’ as a practice, the idea was to dress yourself up as an evil spirit in order to fool the real evil spirits around, so that they would leave you alone.  In fact, did you know that one of the reasons why we have the custom of covering our mouths while we yawn is not just out of politeness, but to avoid ‘spirits’ entering our bodies?  Yes, we humans were very superstitious many years ago!

Anyway, if you would like to learn more about the history of Halloween, including the name, the colours, the costumes, the religious influences and the jack-O-lantern (carved pumpkin) please do a little more reading at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Halloween or start asking folks around you about their experience with Halloween.

Enjoy this rather odd but fun celebration, and do not get sick on too much candy! (or ‘sweets’ as my British friends would say!)

Happy Halloween!

Origins of Canadian Thanksgiving (this weekend!)

Canadian Thanksgiving – How It Began

The origins of Canadian Thanksgiving are more closely connected to the traditions of Europe than of the United States. Long before Europeans settled in North America, festivals of thanks and celebrations of harvest took place in Europe in the month of October. The very first Thanksgiving celebration in North America took place in Canada when Martin Frobisher, an explorer from England, arrived in Newfoundland in 1578. He wanted to give thanks for his safe arrival to the New World

. That means the first Thanksgiving in Canada was celebrated 43 years before the pilgrims landed in Plymouth, Massachusetts!

Canadian Thanksgiving – Official Holiday

For a few hundred years, Thanksgiving was celebrated in either late October or early November, before it was declared a national holiday in 1879. It was then, that November 6th was set aside as the official Thanksgiving holiday. But then on January 31, 1957, Canadian Parliament announced that on the second Monday in October, Thanksgiving would be “a day of general thanksgiving to almighty God for the bountiful harvest with which Canada has been blessed.” Thanksgiving was moved to the second Monday in October because after the World Wars, Remembrance Day (November 11th) and Thanksgiving kept falling in the same week.

Canadian Thanksgiving – The 49th Parallel

Another reason for Canadian Thanksgiving arriving earlier than its American counterpart is that Canada is geographically further north than the United States, causing the Canadian harvest season to arrive earlier than the American harvest season. And since Thanksgiving for Canadians is more about giving thanks for the harvest season than the arrival of pilgrims, it makes sense to celebrate the holiday in October. So what are the differences between Canadian and American Thanksgiving, other than the date? Not much! Both Canadians and Americans celebrate Thanksgiving with parades, family gatherings, pumpkin pie and a whole lot of turkey!

What will you be doing to celebrate Thanksgiving this year? Do you have any family traditions that you’re looking forward to? Let us know all about your Thanksgiving plans!
(This post is from KidzWorld – original post:  http://www.kidzworld.com/article/2614-canadian-thanksgiving )

For more information on Canadian Thanksgiving:
http://www.twilightbridge.com/hobbies/festivals/thanksgiving/canada/ 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thanksgiving_%28Canada%29 

What am I doing?
I will eat Turkey with tons of side dishes, complete with lots of wine, with my close family tonight.
I am going to gain 5 pounds in 3 hours!

Florida woman claims ‘Merry Christmas’ greeting got her fired

Hello all,

I should not be working on Christmas eve, rather enjoying my drink and relaxing.
This article caught my eye, and I had to pass it on. I could spew a lot of my opinion here, but for now all I want to say is that this article is ‘interesting’ and ‘disturbing’ at the same time, especially the last line. Sometimes I do not recognize the world that I live in. Anyway, if you like, read it and make up your own mind as to what the real issue was.

Merry Christmas everyone!
(Happy Holidays too!)

By Melissa Nelson, The Associated Press

PENSACOLA, Fla. – A Florida woman claims a vacation rental company fired her because she used “‘Merry Christmas” to greet callers.

Thirty-five-year-old Tonia Thomas says she lost her job after failing to use the company-mandated greeting of “Happy Holidays.”

The Panama City woman and self-described strong Christian has filed a federal complaint that accuses the company of religious discrimination.

She has since found another job since her Dec. 10th firing, but for less money and is seeking compensation for lost wages.

Her former employer, Counts-Oakes Resorts Properties Inc., says it’s no Scrooge.

It describes the woman as just a disgruntled employee, but refuses to elaborate.

Liberty Counsel, an Orlando-based legal group that advocates for people discriminated against because of their religion, is representing Thomas before the federal Equal Opportunity Employment Commission.

Their complaint also accuses the company of harassing and taunting Thomas after she was fired by calling the police to watch her pack her belongs and leave.

Thomas could have hard time winning the case, said Thomas Harper, a Jacksonville-based labour lawyer who writes a newsletter on Florida employment law.

“I wouldn’t think an employee has the right to insist (on saying Merry Christmas) unless that really is a tenet of their faith.

She would have to make a strong case that was part of her beliefs, if not, it becomes insubordination,” he said.

Harper said when it comes to holiday greetings, the smartest choice might be ignoring the season.

“The best option is just not to say anything,” he said.

Control Your Attitude to Improve Your Communications

Hello everyone,

Tis the season to be holly, jolly and happy, but unfortunately a few people out there have not received the message.

Yesterday I saw two guys almost get in a fist fight on the subway platform, until an undercover cop broke them up. The day before, during a big snow storm, I heard one driver yell to another to “watch out, or I will push you into the ditch!”  Even though I was not directly involved in either of these cases, I was still struck with a reaction. Actually my reaction was immediately to shake my head and wonder why people would risk hurting themselves or innocent by-standers over something as trivial as their own ego and misplaced sense of competitiveness.

Let me expand my thought process to you on this.

Do I have a healthy ego and strong sense of self? Yes, for sure. I am reasonably confident and assume I can hold my own in any situation. Do I get annoyed or offended if someone does some kind of perceived injustice to me? Yeah, sort of, but not really.

“What kind of strange answer is that?” I hear you scream. It is my reaction to competitive behaviour when I am not involved in a game or sport.

Winter storm driving is not a sport. Shopping is not a sport. Getting in line or queue for the subway train is not a sport. I think you get my point. Competition is for sports and games with rules to follow, to determine a winner. None of the above activities should apply.

I have built up a ‘filter’ so that when something happens to me or around me 99% of the time I do not over-react with emotion and ego, or with a competitive spirit. I do not see it as a contest of wills, of right and wrong, of winning and losing. I instead try my best to empathize with the other person or people, and I give them permission to be a flawed human, just like me. Through empathy I try to connect with them and calmly work at resolving the issue, one way or another.

Empathy is the key to communication. We must try to listen, read body language and see the issue from the other person’s perspective. We do not need to fight, or run away, or apologize, or get riled up with defensiveness. We instead should practice self-control and empathy first.

I know some of you understand exactly what I am saying, and I also know some of you are wondering what happy-pill I just took. 🙂   The truth is (to me anyway) that attitude, self-confidence, self-control, conflict management skills and empathy are huge parts of better communication, and that is why we need to incorporate them. When we get emotional and defensive in attitude, we cannot think as clearly as when we maintain our composure, relate to the key emotions first, then problem solve the situation to a satisfactory resolution.

On a personal note I would like to share something with you. Over 20 years of study and practice in martial arts here in Canada and abroad in Asia have taught me two important things. One: I assume I can fight, and I will always hope to be able to hold my own.  Two: I hate to fight, and will do everything I can to avoid it.

Just because I can do something, does not mean that I should do that thing.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of you, wherever you are. Enjoy your family time and control your positive attitude, no matter what happens to you or around you.

That will serve you as a gift that keeps on giving, throughout your life, and also for the others around you.

All the best,

Ric

Surviving the Work Christmas Party

‘Tis the season to be invited to Christmas (or ‘holiday’ or ‘festive season’, etc.) parties sponsored by your place of employment. At first it sounds like a great idea: take a day or half-day off work, mingle with friends and co-workers, eat free food and drink free booze. What a great way to get into the spirit of the season and to start saying good bye to 2008 and looking forward to 2009. So what could be wrong with this picture?

At first, I personally did not see a problem with in-house celebrations. It seems to build team spirit and gives employees and managers a chance to see each other in a more relaxed atmosphere, even presenting opportunities to get to know each other on a more personal level. And herein lies the problem.

I remember way back in 1997 I was working in an office in Mississauga, Ontario and I was one of the youngest employees there at the time. I was excited to be making a salary instead of a wage, and I was enjoying my job for the most part. I remember one woman named Michelle who I had developed a friendship for and more to the point, a lot of respect for. We were discussing the topic of Christmas parties (and any work-related social gathering for that matter) and she staunchly stated that she would never attend a work party. I asked why, naturally. She said that you go to a function on a Friday or Saturday, and by Monday morning, the atmosphere at work is suddenly different, because of some people’s (mis-)behaviours. Tension is in the air, eyes are darting around, whispers are heard and rumours are milling around the water-cooler. This is what Michelle did not like, and that is why she refused to attend work functions specifically where alcohol was to be served.

So what do you think of Michelle’s personal rule? Is it a smart rule or is it too strict?

I will let you decide. I can tell you that I was a big fan of free food and drinks, and before she gave me her advice I was not thinking ahead to the next work week. After I listened to her advice I decided that yes I would attend such functions, but I would be wary of my behaviour and monitor how much and how quickly I drank, if at all. Here are a few common-sense tips to controlling your behaviour at a work party:

1 – Eat a decent meal before attending. This is to avoid pigging out while you are there and also to avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Displaying a voracious appetite is not professional, nor is getting loopy on one drink. It will then be a long night for you, or worse, a very short one.

2 – If you decide to drink, pace yourself. Make a rule that you will have one drink per hour and actually take note of the time when you start and end your drinks.

3- Sip, do not guzzle. Some drinks just go down too fast and smoothly, don’t they? But this is not a family summer BBQ, this is a work function and you will be judged Monday on how you carry yourself here and by what you say. Try sipping on a light beer, or a cocktail that is not so appealing to you, like a scotch on the rocks or a martini. This will force you to sip on it with more control. This also allows you to constantly have a drink in front of you so you are not pressured to get another. The ‘empty-hand’ syndrome causes us to feel out of place and so we often rush to get a replacement beverage. This can accidentally cause over-drinking.

4 – Be confident in your choices. If someone challenges you on how many drinks you have had or something similar, I hope you can simply smile and tell the person the truth, or disengage from the conversation politely. A confident person has no need to feel bad about limiting his or her drinking in public. A confident communicator is aware of image management rules and is determined to have a happy Monday with no scandals created on their part.

5 – Lie if you want to avoid peer pressure. Sometimes a ‘white lie’ is useful as a communication tactic. It is the art of mis-direction. You can claim your 0.5 beer is a ‘real beer’. You can brag that your cranberry juice is really a Cape Cod (vodka and cranberry). Ask the bartender to give you a lime garnish even when your drink has no alcohol. Looks can be deceiving. Or better yet, claim that your second drink is really your third or fourth. Please note that this is a tactic to use when you do not want to get caught up in the ‘competitive’ side of drinking that sometimes takes place, or if you are somehow feeling out of place for not drinking with colleagues, and you just want to fit in at the moment. This rule is not as good as the above rule number four, but in a pinch, it can get you out of a competition that you do not want to enter.

6 – Be a leader not a follower. Stick to your decisions and manage your image. Do not get caught following the crowd or using the mob mentality as an excuse to do something out of character. Also, if you see a co-worker or friend stepping out of their shell a little too much, take them aside discreetly and give them some friendly advice. Let them know that you care about them and are concerned about their behaviour. Speak to them as a mentor, not as a parent.

7 – Manage people as well as yourself. It is great to manage yourself but you also have the ability and perhaps even the responsibility to manage others. For example, if a person comes up to you and starts flirting, and you are not comfortable with it, you could ‘play dumb’ and pretend that you think it is all a big joke. Smile, laugh and walk away. There is not always a need to make a big scene at the time. Some incidents can be stopped easily before they get out of hand by using this technique. In other words, you do not embarrass the other person and then on Monday you do not have the thick tension in the air, and do not have to have a formal meeting with managers, etc. We have all said something or done something bold when we have been nervous or intoxicated. We are all human. Sometimes keeping their dignity in tact is a great gift that you can bestow upon them. After all, is this not the season for gift-giving?

There are other rules and tips of etiquette that we could go over but for now I think that is enough to get you thinking of how you will manage yourself if and when you attend your holiday parties. There are benefits to attending if you play your cards right. A lot of business is done informally, or ‘on the golf course’ as we say. However if you damage your image in the eyes of management then you will lose credibility and will not be considered so quickly for promotions. You may even lose your job, if not formally, then by virtue of feeling embarrassed by your actions that you search for new employment.

I hope none of that happens to you. I wish you all the best for December and prosperity in 2009.

Thank you.