Today marks the start of the holy month of Ramadan, where millions of Muslims around the world will spend the month fasting and praying. It is believed that 1400 years ago the Quran was shown to the Prophet Muhammad in this month. The start of Ramadan varies around 11 days each year, as it is all to do with the lunar cycle; this year the new lunar moon was seen on Sunday evening in the Middle East.
Potentially the most well known part of Ramadan is the fasting that happens. Muslims are not allowed to eat or drink during daylight. For those who miss a day of fasting they have to make up for this on another day, for example those who are travelling a long distance are allowed to eat and drink; but must make up for this another time. During Ramadan, breakfast or ‘Suhoor’ as it’s known, must be eaten half an hour before sunrise, this is also where people have the chance to drink water to be hydrated for the day ahead.
At the end of the day after sundown a communal meal is made, called ‘Iftar’, which literally translates into ‘break fast’. This is where people come together and they can eat until the next morning’s Suhoor. At both meals, fresh fruit and vegetables are served, along with halal meat, cheeses, breads and sweets. The meal caters for all of the food groups needed for a healthy body. Following the main meal different snacks can be prepared such as dates.
As well as having to follow strict eating and drinking guidelines, during the month of Ramadan, Muslims will visit the Mosque regularly. The month is used as a way to improve morality and work on themselves. Last year 14 million Muslims visited the city of Mecca within the first 2 weeks of the holy month. Mecca is the holiest city in the Islamic religion, and is the place where Muhammad first saw the Quran.
At the end of Ramadan, Muslims celebrate ‘Eid al-Fitr’ which translates as the ‘festival or breaking the fast’; here they gather at the Mosque for a prayer and spend all day with family and friends. The celebration goes on for three days and marks a new beginning for each individual.
We were disappointed recently to find that – somehow – we had missed National Tartan Day. I know! We’ll do better next year.
Although you might think National Tartan Day is a Scottish endeavour, it actually stems from North America and seems to have developed into rather a massive Celtic festival. Which leads us to wonder, what exactly is tartan and why is it so important?
When we think of tartan, we generally think of a woven patterned cloth which belongs to a particular Scottish clan. Most clans will tend to have both a dress and hunting tartan, the hunting tartan being a sombre version made up of dark colours whilst the dress usually swaps a colour from the pattern out for white, making it much brighter. There is a lot of etiquette around tartan, and I for one would not try to wear a tartan that I had no connection with, sticking instead to the tartans from my family’s history.
Or, I might wear a Cornish tartan, because in recent times tartan has become increasingly used by regions, ethnicities and businesses. Cornwall’s tartan was created in the 1960s and has really caught on, being widely available on tourist knick-knacks and formal clothing. At a wedding I recently attended, the groom and best men were all wearing Cornish tartan waistcoats, and the Cornish tartan kilt is not an unusual site at a festival. What is perhaps especially nice about this regional tartan is that anyone Cornish is entitled to use it- there’s no difficulty in etiquette- and even if you’re not Cornish but want to celebrate Cornwall, you’re more than welcome to help yourself to some Cornish tartan, as long as you can stand the slightly weird and bright mustard yellow of it…
If you want to wear tartan but don’t really feel a particular affiliation with a particular clan, then a good option for British and Commonwealth citizens is the Hunting Stewart tartan which, being Queen Elizabeth II’s personal tartan, can be used by all of her subjects. The other good option is Black Watch, also known as Government Tartan, which is traditionally available to those who don’t have a tartan of their own.
Do you have a particular tartan you wear, or thoughts on tartan etiquette? We’d love to hear from you!
As the annual festival of Oktoberfest gets underway in Munich this week, we’ve chosen German as our latest Language of the Week.
If you’re anything like us, when you hear ‘Oktoberfest’ you probably think of beer (oh – just us?) but there’s a lot more to the event than that. Oktoberfest is actually the world’s largest funfair, and it’s a 16-day festival running from late September to early October. There is a lot of beer consumed though – 6.7 million litres at the 2013 festival! – and it’s also a great place to try traditional German food.
German is often described as a less attractive language to learn than, say, Spanish or Italian, but we’re not sure we agree. For one thing, German’s far more creative. How many other languages have a word for ‘a face badly in need of a fist’? It’s backpfeifengesicht, in case you were interested.
– It’s an official language of five countries: Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Liechtenstein, and has at least 100 million native speakers around the world.
– You might know more German than you think – ever used the word ‘angst’, ‘kindergarten’ or ‘doppelgänger’? These are just a few examples – there are plenty more.
– German is known for its very long words, which are created by sticking together other words to explain a concept. In 2013, the language lost its longest word – rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz – which is 63 letters long and means ‘law delegating beef label monitoring’, thanks to a change in EU regulations.
However most of these long compound words don’t appear in the dictionary. The longest word that does appear is kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung (‘automobile liability insurance’) at a mere 36 letters long, although we wish donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitaenswitwe (widow of a Danube steamboat company captain) was in there too.
We love this video by Language Hat, which is a really fun explanation of how these long words are put together. If you don’t find yourself craving rhubarb cake or beer by the end of it, you’re doing better than us!
– ‘Gift’ may be a nice thing in English, but in German it means ‘poison’, so be careful who you give it to…
– In German, when telling the time, ‘half three’ actually means ‘half an hour before three’ (i.e. ‘half past two’) – definitely worth knowing before making any plans.
– Germany is often known as Das Land der Dichter und Denker, which means ‘the land of poets and thinkers’. Not surprising really, since this is the country that gave us Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Thomas Mann, Albert Einstein and the Brothers Grimm. It’s also the home of the first pregnancy test, invented by German researchers Selmar Aschheim and Bernhard Zondek. So now you know.
We know there are a lot of German fans out there, so please tell us why you love the language and the country – either in the comments or on Twitter to @EuroTalk with hashtag #loveGerman 🙂