Tag Archives: France

Speaker Nancy Pelosi Meets with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France

Posted by: Audiegrl

U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) (R) speaks to the media as French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) listens as they meet on Capitol Hill March 30, 2010 in Washington, DC. Sarkozy is on a visit in Washington and he will meet with President Barack Obama in the Oval Office later today. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images North America)

Speaker Nancy Pelosi held a press availability this afternoon with President Nicolas Sarkozy of France prior to their meeting in the Capitol. Below are their remarks:

Speaker Pelosi:
Good afternoon. Once again, it is an honor to welcome the President of the French Republic to the Capitol of the United States. We all remember with great pride his beautiful speech to a joint session of Congress.

We are all reminded there are only two paintings in the chamber of the House of Representatives—one of the father of our country, George Washington, the other of the Marquis de Lafayette. Our friendship goes back a long way, and the President’s visit then and now reinforces that friendship.

I look forward to our conversation regarding the security of our countries: whether it relates to stopping the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and the situation in Iran relating to that; our cooperation in Afghanistan; and the issue of regulatory reform and our economic security. I would be interested to hear the President’s thinking on that subject. I know he has been a strong leader in that regard as well. And then of course, the issue of climate change, in which France and the European Union have lead the way.

So I am delighted to receive once again, President Sarkozy to the Capitol in friendship and again, with great recollections of his excellent speech to the Congress now almost two-and-a-half years ago when he was a new President of the French Republic.

President Sarkozy:[Translated from French]
I am so happy to be back in the Capitol. Thank you for your kind words about my speech. I, believe you me, I have not forgotten that moment, which was a memorable one in my life.

We will cover the wide range of topics you mentioned. I have much admiration for you, Madam Speaker. It is a great and wonderful symbol that there be a woman Speaker, in this, the world’s number one power.

This visit to the United States is very important to me. This afternoon with President Obama, I will be talking about the joint work of France and the United States.

Thank you.

SOURCE Office of the Speaker of the House

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82nd Annual Academy Awards ~ Oscars® ~ Best Foreign Language Film

Posted by: Audiegrl

Ajami
Ajami(Israel) Directed by Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani

Click here for complete coverage of Ajami, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

El Secreto de Sus Ojos
El Secreto de Sus Ojos(Argentina) Directed by Juan José Campanella

Click here for complete coverage of El Secreto de Sus Ojos, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

The Milk of Sorrow
The Milk of Sorrow(Peru) Directed by Claudia Llosa

Click here for complete coverage of The Milk of Sorrow, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

Un Prophète
Un Prophète(France) Directed by Jacques Audiard

Click here for complete coverage of Un Prophète, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…

The White Ribbon
The White Ribbon(Germany) Directed by Michael Haneke

Click here for complete coverage of The White Ribbon, that includes: nominations, trailers, cast, reviews, production notes, and more…
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Academy Award® Nominated: Un Prophète (The Prophet) ~ France

Ensemble post by: Audiegrl and Geot

Un Prophéte France
Set largely within prison walls, the film details the prison career of Malik el Djebena (Tahar Rahim), a 19-year-old man of North African origin but estranged from the Muslim community. Sentenced to six years for what appears to be violence against police (albeit denied by Malik), he is chosen by Cesar Luciani (Niels Arestrup), feared kingpin of the prisons reigning Corsican gang, to kill a prisoner named Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi) who had initially offers Malik drugs in exchange for sex. Reyeb is in prison awaiting testifying against the mob. Malik commits the bloody murder, and thanks to Luciani’s near-total control of the prisons internal workings – gets off scot-free. This makes him a lieutenant in the prisons Corsican gang, initially entrusted only with menial duties and disparaged as an Arab outsider.

Haunted by visions of a ghostly Reyeb, and determined to get on, the illiterate Malik not only learns to read, but teaches himself Corsican, surreptitiously learning the ins and outs of Luciani’s business. Another inmate, Ryad (Adel Bencherif), becomes Malik’s friend, later his ally on the outside. When Luciani arranges periods of leave for Malik, entrusting him with various criminal missions, Malik takes the opportunity to do some business of his own, setting up a drugs trade with Ryad’s aid. Life gets increasingly dangerous for Malik, both inside and outside prison walls, but he seems partly through Reyeb’s benign, unearthly influence – to lead a charmed life. Powers of prophecy are attributed to him after surviving a bizarre car crash an incident presaged in an enigmatic fantasy sequence.

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Credits

Directer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jacques Audiard
Screenplay . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Thomas Bidegain, Jacques Audiard, Abdel Raouf
Cinematography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Stéphane Fontaine
Editing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Juliette Welfling
Production Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michel Barthélemy
Costume Design . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Virginie Montel
Music . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Alexandre Desplat
Sound . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Brigitte Taillandier
Production Company . . . . . . . . . . . . .Why Not Productions/Page 114/Chic Films

The cast includes: Tahar Rahim (Malik El Djebena), Niels Arestrup (Cesar Luciani), Hichem Yacoubi (Reyeb), Adel Bencherif (Riad).

Reviews

IMDB member from France
At times hard to watch but in the end you come out with the feeling of having watched a masterpiece. Perfect acting, scenario, directing, cinematography & sound…This is definitely not a Hollywood production, but the best of what french cinema can be. Audiard is a great director, having previously made Read My Lips which I also recommend. The main actor Tahar Rahim is a revelation, keep an eye on him in the future. Niels Arestrup is also quite good in his role as a Corsican crime boss.

Did You Know?

Un Prophète is the 36th nomination for France. It has taken home nine Oscars for My Uncle (1958), Black Orpheus (1959), Sundays and Cybele (1962), A Man and a Woman (1966), The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972), Day for Night (1973), Madame Rosa (1977), Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (1978) and Indochine (1992).

Additionally, France received three Special/Honorary Awards prior to the establishment of Foreign Language Film as a regular category in 1956: for Monsieur Vincent (1948), The Walls of Malapaga (1950) [shared with Italy] and Forbidden Games (1952). Other nominations were for Gervaise (1956), Gates of Paris (1957), La Vérité (1960), The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964), Live for Life (1967), Stolen Kisses (1968), My Night at Maud’s (1969), Hoa-Binh (1970), Lacombe, Lucien (1974), Cousin, Cousine (1976), A Simple Story (1979), The Last Metro (1980), Coup de Torchon (“Clean Slate”) (1982), Entre Nous (1983), Three Men and a Cradle (1985), Betty Blue (1986), Au Revoir Les Enfants (Goodbye, Children) (1987), Camille Claudel (1989), Cyrano de Bergerac (1990), Ridicule (1996), East-West (1999), The Taste of Others (2000), Amélie (2001), The Chorus (Les Choristes) (2004), Joyeux Noël (2005) and The Class (2008).

One Nomination

Best Foreign Language Film ~ France

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80 Best Picture Posters to Premiere at the Academy

Posted by: Audiegrl

The Wizard of Oz movie posterThe Wizard of Oz,” “Citizen Kane” and “Casablanca” will be among the 80 Best Picture nominees represented in the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ new exhibition “The More the Merrier: Posters from the Ten Best Picture Nominees, 1936 – 1943,” opening on Saturday, January 23, in the Academy’s Grand Lobby Gallery in Beverly Hills. Admission is free.

Focusing on the eight consecutive years during which there were annually ten Best Picture nominees, the exhibition will showcase what are arguably some of the most striking movie posters ever created, including artwork for “Romeo and Juliet” (1936), “A Star Is Born” (1937), “Jezebel” (1938), “Stagecoach” (1939), “The Philadelphia Story” (1940), “The Maltese Falcon” (1941), “The Pride of the Yankees” (1942) and “Heaven Can Wait” (1943). Key artists and illustrators whose work will be featured include Norman Rockwell, Al Hirschfeld, Jacques Kapralik, France’s Boris Grinsson and Pierre Pigeot, and Italy’s Ercole Brini.

The exhibition also will present the only known three-sheet posters for “The Great Ziegfeld” (1936), the special British cinema display for “Lost Horizon” (1937), and an original painting for “Gone with the Wind” (1939) by the prolific artist Sergio Gargiulo.

Gone With the Wind movie posterThe More the Merrier” is drawn from the collection of Academy member and poster art director Mike Kaplan, and augmented by materials from the Academy’s Margaret Herrick Library. The posters include foreign versions from South American and Europe.

The specific number of Best Picture nominees ranged from 3 to 12 in the Awards years from 1927/28 through 1943; in 1944 the number was set at 5, as it remained until 2009. The 82nd Academy Awards®, which will be televised on Sunday, March 7, will return to the Academy’s past practice of nominating 10 films for the Best Picture award.

Kaplan will lead a public gallery talk at the Academy on Sunday, January 24, at 3 p.m. No reservations are required.

The More the Merrier: Posters from the Ten Best Picture Nominees, 1936 – 1943” will be on display through Sunday, April 18. The Academy’s Grand Lobby Gallery is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills and is open Tuesday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends, noon to 6 p.m. For more information call (310) 247-3600 or visit www.oscars.org.

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Cancer Treatment and Health Care Reform

Blogged by: BarbaraOBrien1

One argument you may hear against health care reform concerns cancer survival rates. The United States has higher cancer survivor rates than countries with national health care systems, we’re told. Doesn’t this mean we should keep what we’ve got and not change it?

Certainly cancer survival rates are a critical issue for people suffering from the deadly lung mesothelioma cancer. So let’s look at this claim and see if there is any substance to it.

First, it’s important to understand that “cancer survival rate” doesn’t mean the rate of people who are cured of a cancer. The cancer survival rate is the percentage of people who survive a certain type of cancer for a specific amount of time, usually five years after diagnosis.

For example, according to the Mayo Clinic, the survivor rate of prostate cancer in the United States is 98 percent. This means that 98 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are still alive five years later. However, this statistic does not tell us whether the men who have survived for five years still have cancer or what number of them may die from it eventually.

Misunderstanding of the term “survivor rate” sometimes is exploited to make misleading claims. For example, in 2007 a pharmaceutical company promoting a drug used to treat colon cancer released statistics showing superior survival rates for its drug over other treatments. Some journalists who used this data in their reporting assumed it meant that the people who survived were cured of cancer, and they wrote that the drug “saved lives.” The drug did extend the lives of of patients, on average by a few months. However, the mortality rate for people who used this drug — meaning the rate of patients who died of the disease — was not improved.

But bloggers and editorial writers who oppose health care reform seized these stories about “saving lives,” noting that this wondrous drug was available in the United States for at least a year before it was in use in Great Britain. Further, Britain has lower cancer survival rates than the U.S. This proved, they said, the superiority of U.S. health care over “socialist” countries.

This is one way propagandists use data to argue that health care in the United States is superior to countries with government-funded health care systems. They selectively compare the most favorable data from the United States with data from the nations least successful at treating cancer. A favorite “comparison” country is Great Britain, whose underfunded National Health Service is struggling.

It is true that the United States compares very well in the area of cancer survival rates, but other countries with national health care systems have similar results.

For example, in 2008 the British medical journal Lancet Oncology published a widely hailed study comparing cancer survival rates in 31 countries. Called the CONCORD study, the researchers found that United States has the highest survival rates for breast and prostate cancer. However, Japan has the highest survival for colon and rectal cancers in men, and France has the highest survival for colon and rectal cancers in women. Canada and Australia also ranked relatively high for most cancers. The differences in the survival data for these “best” countries is very small, and is possibly caused by discrepancies in reporting of data and not the treatment result itself.

And it should be noted that Japan, France, Canada and Australia all have government-funded national health care systems. So, there is no reason to assume that changing the way health care is funded in the U.S. would reduce the quality of cancer care.

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Christmas Around the World


Christmas Around the WorldChristmas as we know it today is a Victorian invention of the 1860s. Probably the most celebrated holiday in the world, our modern Christmas is a product of hundreds of years of both secular and religious traditions from around the globe.

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Sweden

‘God Jul!’

St. Lucia by Carl Larsson 1908

St. Lucia by Carl Larsson 1908

Most people in Scandinavian countries honor St. Lucia (also known as St. Lucy) each year on December 13. The celebration of St. Lucia Day began in Sweden, but had spread to Denmark and Finland by the mid-19th century.

In these countries, the holiday is considered the beginning of the Christmas season and, as such, is sometimes referred to as “little Yule.” Traditionally, the oldest daughter in each family rises early and wakes each of her family members, dressed in a long, white gown with a red sash, and wearing a crown made of twigs with nine lighted candles. For the day, she is called “Lussi” or “Lussibruden (Lucy bride).” The family then eats breakfast in a room lighted with candles.

The giant Christmas goat in Gavle, Sweden, a centuries-old Scandanavian yule symbol.

The giant Christmas goat in Gavle, Sweden, a centuries-old Scandanavian yule symbol

Any shooting or fishing done on St. Lucia Day was done by torchlight, and people brightly illuminated their homes. At night, men, women, and children would carry torches in a parade. The night would end when everyone threw their torches onto a large pile of straw, creating a huge bonfire. In Finland today, one girl is chosen to serve as the national Lucia and she is honored in a parade in which she is surrounded by torchbearers.

Light is a main theme of St. Lucia Day, as her name, which is derived from the Latin word lux, means light. Her feast day is celebrated near the shortest day of the year, when the sun’s light again begins to strengthen. Lucia lived in Syracuse during the fourth century when persecution of Christians was common. Unfortunately, most of her story has been lost over the years. According to one common legend, Lucia lost her eyes while being tortured by a Diocletian for her Christian beliefs. Others say she may have plucked her own eyes out to protest the poor treatment of Christians. Lucia is the patron saint of the blind.

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Finland

‘Hyvää Joulua!’

1907 Christmas postcard

Families gather and listen to the national “Peace of Christmas” radio broadcast. Hours are spent in the kitchen cooking and baking special treats for the festive season. In Finland the Christmas tree is set up on Christmas Eve. The Christmas festivities are preceded by a visit to the famous steam baths.

Christmas gifts may be given out before or after the dinner. The children do not hang up stockings, but Santa Claus comes in person, often accompanied by as many as half a dozen Christmas elves to distribute the presents.

The celebration of St Lucia Day (13 December) was only introduced to Finland from Sweden in 1950 but has been widely adopted by Finnish families. Additionally, a national Lucia is chosen by public vote from a short list of ten teenage girls and December 13 marks her first official appearance, wearing a long white dress and a crown of lighted candles. Following this she pays visits to Christmas gatherings, hospitals and schools to spread her message of light, hope and charity.

The main dish of the dinner is boiled codfish served snowy white and fluffy, with allspice, boiled potatoes, and cream sauce. The dried cod has been soaked for a week in a lye solution, then in clear water to soften it to the right texture. Also on the menu is roast suckling pig or a roasted fresh ham, mashed potatoes, and vegetables. After dinner the children go to bed while the older people stay up to chat with visitors and drink coffee until about midnight.

Christmas Day services in the churches begin at six in the morning. It is a day for family visits and reunions. In some parts of the country the Star Boys tour the countryside singing Christmas songs. During all these days the people keep wishing each other a “Merry Yule.” It is also customary to visit the gravesites of departed family members.

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Norway

‘Gledelig Jul!’

Traditional Norway Christmas Meal

Traditional Norway Christmas Meal

Norway is the birthplace of the Yule log. The ancient Norse used the Yule log in their celebration of the return of the sun at winter solstice. “Yule” came from the Norse word hweol, meaning wheel. The Norse believed that the sun was a great wheel of fire that rolled towards and then away from the earth. Ever wonder why the family fireplace is such a central part of the typical Christmas scene? This tradition dates back to the Norse Yule log. It is probably also responsible for the popularity of log-shaped cheese, cakes, and desserts during the holidays.

Since ancient times Norwegians have celebrated midwinter with parties and feasts to mark the transition from the dark winter to the light of spring and summer. However, during the 10th century King Haakon decided that the pagan custom of celebrating Jul (Yule) would be moved to 25 December and would celebrate the birth of Jesus. Over the years this has gradually moved from being a pagan festival to being a Christian festival instead. However, many of the traditions have remained.

At 5 p.m. on Christmas Eve the church bells ‘ringe in Julen‘ (ring in Christmas) throughout the country. This is the real start to Christmas celebrations. Most people attend a church and after the service they return home to eat a bowl of porridge with butter, sugar and cinnamon. Before the family sit down to eat this, the tradition is to put out a bowl of porridge for the nisse (gnome)

After the meal the indoor tree is lit and Julenissen arrives with a sack full of gifts from Santa. Julenissen is usually depicted with a long white beard and red stocking cap, wearing knee breeches, hand knitted stockings, a Norwegian sweater and a homespun jacket. This is topped by a heavy fur coat. Once all the presents have been distributed and have been opened everyone sits down for coffee and cakes.

Christmas Day starts with a church service. This is followed by the Christmas Buffet which includes such food as pork, lamb, cold meats, lutefisk, herring, trout, salmon, cheese, fruit, cloudberry cream, flat bread and cakes. This is accompanied by beer and aquavit. The Christmas season finally comes to an end on 13 January when everyone takes down their decorations and trees until December.

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Germany

‘Froehliche Weihnachten!’

Decorating evergreen trees had always been a part of the German winter solstice tradition. The first “Christmas trees” explicitly decorated and named after the Christian holiday, appeared in Strasbourg, in Alsace in the beginning of the 17th century. After 1750, Christmas trees began showing up in other parts of Germany, and even more so after 1771, when Johann Wolfgang von Goethe visited Strasbourg and promptly included a Christmas tree is his novel, The Suffering of Young Werther. In the 1820s, the first German immigrants decorated Christmas trees in Pennsylvania. After Germany’s Prince Albert married Queen Victoria, he introduced the Christmas tree tradition to England. In 1848, the first American newspaper carried a picture of a Christmas tree and the custom spread to nearly every home in just a few years.

Children leave letters on their windowsills for Christkind, a winged figure dressed in white robes and a golden crown who distributes gifts. Sometimes the letters are decorated with glue and sprinkled with sugar to make them sparkle.

Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin, Germany

Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin, Germany

Germans make beautiful gingerbread houses and cookies. The German Christmas tree pastry, Christbaumgeback, is a white dough that can be molded into shapes and baked for tree decorations. In parts of Germany, people believe that the Christ Child sends a messenger in Christmas Eve. He appears as an angel in a white robe and crown, bearing gifts. The angel is called Christkind. There is also a Christmas Eve figure called Weihnachtsmann or Christmas Man, he looks like Santa Claus and also brings gifts.

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Mexico

‘Feliz Navidad!’

Las Posadas

Las Posadas

In 1828, the American minister to Mexico, Joel R. Poinsett, brought a red-and-green plant from Mexico to America. As its coloring seemed perfect for the new holiday, the plants, which were called poinsettias after Poinsett, began appearing in greenhouses as early as 1830. In 1870, New York stores began to sell them at Christmas. By 1900, they were a universal symbol of the holiday.

Beginning December 16th, “La Posadas” commemorates the events in the journey of Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Each night of the “Posada” a procession led by two children begins.

The children carry a small pine-decorated platform bearing replicas of Joseph and Mary riding a burro. Other members, all with lighted long slender candles, sing the “Litany of the Virgin” as they approach the door of the house assigned to the first “Posada.” Together they chant an old traditional song and awaken the residents of the house to ask for lodging for Mary. Those within the house threaten the company with beatings unless they move on. Again, the company pleads for lodging. When the owner of the house finally learns who his guests are, he jubilantly throws open the doors and bids them welcome. All kneel around the manger scene or “Nacimiento” and offer songs of welcome, Ave Marias and a prayer.

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England

‘Merry Christmas!’

The world's first Christmas card designed by John Calcott Horsley in 1843.

An Englishman named John Calcott Horsley helped to popularize the tradition of sending Christmas greeting cards when he began producing small cards featuring festive scenes and a pre-written holiday greeting in the late 1830s. Newly efficient post offices in England and the United States made the cards nearly overnight sensations. At about the same time, similar cards were being made by R.H. Pease, the first American card maker, in Albany, New York, and Louis Prang, a German who immigrated to America in 1850.

Celtic and Teutonic peoples had long considered mistletoe to have magic powers. It was said to have the ability to heal wounds and increase fertility. Celts hung mistletoe in their homes in order to bring themselves good luck and ward off evil spirits. During holidays in the Victorian era, the English would hang sprigs of mistletoe from ceilings and in doorways. If someone was found standing under the mistletoe, they would be kissed by someone else in the room, behavior not usually demonstrated in Victorian society.

Plum pudding is an English dish dating back to the Middle Ages. Suet, flour, sugar, raisins, nuts, and spices are tied loosely in cloth and boiled until the ingredients are “plum,” meaning they have enlarged enough to fill the cloth. It is then unwrapped, sliced like cake, and topped with cream.

Caroling also began in England. Wandering musicians would travel from town to town visiting castles and homes of the rich. In return for their performance, the musicians hoped to receive a hot meal or money.

Plum Pudding

In the United States and England, children hang stockings on their bedpost or near a fireplace on Christmas Eve, hoping that it will be filled with treats while they sleep. In Scandinavia, similar-minded children leave their shoes on the hearth. This tradition can be traced to legends about Saint Nicholas. One legend tells of three poor sisters who could not marry because they had no money for a dowry. To save them from being sold by their father, St. Nick left each of the three sisters gifts of gold coins. One went down the chimney and landed in a pair of shoes that had been left on the hearth. Another went into a window and into a pair of stockings left hanging by the fire to dry.

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France

‘Joyeux Noël!’

A lavish feast of truffle-scented roast turkey and delicious trimmings from the Burgundy countryside.

A lavish feast of truffle-scented roast turkey and delicious trimmings from the Burgundy countryside.

Christmas has been celebrated for nearly 1500 years in France. In France, Christmas is called Noel. This comes from the French phrase les bonnes nouvelles, which means “the good news” and refers to the gospel.

In southern France, some people burn a log in their homes from Christmas Eve until New Year’s Day. This stems from an ancient tradition in which farmers would use part of the log to ensure good luck for the next year’s harvest.

Whatever their behavior, hopeful French youngsters place slippers or shoes at the fireplace on Christmas Eve. That evening’s special supper called the réveillon features delicacies native to the region, including spun sugar, pâés and pastries. Spun sugar delicacies called sotelties are made to depict miniature castles, Biblical scenes, or exotic birds. Another highlight is bûche de Noël a log shaped cake with chocolate butter cream filling, brown icing and lines that resemble bark. At the stroke of midnight, the sounds of “Oh Holy Night” resound through churches and cathedrals across France.

Christmas market in Strasbourg

Christmas market in Strasbourg

Children alone receive presents on December 25th. Adults wait until New Year’s Day to exchange gifts. Some small presents can be found among the branches of the French Christmas tree.

The santons or little saints made in Provence are the heart of French Noël. These simple manger figures resemble real people in detail and dress. No one is excluded all characters good and bad are created to be included in the French manger scene.

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Italy

‘Buone Natale!’

Midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica

Midnight Mass in St. Peter's Basilica

Christmas season in Italy is traditionally celebrated December 24-January 6, or Christmas Eve through Epiphany. This follows the pagan season of celebrations that started with Saturnalia, a winter solstice festival, and ended with the Roman New Year, the Calends. However there are lots of Christmas things to see during December prior to Christmas, many starting on December 8, the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception.

Although Babbo Natale (Father Christmas) and giving presents on Christmas are becoming more common, the main day for gift giving is Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas when the three Wise Men gave Baby Jesus their gifts. In Italy, presents are brought by La Befana, who arrives in the night to fill children’s stockings. More about Epiphany and La Befana

Nativity Scene in Siena Italy

Nativity Scene in Siena Italy

Christmas decorations and trees are becoming more popular in Italy. Lights and decorations are often seen starting around December 8, the Feast Day of the Immaculate Conception, or even the end of November. The main focus of decorations continues to be the presepe, Nativity scene or creche. Almost every church has a presepe and they are often found outdoors in a piazza or public area, too.

Traditionally, a meatless dinner is eaten on Christmas eve with the family, followed by a living nativity scene and midnight mass. In parts of southern Italy a seven fishes dinner is traditionally served on Christmas Eve. Traditional bonfires are often held on Christmas Eve in the main square of town, especially in mountain areas. Dinner on Christmas day is usually meat based.

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Australia

‘Merry Christmas’

Santa arriving at the beach by boat

Santa arriving at the beach by boat

In Australia, the holiday comes in the middle of summer and it’s not unusual for some parts of Australia to hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit on Christmas day.

During the warm and sunny Australian Christmas season, beach time and outdoor barbecues are common. Traditional Christmas day celebrations include family gatherings, exchanging gifts and either a hot meal with ham, turkey, pork or seafood or barbecues.

In the weeks leading up to Christmas houses are decorated; greetings cards sent out; carols sung; Christmas trees installed in homes, schools and public places; and children delight in anticipating a visit from Santa Claus. On Christmas Day family and friends gather to exchange gifts and enjoy special Christmas food.

Many Australians spend Christmas out of doors, going to the beach for the day, or heading to camping grounds for a longer break over the Christmas holiday period. It has become traditional for international visitors who are in Sydney at Christmas time to go to Bondi Beach where up to 40,000 people visit on Christmas Day.

Blandfordia nobilis - Christmas bells

Blandfordia nobilis - Christmas bells

There are many native Australian plants in flower over the Christmas season. A number of these have become known as ‘Christmas plants‘ in various parts of the country, including Christmas bells, Christmas bush and the Christmas orchid.

When Europeans first arrived in Australia they were delighted that they could pick wildflowers resembling bells and bright green foliage covered in red or white flowers to use as Christmas decorations. This was a huge contrast to the bare trees and dormant gardens they had left behind in Europe.

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Czech Republic

‘Vesele Vanoce !’

Christmas market in Prague

Christmas market in Prague

Christmas in the Czech Republic begins with Svatej Nikulas Day, on December 6 and ends with the visit of the Tri Kralu (Three Kings) on January 6. On December 6, Saint Nicholas descends from the sky on a golden cord, accompanied by an angel dressed in white with gifts for the good boys and girls, and a devil named Cert dressed in black, carrying a whip and rattling a chain. As soon as the children hear them coming, they rush to the table and say their prayers. Those who know their prayers are rewarded with a gift; those who do not may feel Cert’s whip!

A twenty-four hour period of strict fast concludes on Christmas Eve when the first star of the night is seen. This star represents the star of Bethlehem. The children are promised that if they fast faithfully they will see golden pigs at supper time. At the beginning of supper, the candles are lit and the pigs appear on the wall and ceiling. The flickering of the candle flames perform the trick, because at the center of the table is the young roasted pig. The supper consists of seven courses and what is left over (there are always leftovers) is fed to the pigs. An extra place is set at the table and left empty for the Christ-child.

Vánocní cukroví - decorated cookies, traditionally eaten at Christmas

Vánocní cukroví - decorated cookies, traditionally eaten at Christmas

The manger scene is ever present in both church and home. These nativity scenes are called Bethlehems, and setting them up is a great family pastime. Usually they are complete villages carved from wood or fashioned from bread dough and then elaborately painted. Carolers carry miniature Bethlehem scenes as they go from house to house giving concerts. After singing, they are invited into the home for a glass of wine and a piece of vanocka, a sweetbread.

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Canada

‘Merry Christmas’

Christmas Lights in Old Montreal

Christmas Lights in Old Montreal

Canada is a country with a great number of immigrant families. Different cultural backgrounds such as French, English, German, Ukrainian, and First Nations come together as one people Canadians. Because of the many different peoples the customs of Christmas are very diverse.

Because of Canada’s strong Anglican and Catholic religious traditions, Christmas Eve is a big celebration. Many famous churches offer special services. The Notre-Dame Basilica in Montreal has a 5,772 pipe organ and thousands of worshipers come on Christmas Eve to attend the service and hear the children’s choir.

The Christmas tree is native to the Canadian region. Nova Scotia is named “The Christmas Tree Province” because it produces more than 1.5 million trees each year for eastern Canada and the United States. Trees from this region are shipped as far away as Venezuela. All of the Canadian provinces together produce approximately 6 million Christmas trees every year.

Toronto Santa Claus Parade

Toronto Santa Claus Parade

Our Canadian Christmas tree is decorated with Chicken Bones and Barley Toys, two treats with strange names, but they have meant Christmas to children along Canada’s eastern shores for more than 100 years. Barley toys are tasty animal-shaped candies served either plain or on sticks and made from barley candy. The name barley probably comes from an old children’s game. Chicken Bones is a cinnamon flavored hard candy that is filled with chocolate and is a Christmas favorite in Canada.

Boxing Day, celebrated the day after Christmas, is an important national holiday to Canadians. Traditionally boxing day was a day delivery boys could hope to receive a gratuity from those they served. Today its main significance is a day of sales at stores. Many people use this day to exchange Christmas gifts.

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Greece

‘Kala Christouyenna!’

St. Nicholas is important in Greece as the patron saint of sailors. According to Greek tradition, his clothes are drenched with brine, his beard drips with seawater, and his face is covered with perspiration because he has been working hard against the waves to reach sinking ships and rescue them from the angry sea. To members of the Eastern Orthodox Church, as are most Greek Christians, Christmas ranks second to Easter in the roster of important holidays. Yet there are a number of unique customs associated with Christmas that are uniquely Greek.

On Christmas Eve, village children travel from house to house offering good wishes and singing kalanda, the equivalent of carols. Often the songs are accompanied by small metal triangles and little clay drums. The children are frequently rewarded with sweets and dried fruits.

A Christmas market in Athens, Greece

A Christmas market in Athens, Greece

After 40 days of fasting, the Christmas feast is looked forward to with great anticipation by adults and children alike. Pigs are slaughtered and on almost every table are loaves of christopsomo (“Christ Bread“). This bread is made in large sweet loaves of various shapes and the crusts are engraved and frosted with symbols that in some way that reflects the family’s profession. It is served with dried figs, nuts, and honey.

Christmas morning begins with an early Mass at the Greek Orthodox Church. After the service, Greeks feast on roast turkey stuffed with chestnuts, rice, pine nuts, and a nut cookie called kourambiethes. Baklava, another sweet dessert, is made from layers of phyllo pastry, filled with almonds and cinnamon, and then soaked in lemon syrup.

In almost every home it is traditional to have a shallow wooden bowl with a piece of wire is suspended across the rim; from that hangs a sprig of basil wrapped around a wooden cross. A small amount of water is kept in the bowl to keep the basil alive and fresh. Once a day, a family member, usually the mother, dips the cross and basil into some holy water and uses it to sprinkle water in each room of the house. This ritual is believed to keep the Kallikantzaroi away from the house.

Baklava

Baklava

There are a number of beliefs connected with the Kallikantzaroi, which are a species of goblins or spirits who appear only during the 12-day period from Christmas to the Epiphany (January 6). These creatures are believed to emerge from the center of the earth and to slip into people’s house through the chimney. More mischievous than actually evil, the Kallikantzaroi do things like extinguish fires, ride astride people’s backs, braid horses’ tails, and sour the milk. To further repel the undesirable sprites, the hearth is kept burning day and night throughout the twelve days.

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Venezuela

‘Feliz Navidad!’

Christmas in Venezuela is a mixture of religious tradition and sheer fun. Beginning on December 16, many families erect a pesebre in their house, with not only a nativity scene, but a diorama of the entire region with mountains, hills, plains, and valleys. Often this is a work of art into which the head of the family has put many hours, and the pieces become heirlooms to be passed down from generation to generation. One custom dictates that on the first day of the new year, the figure of the Christ child must be lifted from the manger crib and placed in a standing position until the Feast of Cadelaria on February 2nd. Neighbors and friends keep watch to be sure that the tradition is strictly honored. If it is not, the figure of the holy child will be secretly stolen and held for ransom. The ransom is a party that must be given by the people who have been appointed as godparents for the holy child. When the figurine is returned to its original setting, a procession is held which may include fireworks and a band along with much singing and dancing.

In the city of Caracas, Christmas Eve is a popular time and a rather unusual custom occurs shortly after midnight. That is when one of the main streets fills with hundreds of young roller-skaters. Friends and schoolmates skate together until time for a special church service, after which the young people skate home for a breakfast featuring hallacas, a traditional Venezuelan meat pie with a cornmeal crust that is wrapped in banana leaves and boiled.

Venezuelan Pan de jamon

Venezuelan Pan de jamon

There may be no snow for Santa’s sled or chimneys for him to climb down in Venezuela, but artificial Christmas trees, some with artificial snow on their branches, can be adorned with colorful decorations using traditional designs and colors.

A manger scene is the primary decoration in most southern European, Central American, and South American nations. St. Francis of Assisi created the first living nativity in 1224 to help explain the birth of Jesus to his followers.

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President Obama’s Bow: Right-Wing’s Silly Stupid Pathetically Weak Attack on Obama

Posted by Audiegrl

President Barack Obama bows as he is greeted by Japanese Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko as he arrives at the Imperial Palace in Tokyo

Ok, its only been 10 months, and I’m already getting sick and tired of Fox News’ stupid attacks on President Obama. If this is going to be the trend for the next 3 to 7 years, I’m going to need someone to talk me down.

If they are going to attack him for bowing to foreign leaders, they really need to work on getting rid of all the photos and video of Republican President’s doing exactly what they are accusing President Obama of doing.

Ultra-right wing internet news outlet Newsmax had a screaming headline “No American President Ever Bowed to a Foreign Leader — Until Now”. TheFoxNation brays “Should a U.S. President Ever Bow to a Foreign Leader?” Fox News has been questioning bowing all day, with Fox and Friends anchor Steve Doocy, idiotically parroting right-wing blog Hot Air, that “in 230 years since the country was founded in 1776, that no other U.S. President has ever bowed to a foreign leader“.

Come on now! These right-wing folks are making it way too easy. My Google and Wikipedia are in for some fun. I’ll start chronologically, and leave President Bush for last. 😉

A September 2, 1959 Associated Press photo shows President Dwight Eisenhower bowing his head while meeting French President Charles De Gaulle. The caption of the photograph read: “President Dwight Eisenhower bows as he acknowledges speech of greeting by French President Charles De Gaulle on his arrival at Le Bourget near Paris on Sept. 2, 1959. Between the two chief executives is Ludovic Chancel, French Chief of Protocol.”

We also have a photo of President Eisenhower and First Lady Mamie looking pretty chummy with Nikita Khrushchev and his wife Nina at a state dinner in September of 1959. Khrushchev’s US visit resulted in an informal agreement with President Eisenhower that there would be no firm deadline over Berlin, but that there would be a four-power summit to try to resolve the issue, and the premier left the US in general good feelings.

This February 1972 photo shows President Richard Nixon bowing to Japanese Emperor Hirohito. You know, the guy who ordered the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor? Under his orders, on December 7, 1941, Japan struck the US Fleet in Pearl Harbor and began the invasion of Malaysia. At the end of the American occupation of Japan, Hirohito was prepared to apologize formally to U.S. Gen. Douglas MacArthur for Japan’s actions during World War II – including an apology for the attack on Pearl Harbor. MacArthur refused to admit him or even acknowledge him.

In February 1972, President and Mrs. Nixon traveled to China, where the president was to engage in direct talks with Communist Party Leader, Mao Tse-Tung. Yes, the same Mao who is Glenn Beck’s favorite boogy-man . Here is a photo of President Nixon shaking hands and grinning at Mao on February 29, 1972.

Last but not least, we have the hand-holding and cheek-kissing President George W. Bush. On a April 2005 visit to the President’s ranch, Saudi Prince Abdullah is greeted with a kiss on both cheeks and taken by the hand to the house. Jon Stewart did a segment about this on The Daily Show’s. Thanks to Jed Lewison of DKosTV, we have a mash-up video below.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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