Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Halloween Around the World

Last weekend I took the annual trip out to the local pumpkin patch with my daughter, to pick some pumpkins that we carved into jack-o-lanterns. It got me thinking about Halloween. Of course here in the states that means trick-or-treating, lots of candy, costume parties, jack-o-lanterns and spooky movies. But I got curious about what people do in other parts of the world for this holiday, and what other countries even celebrate Halloween. Here’s what I found out.

Halloween is celebrated in North America, Canada and Ireland more than anywhere else in the world.

Ireland is believed to have been the birth place of Halloween. During the eighth century the Catholic Church designated the first day of November as 'All Saints Day’, a day of commemoration for those Saints that did not have a specific day of remembrance. The night before became known as 'All Hallows Eve' which, over time, became known as Halloween.

Carving Pumpkins dates back to the eighteenth century and to an Irish blacksmith named Jack who colluded with the Devil and was denied entry to Heaven. He was condemned to wander the earth but asked the Devil for some light. He was given a burning coal ember which he placed inside a turnip that he had gouged out. The tradition of Jack O'Lanterns was born - the bearer being the wandering blacksmith - a damned soul. Villagers in Ireland hoped that the lantern in their window would keep the wanderer away. When the Irish emigrated in millions to America there was not a great supply of turnips so pumpkins were used instead.

Today the Irish celebrate Halloween very similarly to Americans, with trick-or-treating, parties, and many also have bonfires.

In Mexico, Latin America and Spain, they celebrate “El Dia de los Muertos”, meaning Day of the Dead. Family & friends gather to pray for and remember loved ones who have passed away, and build private altars honoring them. The altars are decorated with candy sculls, flowers, water and other food. This celebration occurs on Nov. 1st and 2nd.

In Belgium, many light candles on Halloween night in memory of deceased relatives.

In Austria some people leave out bread and water on a table at night, as it was once believed it would welcome dead souls back to earth.

Germans put away their knives on Halloween night, as they do not want to risk harm on the returning spirits.

In England, many of the children have recently started trick-or-treating. Although, since it is so new here, many adults, especially older generations, aren’t familiar with it and usually don’t have candy ready to hand out on Halloween.

In China the holiday is called “Teng Chieh”, the Chinese people place food & water in front of photographs of the deceased, and burn bonfires & lanterns as a way to guide the spirits as they travel back to earth on Halloween night.

In Hong Kong it is known as “Yue Lan”, the Festival of the Hungry Ghosts. They believe that spirits roam the world for 24 hours.

If you are interested in celebrating Halloween somewhere else this year, or just want to plan a Fall Vacation, contact a Travel Professional for some great Fall specials today!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Security Check Now Starts Long Before Your Flight

The New York Times reports the Transportation Security Administration is expanding its screening of passengers before they arrive at the airport by searching a wide array of government and private databases that can include records like car registrations and employment information. If you have SSSS printed on your boarding pass it means you have been picked for enhanced screening. The TSA says that while the goal is to streamline the security procedures for millions of passengers who pose no risk, the new measures give the government greater authority to use travelers' data for domestic airport screenings. Previously that level of scrutiny applied only to individuals entering the United States. The prescreening, some of which is already taking place, is described in documents the T.S.A. released to comply with government regulations about the collection and use of individuals' data, but the details of the program have not been publicly announced. It is unclear precisely what information the agency is relying upon to make these risk assessments, given the extensive range of records it can access, including tax identification number, past travel itineraries, property records, physical characteristics, and law enforcement or intelligence information. The measures go beyond the background check the government has conducted for years, called Secure Flight, in which a passenger's name, gender and date of birth are compared with terrorist watch lists. Now, the search includes using a traveler's passport number, which is already used to screen people at the border, and other identifiers to access a system of databases maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New UK Border Rules Could Turn Flight Attendants into Immigration Officers

The UK has a new immigration bill that could affect anyone travelling to the UK. Airline passengers could face lengthy queues at the departure gates when a raft of new border checks are introduced in 18 months. All travelers will have their passports swiped before they board their flight. The government wants airline staff to take on some of the power of an immigration officer so they can carry out passport inspections at the departure gate. Airlines will be compelled to carry out the checks or face a fine, under measures published by the Government in the Bill. It means airline staff, or those working for the airport, will check passports against electronic databases to "identify threats or persons of interest". The government is committed to introduce the exit checks by 2015 and the legislation will introduce powers to enable carrier and port operator staff to play a role in carrying out the checks. The aim of the bill is to make it much harder for offenders to flee British justice and to better identify those who are in the UK illegally.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

JFK Gets Automated Passport System

JFK International saw the introduction of automated passport machines yesterday to speed up the arrival of U.S. passengers from international flights. It's the latest airport-and one of the largest-to get the system. Similar self-service machines already in use at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport Terminal 5, and at two airports in Canada (Vancouver and Montreal) are already helping to significantly cut down wait times at customs that, at times, have forced arriving international passengers to stand in line for up to five hours or to be held back on a plane. 40 automated passport kiosks have been purchased by Delta for use in Terminal 4, where it is the largest tenant among more than 30 airlines. At JFK, only U.S. citizens will initially be able to use the machines, but soon Canadian citizens should be able to use the machines as well. The machines are being tested and if all goes well, they will be in operation by tomorrow.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Best Places for Fall Foliage in the U.S.

Autumn has fallen upon us in North America once again. The days are getting shorter, and the nights a little colder. In most areas of the country, leaves start turning in mid September; however the first two weeks of October is typically the peak for viewing foliage at its best, when leaves are their most brilliant. However, the amount of rain fall in a year also determines when leaves change and are their most intense.

These are some of the most beautiful places for fall foliage in the country.

Massachusetts features some of the best places for fall foliage; Cape Cod, the Berkshires, and the Mohawk trail are also some of the most popular. Visit a small historic village, small seaside town or beautiful rolling countryside.

Vermont enjoys a longer foliage season than most places, which runs from early September through late October. Vermont features some of New England’s most scenic golf courses, and also offers many fall festivals.

New Hampshire has 14 officially designated scenic drives covering over 900 miles. Drive over one of the states’ 50 covered bridges, or enjoy fall activities such as fall fairs or llama trekking.

Wisconsin offers prime fall color from mid-September through mid-October, and a variety of fall activities such as several fall festivals, corn mazes, resort destinations and beautiful fall drives along the Lake Michigan shoreline or through Kettle Moraine State forest.

Michigan offers many opportunities to view changing scenery and colors. Tahquamenon Falls, one of the largest water falls west of the Mississippi, or Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore are just a few. There are also a lot of farmers markets and U-pick fruit and vegetable stands throughout the state in the fall.