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A group from Hokuriku High School in Japan arrives to homestay tonight. The short-term group wi..


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Your Guide to July 4th in Boston

Global Immersions Recruiting - Friday, June 29, 2018

Boston is an exciting city during the week of July 4th. The city is a host of many different events, from concerts to parades to historical reenactments. City-sponsored celebrations are popular with Boston residents and tend to be very successful is drawing large crowds of  participants. If you plan on spending Independence Day in Boston consider attending one of these major events.


Boston Pop's Concert and Fireworks Show

The annual performance by the Boston Pop's, lead by famous conductor Keith Lockhart, will once again take place at the Hatch Shell on the Charles River Esplanade. This year's lineup features headliner Rachel Platten, a Newton native and artist of the popular 2015 track "Fight Song". The concert will also have performances by Rhiannon Giddens, of Carolina Chocolate Drops, the Indigo Girls, and an appearance by actress Rita Moreno. The free event offers seating on a first come first serve basis and is likely to be crowded- so show up early! An identical concert will be held on July 3rd, however unlike the July 4th show, this concert will not be followed by a fireworks display. Both concerts begins at 8:00 pm and the fireworks show on the 4th will start at 10:30 pm. If you can't make the show in person, you can watch it live online.

Harbor Fest

Harbor Fest is an annual event that celebrates Boston's Harbor and History. Harbor Fest hosts many events over independence day weekend. Such events include live music performances, historical reenactments, Freedom Trail Walks, and boat tours. The festival will also include a clambake and scavenger hunt. Marty Walsh will cut the ceremonial Harbor Fest cake at Faneuil Hall on June 28th, signifying the start of the festival that will last through July 4th. The Harbor Fest website provides a full schedule of events during the week, which you can find here.

Independence Day Recognition

Boston's official Independence Day recognition and Parade will take place at 9:00 am on July 4th at City Hall Plaza. The event begins with a flag raising ceremony and then continues with a parade to the Granary Burial Ground, where wreaths are laid on the graves of patriots before the parade marches on to the Old State House by Faneuil Hall. At 10:00 am the Declaration of Independence will bead read from the balcony at the Old State House by the current Captain Commanding of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, to mimic the way the document was read to the citizens of Boston in July of 1776.

Source: Masslive, BostonUSA, Boston Magazine

International Summer Festivals

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, May 29, 2018

June 22nd will be the longest day of the year. The Summer Solstice signifies the first official day of summer in the United States and the start of what will hopefully be a period of warmer weather in Boston! The meaning of the Summer Solstice varies across cultures, though many recognize the start of summer with special holidays, festivals or rituals. While the United States does not have a popular holiday related to the start of summer, other areas of the world have specific cultural traditions that celebrate the Summer Solstice. Here is how some countries welcome the start of the summer season.

Kupala Night

Kupala Night is a celebration observed in countries with Slavic ancestry such as Ukraine, Russia, Poland, and Belarus. The festival signifies the end of the summer solstice and the start of the harvest season. During this festival participants build fires that they then jump over to demonstrate bravery and strength. A strong theme of the festival is love, and couples will jump over the fire while holding hands to prove that their relationship will last. Additionally, women will float flower wreathes in rivers, which men then try to capture, in the hope of also capturing the interest of the woman who floated the wreath. A sinking wreath is considered a predication of loneliness while a floating wreath indicates the prospect of love. Some participants will also search through the woods for the mythical "fern flower", which is thought to bring good fortune if found, although botanical experts do not believe that this flower actually exists. Historically, this search was an excuse for unmarried couples to spend alone time together without a chaperone, though today is done just for fun. While the festival has Pagan roots it has been incorporated into the Christian calendar as "St. Johns Eve" however, it still contains Pagan elements such as fortune telling rituals and the wearing of flower crowns. Many of these traditions are customary to rural areas as the holiday has been given a more modern twist is major cities where fireworks and concerts are also held.


Midsummer

At the start of the Swedish holiday of Midsummer, many Swedes head to the country side to begin their five week summer vacation.  On Midsummer's Eve (usually a Friday between the 19th and 25th of June) cities essentially shut down as many businesses close and streets are deserted. Families gather together in the country and have large celebrations complete with traditional dances around a may pole and crafting flower wreathes and other decorations. A typical midsummer meal is a variety of pickled herring and potatoes as well as grilled salmon or ribs followed by strawberries for desert. After dinner many Swedes go out dancing. Midsummer is also a popular time for weddings or christenings. Despite the fact thatSwedes are not particularly religious, many people want to get married at a country church during this time of year.


The Duanwu Festival

The Duanwu Festival, known in the West as the "Dragon Boat Festival", is a traditional Chinese holiday that takes place each year near the summer solstice.The festival is also often called the "Double Fifth Festival" as it takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of the Lunar Calendar. This year the festival will take place from June 16th to 18th. The Festival celebrates Chinese poet Qu Yuan, who is considered to be a martyr in the country. Qu Yaun was a member of the ruling house in the ancient state of Chu.  He drowned himself when the powerful Chinese state of Qin captured Ying, the Chu capital. The story of Qu Yuan describes how local admirers of Qu raced out on boats to try to save him. When they could not find Qu, they dropped balls of sticky rice into the river so that fish would eat them instead of Qu's body. This is the origin of Duanwu's dragon boat races and the reason why people snack on "zongzi", or sticky rice balls, during this holiday.

Boston will hold its own Dragon Boat Festival this summer. The 39th Annual Hong Kong Dragon Boat Festival will take place over the weekend of June 9th - 10th and feature Dragon Boat races as well as performances, art, and food.


The Bon Festival

Japan's Bon Festival, or Obon, occurs this year on August 13th - 15th. The three day celebration honors Japanese ancestors and has become an opportunity for families to reunite and spend time together. During the festival people hang lanterns outside their houses to help guide their dead ancestors back home. Families will also visit and clean the graves of loved ones who have died. Perhaps the most significant tradition of the Bon Festival is the Bon Odori, a traditional folk dance that welcomes the spirit of the dead. The dance is different in each region with songs a lyrics specific to that area.

Boston will also host Obon celebrations this summer. Historically Japanese schools such as Boston Higashi School and Showa Boston will each have their own Bon Festival featuring music, dancing, and Japanese food.

Source: WikipediaCulture Trip, Meet the Slavs, Sweden.se, Colorzine

The Month of Ramadan

Global Immersions Recruiting - Thursday, May 10, 2018

May 15th marks the beginning of the Islamic celebration of Ramadan. Ramadan is not a well-known holiday to those outside of the Muslim community in America, but is widely observed by those who practice Islam. Here is a little information about this up-coming celebration.

(A Ramadan celebration is held at the White House each year. This tradition was started during the Clinton Administration and has been since followed by Bush and Obama. )

Islam is the world's second largest religion, after Christianity. Over 1 billion people in the world are Muslim, or followers of Islam. In the U.S. it is estimated that there is 7 million Muslim people, and each of the 50 U.S. states is home to at least one mosque, the Muslim place of worship. Followers of Islam believe that around 610 A.D. a man named Muhammad, from the now Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, started receiving messages from God (known as Allah) through the angel Gabriel. These messages have been collected in the holy book of Islam, known at the Quran (or Koran). Muslims believe that Muhammad was the last and final prophet in a line of prophets that includes such religious figures as Adam, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ. Muslims also believe that God, Allah, is the single, all knowing God and that Muslims can achieve salvation by following the commandments of God. Five key concepts form the basis of the Islamic religion. These core ideas, known as the "Five Pillars of Islam", include a declaration of faith (known as shahada), prayer (five times per day), charitable giving (known as zakat), fasting, and pilgrimage to Mecca.

(Mecca, Saudi Arabia)

Ramadan refers to the ninth month of the 12-month Islamic lunar calendar. It is the month that during which Muslims believe that Muhammad received the initial messages from God that became the Quran. Because the lunar calendar is based upon the phases of the moon, Ramadan does not start and end at the same time each year. This year, Ramadan begins at sunset on Tuesday, May 15th and ends on Thursday, June 14th.

Ramadan Practices

During the month of Ramadan, Muslims fast from dawn until dusk each day. Fasting is seen in the Islamic religion as a cleansing process, meant to relive the body of toxins and also to show empathy for those who are less fortunate and may be hungry. The first meal of the day during Ramadan, eaten just before sunrise is known as "suhoor". Usually, healthy foods are eaten during this meal so that the person fasting has enough energy to last them throughout the day. East day's fast is broken with a meal known as "iftar". Iftars are typically larger, more elaborate feasts celebrated with the family or close friends. The foods eaten during the iftar meal vary across cultures.  


(Sweets prepared for Eid-Al Fitr)

Eid Al-Fitr

Eid Al-Fitr (or Eid ul-Fitr) is a major celebration that signifies the end of the month of Ramadan. The name of this celebration means "The Feast of Fast Breaking". Eid lasts three days following the end of Ramadan. During Eid Al-Fitr families will recite special prayers and enjoy meals with relatives and friends. Often gifts are exchanged among family members.

Source: History.com

Mother's Day Around the World

Global Immersions Recruiting - Monday, April 30, 2018


In the United States Mother's Day is traditionally celebrated on the second Sunday in May, so this year that means May 13th. Mother's Day was founded by a woman named Anna Jarvis, who held a memorial for her deceased Mother at a church in West Virginia in 1905. Anna's Mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War.  Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother and all mothers in America and so she began to advocate for Mother's Day as a recognized holiday. At first, Congress rejected the proposal to make Mother's Day an official holiday, but then several states, beginning with Jarvis' home state of West Virginia, began to adopt Mother's Day as a holiday. In 1914, President Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother's Day as a national holiday to honor America's mothers. Mother's Day is also celebrated elsewhere in the world. Here are how some countries observe Mother's Day.


Thailand

Mother's Day in Thailand is celebrated on August 12th, on the day of  Queen Sirkit's birthday, a former queen of Thailand who is considered the "mother of the country".  In the days before the holiday, Thai people celebrate by displaying portraits and shrines of Queen Sirkit, as well as putting on fireworks shows and candle lighting ceremonies. In addition to comemorating the birthday of the Queen, Thai mother's are celebrated on this day as well. Children often give their mother's gifts such as white jasmine flowers, which represent maternal love. Children may also give alms to monks in honor of their mothers.


Australia

In Australia, Mother's Day is celebrated on the same day as in the U.S. The traditional flower of the Australian Mother's Day is the Chrysanthemum, which is in full bloom during the season of Autumn when Australian Mother's Day occurs. On this day, Chrysanthemums, as well as carnations, are given to mothers. Many Australians wear colored carnations if their mothers are still living and white carnations if they are deceased.


Poland

Polish Mother's Day, also known as "DzieƄ Matki", is celebrated on May 26th. The holiday gained popularity after WWII, and is now an official holiday of Poland. Because it is an official holiday, many businesses are closed and families have celebrations at home. On Mother's Day, schools often host special events where children give their mothers gifts such as "laurki", or papers decorated with flowers and written messages. At home, family members may gather and have a party, complete with more gift giving and cake.


India

India's Mother's Day is celebrated on the same day as in the U.S. On Mother's Day , Indian children give their Mother's cards and often cook a meal for them. A similar holiday is celebrated by followers of the Hindu religion in October. This festival, called "Durga Puja", honors the goddess Durga, or the "Divine Mother" of India. Durga Purja lasts 10 days, during which people fast, then feast, pray, sing, dance, and perform cultural dramas.

Source: Thebump.com

2018 Boston Marathon

Global Immersions Recruiting - Friday, April 13, 2018

If you're a resident of the Boston area, you're probably aware that this Monday (April 19th) is Presidents' Day and Marathon Monday.

                                                                                 

Marathon Monday has a become a widely celebrated event in Boston. On this day, Boston schools are typically closed in observance of Patriot's Day and several roads are blocked off for the race. Spectators from across the country and even across the world come to cheer on friends and loved ones  along the route. Others come to stand  by the finish line and watch competitors complete their final miles.


How did the Marathon get its start? The first Boston Marathon was first run in April 1897, making it the oldest continuously running marathon and the second longest continuously running footrace in North America. The Marathon was inspired by the revival of the marathon for the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.  The first winner of the Boston Marathon was John J "JJ" McDermott, who ran the 24.5 mile course in 2 hours and 55 minutes.  Women were not allowed to officially enter the Marathon until 1972. The first woman to run the entire Boston Marathon was Roberta "Bobbi" Gibb, who finished the race in 1966.


While the Marathon was originally a local event, its fame grew to attract runners from around the world. The Marathon was originally a free event, and only began awarding cash prizes in 1986, after professional athletes refused to run the race unless they received a cash prize.

If you want to catch this year's race (either live or on TV) here is what you need to know.


Where: The race will span from Hopkinton to Boston. You can find a race map hereThe race will span 26.2 miles

Time: The Marathon begins at 8:50 a.m. with mobility impaired competitors having the first start time. The women's elite race begins at 9:32 am and the men's at 10:am.

How to Watch: Get there early to claim a good spot along the route. This guide gives the best spots to watch. 

TV/Live stream: f you want to watch the race from the comfort of your own home, it will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network. You can also live stream the race on NBC Sports Live and from the Boston Athletic Association website.

Happy Marathon Monday and good luck to all participants!

Cherry Blossom Season is in Bloom

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Spring is here (although from recent weather you probably can't tell)  and that means cherry blossom season! Cherry blossoms usually bloom in Japan from late March - mid April, or even early May. Cherry blossom viewing is a cultural event in Japan, observed by many. Hanami, or "flower viewing" refers to the custom of enjoying the cherry blossoms after winter has gone. A typical hanami usually involves holding an outdoor party under cherry blossom trees. Observers will bring a picnic of food, beer, or sake and relax as sakura¸ or cherry blossoms fall from the trees.

Several cities in Japan are famous for their hanami festivals. Hirosaki, the Japanese city centered around the 17th century Hirosaki Castle, holds the Sakura-Matsuri festival every year. Yoshino-Yama, a mountain in Japan's Nara Prefecture is considered to be one of the best viewing spots in Japan, as the mountain is covered in over 30,000 cherry trees.  Other notable spots include the Japan Mint in Osaka, and Ueno Park in Tokyo.

Our Groups Coordinator, Gen, is working for us in Japan until July. He sent these beautiful photos of cherry trees in bloom in his home city.




The U.S. is also home to cherry blossoms. A grove of cherry blossom trees was gifted to the United States from Japan and now align the title basin in the West Potomac Park. These trees bloom every year, usually in April. The cherry blossom blooming is not nearly as celebrated in the United States as it is in Japan, however D.C. does have an annual cherry blossom festival and annual cherry blossom festival parade.

Source: JNTO

Passover Celebrations: The Seder

Global Immersions Recruiting - Friday, March 30, 2018

Tonight marks the start of the Jewish holiday of Passover. Passover is a weeklong celebration in the Jewish religion that commemorates the Hebrew Bible story of the Exodus. In the Jewish faith, the Exodus is the liberation of the Israelite slaves in Egypt by Moses (a prominent  figure in the Hebrew Bible). A large aspect of the Passover celebration is the Seder. Here is some insight into how this tradition is practiced.


(The White House Seder)

The Seder

The Seder is a home ritual practiced during Passover.  The Hebrew word "Seder", which translates to "order", reflects the idea that the order in which participants do things during the Seder (like eat, pray, etc.) is significant, and is outlined in a Jewish religious text called the Haggadah. Families typically hold a Seder on the first or second night of Passover.


The Seder Plate

An important aspect of the Seder service is the Seder plate- a partitioned plate containing certain amounts of specific foods. Each food is symbolic of a certain aspect of the Passover story. A roasted lamb shank (which is not eaten) represents the old tradition of sacrificing a lamb during Passover, a hard boiled egg represents spring and the circle of life, bitter herbs represent the bitterness of slavery, haroset (a mixture of wine, nuts, and apples) represents the mortar used by the Jews in Egypt, and karpas (or greens such as parsley) are used to represent spring.  


(Matzah bread)

Unleavened bread, known as matzah, is also placed on the table to represent the bread that the Jews took with them when they fled Egypt and salt water is used to represent the tears of slaves. According to the story of Passover, the Jewish people did not have enough time to wait for their bread to rise before they had to leave Egypt. This is why many followers of the Jewish faith do not eat any form of leavened bread during the week of Passover.

Other traditions

In some homes the Seder table may also have special wine glasses, or kiddish cups. The Torah (the main text of the Jewish faith) commands that at least four symbolic cups of wine be consumed during the Seder. There is sometimes two extra cups; one for the Jewish prophet Elijah whose spirit is believed to visit at Passover, and the other is for Moses' sister Miriam to symbolize her well which is said to have provided water for Israelites in the desert. her cup is also there to symbolize the importance of women during the Exodus. Sometimes families may have pillows on their chairs during the Seder. This is to encourage reclining at the table during Passover, as a symbol of freedom.


(Matzo Ball Soup)

The Dinner 

Additionally, a Passover meal is also eaten. Passover meals differ between households, but some traditional foods that are often eaten include matzo ball soup, gefilte fish, beef brisket, chicken, and potatoes. 

Source: Time.com

Around the World in Easter Eggs

Global Immersions Recruiting - Friday, March 23, 2018

Easter, (a Christian religious holiday celebrating the resurrection of Jesus Christ) is right around the corner. Next Sunday, followers of the Christian religion will celebrate Easter by attending Church services, and attending parties or meals with family. Another Easter tradition observed by many Christian families around the world is decorating Easter eggs. Each country has its own way of decorating Easter Eggs, many of which reflect the history of that culture. Here is a look at Easter Eggs decorations around the globe.


Ukraine 

Ukrainian Easter eggs, or psyanky, are decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs using a wax-resist method to create intricate patterns. Historically, each region, village, and family had its own symbols, rituals, and meanings associated with the dying of each egg. Pysanky were typically created by the woman or mother of the house, and designed on raw or sometimes baked eggs, rather than boiled eggs. The eggs needed to be fertilized by a rooster, to symbolize the brining of fertility into the household. Pysanky were made to be given to family members and respected outsiders, such as priests.  They were often placed in the same area as farm animals to bring good fortune for the coming harvest. For example, a Pysanka might be placed in a cows manger to ensure a good milk supply, or placed near a bee hive to ensure a large production of honey.


Greece

In Greece, eggs are traditionally dyed a deep red for Easter. The origin behind this color stems from many myths, however the most common reason for the red dye is to symbolize the blood of Jesus Christ. On Easter Sunday, Greeks play a game of cracking their eggs , or "tsougrisma" in Greek, to symbolize the breaking open of Jesus' tomb and his resurrection. The game is played by two people each holding one egg and tapping them on top of one another. The goal of the game is to crack the other player's egg. The winner of the game is the one whose egg cracks both ends of the other players eggs.


Mexico

Cascarones are hollowed-out eggshells filled with confetti or small toys that are common throughout Mexico. While cascarones are most notably used in Mexico during the festival Carnival, they have become a popular Easter tradition in areas along the U.S. - Mexico border. Cascarones are created by breaking a hole in the top of an eggshell and then pouring the contents out. The shell is then cleaned, decorated, and dried before it is filled with confetti. The outside hole is then covered with glue or tissue paper. Having a cascaron broken over ones head is considered a sign of good luck, and the eggs are now often used in other ceremonies such as during Day of the Dead and at weddings.


Japan
Easter is not widely celebrated in Japan, as only 1% of the population is reported as practicing Christianity. However, those that do observe the religious holiday often create Easter eggs decorated with delicate origami paper, known in Japanese as "washi". The washi egg is created by first  removing the contents of the egg to hollow it out. Then, a rectangle of washi paper, large enough to cover the egg, is folded in half, and cut nearly to the middle every quarter inch to form a fringe of narrow strips. Each strip is trimmed to a point. The paper is unfolded, rolled around the egg, and glued on one strip at a time. After the egg is varnished.

Source: Brit.co

St. Patrick's Day in the City

Global Immersions Recruiting - Tuesday, March 13, 2018

St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday that originated in Ireland is celebrated widely, and perhaps more enthusiastically in the United States. The United States, due to its large Irish population, adopted the holiday and now cities and towns around the country have St. Patrick’s Day parades and traditions. Here are some cities known for their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in the U.S.

Boston:

The first St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the United States was held in Boston in 1737. While St. Patrick’s Day in Ireland is primarily a religious holiday, in the United States it is secular and is observed by Irish and non-Irish residents alike. Each year, Boston celebrates St. Patty’s Day with a parade in South Boston- a famously Irish-American area of the city. Irish rock band, The Dropkick Murphy’s, most known for their song “Shipping Up to Boston”, traditionally plays a St. Patrick’s Day concert in the city.

According to a 2015 U.S. census, 32.7 million Americans claimed Irish ancestry. This number is 7 times the population of Ireland.

New York City:

The first St. Patrick’s Day parade was held in NYC in 1762. In 2002, the New York City St. Patrick’s Day parade honored victims an heroes of 9/11 and featured over 300,000 participants and 3 million spectators, making it the largest parade to date. In 2014, the NYC St. Patty’s Day Parade made news again after parade organizers announced the first ever LGBT group march- effectively ending the ban on these groups participating. The NYC parade as a notably long parade route- extending from 5th Avenue to 44th and 79th streets. It has become known as the world’s largest ST. Patrick’s Day parade.

Chicago:

Chicago’s tradition of St. Patrick’s Day parades began in 1955. This city is perhaps most known for dying the Chicago River green during St. Patrick’s Day. The river is dyed on the morning of the parade. The dying process takes about 45 minutes, and, depending on weather, the river can stay green for several days. The river was turned green for the first time in 1962. Flour sifters filled with 40 pounds of environmentally friendly orange powder are used to turn the river a bright green. Two boats are used to spread out the color. 

Interested in learning more about St. Patick's Day. Check out The History Channel's graphic of St. Patty's Day facts.


Source: CNN, The Chicago Tribune

Winter Olympic Wrap-up

Global Immersions Recruiting - Friday, February 23, 2018

The past two weeks seem to have really flown by, as the 2018 Winter Olympics are coming to an end. Sunday night, the Games will conclude with the Olympics closing ceremony. PyeongChang will thank the athletes for their participation, just as it welcomed them during the Opening Ceremony. This year's Winter Olympics have been an exciting display of athleticism and talent. As of today, the total medal count for the top 10 scoring countries is as follows:


Highlights

Team USA had its fare share of memorable moments at the Games. Here are some of the top highlights from the Olympics thus far.


Hockey

The U.S. Women's Hockey Team beat rivals Canada in a 3-2 shootout. This was the first time the U.S. Women's team has one gold since 1998. The team has lost to Canada in 3 of the past 4 Olympic finals.


Curling

Another victory for the U.S. over Canada- the third-seeded Men's curling team, beat second-seeded Canada yesterday  in the Semi-finals. This was the first time the U.S. had advanced to the curling semi-finals since 2006, after defeating Switzerland and Great Britain. The Men's Curling finals will air on Saturday with the U.S. facing off against Sweden for the gold.


Figure Skating

U.S. figure skating saw some historic moments at the games this year, as multiple athletes set Olympic records. Competitor Mirai Nagasu became the first woman to land a triple axle in an Olympic competition, though in the end she finished tenth. Nathan Chen, the 17-year old Men's figure skating star, came back from a disappointing short program to ultimately land 5 quadruple flips - the most ever landed in one Olympic routine.


Snowboarding

The U.S. Team shined in Olympic snowboarding  events, gathering gold medals from stars like Chloe Kim, and Jamie Anderson. 17-year old Red Gerard won the first gold medal for the U.S. of the Olympics in the Men's slope style competition. Shaun White claimed his 3rd gold medal in the men's half pipe competition, after failing to place in the previous Winter Games.  

How to Watch

The Olympic closing ceremonies will air Sunday (2/25) at 8 pm on NBC. You can find a schedule of the remaining events here.