Author Archives: Maya Or

Indian Folk Belief

“In India, we believe mostly in homoeopathic medicine. After consulting my homeopathic doctor for many years I have picked up on several habits that we in India believe will elongate our life span. One of these includes not drinking water during a meal, only after one hour has passed since you ate your meal that you should drink water. When I asked for the reason for this, my holistic doctor explained by example. Cows, which are believed sacred in India, do not mix water with food. They eat grass as much as they want, and when an hour passes, they find their way to a water source and drink, and so they live a healthy, sacred life, and we should do the same. I follow that tradition to this day. “

I had learned this lovely folk tradition from Mr. Grewal when I had first met him. We were sitting at lunch and I was wondering what drink I should order, and consulting my friend, and his daughter, Ash. Mr. Grewal then explained to me that it is best not to drink anything at all when eating. When I asked why, he described the before mentioned tradition that he had learned from his homeopathic doctor. I found it very fascinating, especially since I had never heard of anything like it before. In fact, I decided to do some research on the matter to see if anywhere else there has been mentions of it and indeed I stumbled upon an article that described the impact of drinking during eating. The article was posted on a site named “The Reluctant Eater” and was written after an interview with Christa Orecchio who had a holistic medicine practice in San Diego. Christa explained, “’ drinking liquid during our meals dilutes our precious digestive enzymes that help us digest and absorb the nutrients in our food. Most Americans (especially if you are eating processed foods) are severely deficient in digestive enzymes which contributes to weight gain, constipation, bloating and overall low energy’”. This brings a more scientific, though still holistic, aspect to the tradition, but it still supports the fact that it exists.

Although I have never considered myself a great believer in holistic medicine, I find facts and traditions like this captivating, and I do believe that some aspects of holistic medicine definitely do work. Yet, I am still confused by the “cow example”, as I am aware of the fact that there is a significant difference from the human digestive system to that of the cow, which makes the comparison less convincing. I tend to believe that as Indian people worship this animal, the holistic doctor saw it as a good way of conveying his message, as I believe cows tend to act this way. And if he gets healthier patients, then this way of convincing them is a blessed one.

Annotation: Wanger, Ryan. “Don’t Drink Water (or Anything Else) During Meals.” The Reluctant Eater — Remember Food? 19 May 2009. Web. 24 Apr. 2011. <>.

Iranian Winter Festival

“In Iranian tradition there exists the winter festival which is kind of like Christmas. The real name is Shab-e Yalda, which in translation means birthday night. I think it’s because we consider it the rebirth of the Sun. It happens every year on the night between December 21st and December 22nd. The reason is because that is the longest night of the year, and after that there is more and more light. Because darkness is considered evil and light is associated with good, during this night fires would be lit outside while inside families would be gathered around. What makes this similar to Christmas is the celebratory aspect I think. Inside the house while the fires protect them from the evil of the night, people and their families would keep each other company while they stay up all night. This would involve music, poetry, stories, anything that could keep the night fun and the energy flowing so that no one would fall asleep. I had only had the pleasure of experiencing this once when my father’s family came to visit, it was extremely fun! Other than that we don’t really celebrate it here, but I really like it and the story of evil vs. good that is the reasoning behind it.”

It is always fascinating to me hearing about different festivities that are parallel to ones in other nations/religions. Though my roommate has chosen to compare this to Christmas, the usual Christmas related activities are barely seen in this tradition. It must be the spirit of the matters that she is talking about, the family time, and the excitement towards the morning. Other than that, from an outside perspective, I don’t see how it is like Christmas at all. Of course it is a couple days away from Christmas, but again I see no relation.

What I do find interesting is the concept of celebrating according to the calendar. This relates back to societies that rely on agriculture. Anais had also happened to mention to me once that during this time the host gives out fruit of the season, and that tradition is to celebrate the past harvest’s produce. It also associates me to the Jewish calendar, which we use in Israel together with the regular one, mainly regarding holidays. The Hebrew calendar or, the Jewish calendar, is a Lunisolar one and most holidays correlate with agriculture.

Though Christmas is a religious holiday, this winter festival is about harvesting season and the fight between dark and light, evil and good, and in my opinion , does not need to relate to Charismas, as it has its unique beauty.

Iranian Tea

“In Iran Tea is one of the most important traditions that exist. In fact, it is actually our national drink. It is also tradition to drink tea after prayer, along with your family, I’m not really sure why… I guess it’s to elongate the moment of prayer and to add more meaningfulness to it.

We drink tea without milk, because the color of the tea is very important. In fact it’s only served in glass so that the color can be appreciated. The usual custom is to serve a cup of tea, with 3 sugars, and a teaspoon. Also the fragrance is important, because the whole tea experience is important taste, smell, and sight are all taken into consideration. It makes tea quite beautiful actually.

It’s amazing how important tea is in Iran. One must always offer a visitor tea as soon as they step into your house. Oh and it must be served hot, otherwise you are disrespecting your guests and simply embarrassing yourself. I guess I don’t really embrace any side of my nationality specifically, but I know that it’s one of the rare traditions my dad still keeps now that he’s in America, so knowing how meaningful it is to him makes it meaningful to me”

Anais has explained to me that she remembers being explained the importance of tea at a very young age, but she is not sure when exactly. As a young girl she learned to love tea, and can’t see it as not being a part of her life, especially when guests are around. Looking back I realize at the importance tea has for my roommate. Whenever she would make tea she would always insist I try some, since I’m not a fan of tea. She would also, let me smell different tea bags in order for me to decide which flavor I’d like to try. I still do not like tea very much, but it was really but it was really interesting to try all the flavors and now I understand why she insisted.

Until Anais shared with me the Iranian tea tradition, I was only aware of the importance of tea tradition in England, and in Japan, which involves completely different customs.

I was surprised to notice the sanctity of tea in Iran and it crossed my mind the importance of tea is due in part of British influence in the past. I think it is a beautiful tradition and the importance is perhaps more in the occasions where tea is used rather than the tea itself. It is, as mentioned before, used when guests arrive and during times of prayer. It seems to me then that tea is a way to show respect both towards God and towards guests. The appreciation of fragrance and taste as well as the looks of the tea perhaps point towards appreciating the little details that surround a person, seeing beauty in everything. I also noticed that unlike the English tea and the Japanese one, the Iranian tea is a very sweet one, and this I tend to relate to the Mediterranean preference of sweet teas. Overall, in my mind, it is also a symbol for the more “warm hearted” and community-oriented aspect of this nation’s nature, in comparison to the English and the Japanese ones.

Danish Christmas Dance

“In Denmark it’s tradition to get a Christmas tree, and after dinner, before we open our presents we sing a bunch of Christmas songs, and while we are singing the whole family/friends, whoever, hold hands and dance around the tree.

I learnt it at Christmas when I was really small, from my parents and the rest of the family, and I like it very much because it’s cozy and it brings everyone together, drifts attention from solely opening presents, which is purely materialistic. It means a lot to me, family bonding time.”

Eva talked very fondly of this Christmas experience in Denmark. She says she does it every year, though until now she has spent most of her Christmases in Rome, Italy. Though she was not surrounded by Danish experiences when younger, she says keeping traditions like this is what, she feels, makes her an authentic Danish person. Considering my experience with Danish people, I am not surprised that their traditions involve singing and dancing around. From the ones I have met, I find that Danish people are friendly, outgoing, and very fun loving. Eva’s family has almost become my family, and so I was extremely happy when I got to spend Christmas with them this past year. Experiencing this tradition first hand I couldn’t help but feel engulfed by both Christmas spirit and pure joy. I think that by holding hands you truly embrace the meaning of unity during Christmas, as well as the importance of family. By singing it shows the true symbolism of celebrating Christmas, which is of course celebrating the birth of Jesus. Considering that it is dancing around a tree, I see a little paganism in it. However I don’t know enough about the actual Christmas holiday versus Denmark’s pagan influences to decide whether it is part of Christmas that is perhaps more Pagan than Christian or whether it is this tradition that is perhaps more Pagan than Christian.

I was impressed by Eva’s insight regarding this tradition as drifting attention from the materialistic part, as sometimes I feel that for many children, Christmas tree equals presents, and here is a tradition, happily practiced since childhood, that adds another role to this beautiful tree, and this is a purely spiritual one, the togetherness.

This tradition is mentioned in a book, a journal of European Ethnology.

Pedersen, Marriane H. “Making Traditions in a New Society.” Ethnologia Europaea. Museum Tusculanum, 2007. 7. Web. 26 Apr. 2011.

Danish Christmas Game

“Then there is the almond gift game,

After we eat our Christmas dinner we usually eat a form of porridge with cherry sauce, it has bits of almonds in it, and only one whole almond in it. Whoever finds the whole almond when eating it, wins a present, which has been bought for the sole purpose of this game. Again I learnt it from my parents/family. I like it because it’s exciting to be eating and poof you find the almond! (Though my sister Nina always gets it…)It means a lot to me, because it’s part of a traditional Danish Christmas dinner, and I just love Danish tradition.”

Eva does not recall the first time she first participated in this food activity, but she says she believes she’s done it every year since birth. Eva spent most of her life in Rome, Italy, but she says that she spends every Christmas with Danish relatives and so the Danish traditions had been embraced in her home even though the family was in Italy. She believes the purpose of the game is solely another embracement of the holiday tradition of giving gifts during Christmas time.  She pondered if perhaps the reason was to keep the kids interested throughout the meal in order to have a stronger familial environment. However, she is not sure and so she just looks at it as a fond experience from her childhood that continues every year.

When I went to visit Eva and her family in Italy this year, it was during my winter break and so I was lucky enough to spend Christmas break and learn all of these traditions. This tradition came up during a conversation about our anticipation of Christmas day with the Danish relatives who had also come to visit. My interpretation of the game comes out of my own family’s tradition (and Jewish tradition in general) to play the game of the Afficoman, which happens in Passover. In this game a piece of Matzah (flattened bread that is specific for Passover) is hidden and at the end of the night the kids are all sent to look for it and whoever finds it wins a present. Since most Jewish traditions during Passover are related back to the Jewish people finding faith in God and being saved, I see the tradition of the almonds as one of finding yourself as a whole, perhaps through Christ seeing as it is a Christmas day tradition.