Monthly Archives: November 2011

International Celebrations of Giving Thanks!

Thanksgiving in the United States is celebrated on the 4th Thursday in November.  It is often thought of as a particularly American holiday because of the story of the Pilgrims and the Indians.  You will find, however, that most cultures, religions, and/or countries have some kind of a holiday that involves giving thanks.  Many of them are associated with harvest time.  Some of them are still celebrated as separate holidays. 

In ancient times the Hebrews had a feast at which they gave thanks to God for their harvest.  It was called Sukkot and Jews still celebrate it today.  The ancient Greeks had a harvest festival in honor of Demeter, the goddess of the harvest.  They brought gifts of honey, fruit and grain to her shrines.  The Romans honored Ceres, the goddess who protected their crops.  They called it the festival of Cerelia, and that is where the word “cereal” is derived.  For hundreds of years the Chinese have celebrated a festival of the harvest moon.  This brightest moon of the year shines on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar.  The festival is called the Mid-Autumn Festival.  The Vietnamese call this festival Tet Trung Thu.  Koreans celebrate it as Chu-Sok.  People in Southern India celebrate at least 2 harvest festivals, Onam in the fall and Pongal in the midwinter.  Onam is a harvest festival associated with the legendary King Mahabalia.  Pongol is the celebration of the rice harvest, the biggest festival of the year.  In England, the thanksgiving celebration was called Harvest Home.  It took place when the last field was harvested and the crops were brought safely to the barns.  Thanksgiving has also been celebrated in Canada for a long time.  It probably began many years before the Pilgrims landed in America. 

So when the Pilgrims did land in their new home on December 21, 1620, they already knew about the ceremonies of thanksgiving.  They had, of course, come from England and were familiar with the custom of giving thanks after the harvest.  So, one year later, after a year of terrible hardship and frighteningly little success, Governor William Bradford proclaimed the first day of Thanksgiving in the Plymouth Colony.  This was the feast day that many think of when we hear “the first Thanksgiving.”  It was the one shared with the Indians, who had helped the Pilgrims and introduced them to the native foods and strange farming practices of the New World.

AAA Safe Driving in Winter Weather – A Timely Topic for Cluster Meetings

On November 10th the Baltimore cluster attended a presentation given by Myra Wieman, Manager of Safety Services, from AAA, on safe driving practices, with a focus on driving in winter weather conditions. Host Families were very enthusiastic about their au pairs attending this important meeting, as evidenced by the high turnout!

In a clear and concise manner, Myra gave us 45 minutes of potential life saving tips. Following are some of them:

*When clearing off snow from your vehicle, do not leave snow piled on top of the roof of the vehicle. This large “cake” of snow will eventually slide off while you are driving and can be a hazard not only to you, but other cars around you.

*Know the danger spots for ice: bridges, elevated highways, off and on ramps, and shaded roads.

* SKIDDING – if your car begins to skid, 1) ease up on the gas, and do not put foot on the brake, 2) keep a  tight hold on the steering wheel, 3) steer in the direction you want the car to go.

Words of Wisdom – Know when to say “No”..know when to just stay home and not attempt to drive if the weather is not good. It is not worth risking your life!

Regarding Distracted Driving – Here are some important things to know. As of October 1, 2011 Texting while driving is ILLEGAL in Maryland. This means no writing, sending or reading a text message while operating a car. EVEN while at a stop light. The fine is $70 + 1 point on your driving record for a first offense, and a second offense will cost $110 + 3 points.  We learned that since October 1, over 730 tickets have been given in Maryland to drivers who were texting while driving. 

Related to the Texting Law is the No Hand- Held Cell Phone While Driving law. A driver may still talk on a cell phone while driving in Maryland, however it needs to be a “hands free” cell phone. Either a blue tooth device or earphones connected to the phone will suffice. The fine for a first offense is $40 and subsequent offenses are $100. No points are assessed on the driver’s record, unless the violation contributes to a crash, and then 3 points are given.

The last portion of our class was about Child Passenger Safety. Remember that AAA will gladly assess the safety of your car seats. To find a technician to help you correctly install your child safety seat – visit or call 1-866-SEAT-CHECK.

To schedule a safety presentation for your group, contact Myra Wieman at

November 13-19 – National Game and Puzzle Week

– Most children love to play games – ball games, card games, board games, word games, guessing games. Playing games is important because it helps children learn how to handle disappointment when they lose. It also helps them to l earn to take turns and how to follow rules. Play their favorites or teach them a new game from your childhood.