Hawaii 101: What is the meaning of Ti Leaves to Hawaiians?

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

On my last visit to Oahu, I ended up at a University Men’s Volleyball Game and, before sitting down, was handed a long, slim green leaf. I was told it was a “Ti Leaf” and I was supposed to use it to cheer for the team.

Now, I will admit that I heard “tea” and not “ti”, which confused me because I was pretty sure that there is now way that you could (or would want to) dry and steep that leaf to make a warm drink. But, since no one else found this strange, I bit my tongue and headed to my seat. It seemed like everyone in the arena had at least one Ti Leaf in-hand that they had peeled to create a pom-pom-like leaf that everyone shook at various points during the game — I had never seen anything like it.

What are these leaves, you ask, and why do they make an appearance at major sports events?

Where do Ti Leaves come from?

Ti leaves come from (you guessed it) a Ti Plant. These plants were originally brought to the islands of Hawaii by the Polynesians, who considered them to have divine power.

What is the meaning of Ti Leaves to Hawaiians?

In traditional Hawaiian culture, Ti Leaves are considered to be sacred to Lono, the Hawaiian God of fertility and Laka, the Goddess of Hula. The leaves are also used by Kahuna priests to ward off evil and bring in good spirits. 

Today, Hawaiians continue to believe that Ti Plants bring good luck and ward off evil.

How are Ti Leaves used?

  • Food + drink (historical use)
    The root of the Ti Plant used to be steamed in ovens in the ground and then eaten as a sweet or dessert. The root was also often fermented and distilled to make ökolehao — a type of brandy. The leaves are also often used as wrap food or as plates.

  • Medicinal use (historical use)
    When the leaves are boiled, the resulting water can aid in nerve and muscle relaxation. Ancient Hawaiians also used to use the leave to wrap around hot stones to use as a hot pack.

  • To ward off evil and bring good luck
    It is believed that if you wear a Ti Leaf lei, hula skirt, or necklace it will ward off evil. Carrying a single leaf (or using it to cheer on your favourite Hawaiian sports team) is considered to be good luck. Many Hawaiians also believe that planting Ti Plants around their home will bring good luck into the house. You will also find that many hotels on the islands have Ti Plants planed on their grounds.

  • For meditation
    Because Ti leaves are thought to have an intense spiritual energy, there are some that will use four leaves (a sacred number) to bring a sense of peace during meditation practices.

Image by Emerald Esperas from Pixabay.

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What is the meaning of Ti Leaves in Hawaii

What Do The Colors You Wear Mean In Different Countries?

by Lindsay Shapka in , , , ,

Did you know that your clothing is sending a message?

When you are traveling and meeting new people, first impressions matter — we determine whether people are trustworthy, attractive, friendly, and even intelligent by the way that they look every single day.

But what if you could manipulate the impression you are putting out there based on the color that you are wearing?

Well, guess what? You can.

We all make snap judgments about other people based on what they are wearing, but a lot of that could be based on the color of their clothing — whether you realize it or not! And, the meanings change depending on what country you are in!

To help you pack for your next trip (and make sure you aren’t sending the wrong message), here are the various meanings behind different colors.

What Does Red Mean?

  • In Western cultures, this is the color of passion, love, fire, energy, aggression, action and danger. It is an intense color that draws people in and conveys a bit of mystery.

  • In Russia, red is associated with communism and revolution.

  • In Asian countries, this color represents prosperity, celebration, good luck, and happiness.

  • India associated red with purity and spirituality — brides in India wear red, as do brides in Nepal.

  • When used with white, it is a color that represents religion in Mexico.

  • In some countries in Africa red is associated with death.

  • It is considered lucky or to mean good fortune in Egypt and Iran.

What Does Blue Mean?

This is considered to be the safest color choice, as for the most part it is associated with positivity!

  • In North America and Europe, this color evokes a feeling of sincerity, trust, wisdom, and confidence. It is the color of the sea and sky and has a calming effect.

  • In the Middle East, Turkey, and Greece, it is associated with healing and evil repellence you (if you have travelled in any of these areas you have probably seen the blue, eye shaped amulets meant to repel evil).

  • It is associated with good health in the Ukraine.

  • In Indian culture it is the color of Krishna, who embodies love and divine joy.

  • Blue is a feminine color in China.

  • In Central and South America, which has a high Catholic population, it is associated with religion as it is the color of the Virgin Mary’s clothing.

What Does Purple Mean?

  • In most of the world, purple is considered a royal color that conveys power, wealth, and extravagance — think royal robes, rockstar’s clothing, buddhist monk’s robes, Catholic priest’s robes. It is associated with dignity and wisdom —the Purple Heart in the American military.

  • In Thailand and Brazil, purple is associated with pouring and death.

  • In Tibet, a lighter shade of purple is considered sacred and so rosaries are often made from amethyst.

What Does Orange Mean?

  • In the United States, orange is associated with energy and sunshine, autumn, harvest, and warmth — full of enthusiasm and happiness.

  • In Hinduism saffron (a soft orange color) is considered auspicious and sacred, and so is usually the color of monk’s robes.

  • In Japan, orange represents love and courage.

  • In the Netherlands orange symbolizes the Dutch Royal family, and is also associated with their sports teams.

  • In the Middles East, this color is associated with mourning and loss.

What Does Yellow Mean?

  • In North America and most of Europe and the Middle East, because yellow is the color of sunshine, it is associated with joy and happiness. But, while warm and attention-grabbing, it is also considered a childish color that evokes instability and spontaneity rather than stability and safety.

  • In Germany, yellow represents envy.

  • Because members of the ruling class tend to wear yellow in Eastern and Asian cultures, it is considered sacred. This is similar to many African countries where only people with high rank in society wear yellow.

  • India considers yellow to be the color of commerce.

  • In Latin American countries, yellow is the color used in mourning.

What Does Green Mean?

  • In the West, green is calming and a symbol of nature promoting the idea of growth, freshness, and fertility. Darker greens are associated with money, banking, and power. It can also be associated with jealousy.

  • The color is emblematic for Ireland aka “The Emerald Isle.”

  • In Eastern and Asian cultures is can also represent new life and nature, but it also has negative connotations. It is the color of exorcism and infidelity — in China wearing a green hat means that you have been cheated on!

  • In Mexico, green represents independence.

  • Green is traditionally associated with Islam in the Middle East

What Does White Mean?

  • In the West, this is a color associated with goodness, innocence, cleanliness, and purity, this is the color of perfection. It is also a color used to represent new beginnings, like at a wedding.

  • In Asian countries like China and Korea, white represents death, mourning, and bad luck,

  • In Latin America, white represents peace and purity.

  • In Egypt, wearing white shows that you are of a high-ranking status.

What Does Black Mean?

  • In North America and Europe, this is a very mysterious color. One the one hand, it is associated with death, mourning, and evil. But on the other, it represents power, elegance, sophistication, strength, and prestige.

  • In the Middle East it also can represent both rebirth and mourning.

  • In Africa it is a symbol of maturity and masculinity.

  • In China, black is the color that represents masculinity, wealth, and prosperity.

  • In both Thailand and Tibet it is associated with evil.

  • in Latin America it is also a masculine color and is linked to mourning.

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Popular English Idioms and Their Curious Origins [Infographic}

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,

the origins of popular idioms.jpeg

(See the full infographic below!)

If you’ve ever studied abroad or travelled to destinations with the intent to absorb as much of the culture and language as possible, you’re well aware of how difficult it is to learn the intricacies of each spoken word and phrase.

All languages have their own unique phrases and idioms, often derived from local or cultural customs, historical events, important figures, or religious traditions, that don’t have a direct translation. There are approximately 25,000 idioms in the English language alone, all of which have been widely adopted in everyday conversation. We often use these phrases liberally without understanding their root or original context. Some of these idioms were quite literate all the time they were conceived, making their origins that much more interesting to study.

Invaluable created this visual that outlines the origins of some of the most common English expressions, the countries in which they came from, and how we use them in our everyday speech.

Check it out, and become a little more aware of the words we speak everyday!

English Idioms Infographic
Popular idioms and their origins

Your Guide to Love Holidays Around The World

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Love is celebrated differently in different cultures around the globe. Those of us from North America have Valentine’s Day, White Day is celebrated in Asia, and Lover’s Day in Brazil.

Here are just a few of the other romantic holidays that are celebrated in different countries throughout the year!

Dydd Santes Dwynwen (St. Dwynwen’s Day)
January 25

This day of love honors the Welsh patron saint of lovers, St. Dwynwen. As the legend goes, she was a fourth century Welsh princess who became a nun after suffering a broken heart. She then spent the rest of her days praying that true lovers would find the blissful happiness that she couldn’t.

Couples celebrate by exchanging gifts and planning dates filled with romance.

White Day
Japan, South Korea, Vietnam, China
March 14

White Day started in the 1980s and is celebrated exactly one month after Valentine’s Day. On this day, men give women gifts that are usually (you guessed it) white. White chocolate, flowers, candy, marshmallows, cookies, jewelry, or lingerie are all gift options.

In these countries it is tradition for women to give men gifts on Valentine’s Day, and the expectation is that on White Day men will reciprocate with a gift that is two, or even three, times more expensive. 

love holidays around the world

La Diada de Sant Jordi (St Jordi’s Day)
Barcelona, Spain
April 23

Also known as the Festival of St George (the patron saint of Catalonia), this is the ultimate day for lovers in Barcelona. The legend says that Saint George killed a dragon to save his princess, and then gave her a beautiful red rose that magically sprouted where the dragon’s blood had been spilled.

On this romantic day, the streets of Barcelona become filled with fragrant flowers and booksellers, as it is tradition for men give their ladies a red rose, and ladies to give their men a book.

Dia dos Namorados (Lover’s Day)
June 12

Lover’s Day falls on the eve of St. Anthony’s Day — the saint associated with young love and happy marriages. Celebrations tend to be similar to Valentine’s Day with gifts of chocolate or flowers being exchanged, and romantic dinners planned. 

(Fun Fact: Brazilians don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day because it falls too close to Carnival.)

The celebrations usually expand to the streets with parades, carnivals, samba dancing, and more community fun.

Tu B'Av
15th day of the Hebrew month of Av 

This holiday, celebrated during the Hebrew month of Av (which covers days in both July and August), has only recently become a romantic holiday in the Jewish tradition. It was historically a matchmaking day for unmarried women who would dress all in white and dance in the fields outside of Jerusalem, while male suitors would watch and pick a wife from among them. 

Today, the holiday is marked with the exchange of cards and flowers, and is also considered to be an ideal day for proposals, weddings, or vow renewals.  

Dia de Amor y Amistad (Love and Friendship Day)
September 20

This day is less about romantic love and more about celebrating the love between close friends. It was established in 1969 as a way to help boost Colombia’s economy, as there were no national holidays in the month of September. 

Friends usually gather together for dinner and a game of “secret friend” — similar to “secret Santa” — which involves drawing names and buying gifts to exchange without your friend knowing it was from you.  

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Your guide to love holidays around the world

The Most Interesting New Year's Traditions From Around The World

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Smashing plates, burning effigies, and preparing traditional meals — ringing in the New Year looks very different from country to country and culture to culture!

Some celebrate New Year’s Eve with cocktails and sparkly dresses, others light fireworks and eat black eyed peas, and there are even cultures that wear white and carry suitcases (really!).

Every culture around the world has their own, unique traditions and ways of ringing in the New Year, each representing the hope of a better, more prosperous year to come!

Invaluable created this fascinating infographic that details different New Year’s traditions and festive treats from countries near and far. It talks about why Brazilians wear white, why it’s customary to eat 12 grapes in Spain, and explores many other unique traditions.

Check it out below!

Sources: Infoplease | List25 | WorldStrides | CNN |  History

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New Year's Traditions From Around The World

Thinking of Making a Big Move? Your Guide to Life in Other Countries

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a different country? A country across the globe with vastly different cultures, living standards, and social norms?

There can be major differences in how people live within your own country, much less across the world, but this cool new generator from HireAHelper makes imagining what life would be like in another country a little easier.

Pick any two countries and compare statistics like the amount of free time people have on average, median income, and the number of active internet users.

For example, if you compare the United States to Australia you will see that Australians make 16% less on average than Americans, and also have an average of 6% less free time. However, they have 22% more money saved and are 20% less likely to be obese.

Here are some more examples. 


CANADA compared to FRANCE



12 Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit The Yonghe Temple (or Lama Temple) In Beijing

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,

Located in the middle of Beijing in China, the Yonghe Temple aka Harmony and Peace Palace Lamasery aka Yonghe Lamasery aka Lama Temple is a complex made up of a maze of elaborate arches, stunning tapestries and massive temples, opening to expansive courtyards filled with people praying and fragrant smoke filling the air from burning incense. 

Planning your visit to the Lama Temple

CNY 25 (approx. $4) and free for children no taller than 1.2 meters (3.9 feet).

Opening Hours
April to October from 9 am to 4:30 pm; November to March 9 am to 4 pm.

Getting There By Subway
Take Line 2 or 5 to Yonghegong (Yonghe Temple) Station, get out of the station from Exit C. Walk south about 400 meters. The temple is on the east side of the road.

Getting There By Bus
Take bus 13, 116, 117 or 684 and get off at Yonghegong Station.

The Lama Temple is considered to be the most magnificent Buddhist temple in the city and is the most renowned Tibetan Buddhist temple outside of Tibet. The complex was converted to a lamasery in 1744 after serving as the former residence of Emperor Yong Zheng

The complex is covered in detailed paintings and elaborate carvings like these doors that are the entrance to one of the main temple buildings where visitors can observe the monks chanting. 

The noise of tourists and traffic is left outside the temple walls, and the air is filled with the hypnotic sounds of chanting and small, colorful prayer flags flapping in the breeze. 

Large drums echo across the complex when played by the monks. 

Covered passageways allow monks to move between the buildings above the crowds of tourists and worshippers. 

A man sits on scaffolding repairing one of the doors of the temple. 

Tibetan monks have darker robes than you see other monks in Asia wearing and wear elaborate headpieces. 

On my visit I was able to move freely through the buildings — being white in Asia, I was often stopped from entering religious complexes — and observe the worshippers performing ritual prayers.

About halfway into the complex, I found myself the sole foreign observer of a large, tapestry filled temple full of monks, sitting in lines and reading from heavy looking prayer books.

The sound of their voices mixed with the heavy scented air was hypnotizing and after taking a few flash-less photos, I pressed my back into the wall, not wanting to disturb them, closed my eyes, and let myself be carried away by the sound of their voices.

The stunning Statue of Tsongkhapa is surrounded by painted pillars and elaborate tapestries that hang from the ceiling of the temple and line the walls. 

Monks in their formal garb chanting — one of the most enchanting sounds I have ever heard. 

Visitors can wander from temple to temple through vast red corridors — from the shadow to the light. 

The Statue of the Maitreya Buddha was entered into the Guinness Book of Records in 1990 for being carved out of a single white sandalwood tree that stands an astonishing 26 metres high! 

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The Yonghe Temple (Lama Temple) in Beijing
The Yonghe Temple (Lama Temple) in Beijing