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

15 Spooky Folktales, Creatures & Objects From Around The World [Infographic]

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Telling spooky and scary stories has long been a part of human culture. We’ve been telling all kinds of stories since our most distant ancestors drew rudimentary pictures on cave walls, but the most intriguing tales are the ones that raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

We are universally fascinated with the macabre — this is one of the reasons ghost stories are so popular. Have you ever found yourself drawn to a horrifying or thrilling movie even though you don’t like to be scared? As humans, we have an innate morbid curiosity.

This near obsession with dark legends can be seen in chilling folklore that exists in different cultures across the globe. Especially captivating myths have even extended across cultures, like El Chupacabra and the Headless Horseman. Word-of-mouth is a powerful tool — it’s impossible to keep such eerie tales to ourselves.

What’s more, some creepy objects are said to be cursed, usually causing harm or death to those that come into contact with the item. Spooky paintings are credited with fires and mortality while ancient objects are believed to be cursed.

If sinister fables pique your interest (as they naturally should), check out the spooky infographic below that Invaluable created showing 15 ominous folktales, creatures, and objects from around the world.

Spooky folktales, creatures, and objects from around the world
Spooky folktales, creatures, and objects from around the world

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Spooky folktales, creatures and objects 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

Traditional Temporary Tattoos: The Art of Henna

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,

I have always been intrigued by the art of henna  — I've gotten a flower, a swirl, or a nonsense design put on one of my limbs more times than I can count while wandering a local summer festival, or hanging out at the beach. 

What I didn't know was the history behind the art, which is something that I discovered recently when chatting with a local henna artist (and a bit of research after the fact) while she drew a beautiful design on the back of my hand. 

Henna has been used for more than 5,000 years to dye skin, hair, fingernails, and even fabrics in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East. The act of giving intricate henna tattoos is called Mehndi and is traditionally only done on women — never men.

Why henna is not drawn on men

According to the artist I spoke to, these intricate designs are usually applied the night before (sometimes a few days before) a women's wedding day. The elaborate designs cover her hands and feet (often up to her knees and elbows) and tradition goes that as long as they stay on the skin the women does not have to do any housework.

It isn't until the dye disappears that the new bride steps into her new role as a housewife. 

Don't worry though guys, here in the Western world, the rules are a bit different. It is completely ok for you to give henna a try. The artist I met told me that she often gives men tribal or sun designs on their arms or backs. 

And, in some hot desert cultures, both sexes use henna, not for its beautification factor, but its cooling one. Apparently soaking your hands and feet in a paste of henna helps to cool down your core temperature. 

The henna paste goes on black, but dyes your skin a brownish-orange color if left on for at least 5-7 hours

What is henna?

The leaves of the henna plant are crushed and mixed with different oils in order to make the creamy paste that is applied to the skin. My artist used eucalyptus oil and cloves (which left my hand smelling like a spa for the rest of the day).

When applied the paste looks dark brown or black, and stays on the skin until it flakes off naturally (between 5-7 hours), or — in my case — you have to rub it off before you go to bed so you don't wake up with a henna-tattooed face. 

My henna tattoo once the paste was rubbed off.  

This natural dye is completely harmless, and does not discriminate (it works on all skin types).

It works best on the hands or feet, and lasts anywhere from 1-4 weeks depending on the type of henna used and how you take care of it (for example if you exfoliate the tattoo every day it won't last as long).

Oh, and it will leave tan lines, so if you lay out in the sun with your tattoo exposed, you will extend the design's shelf-life a little longer. 

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The art of henna

Reads For The Road: "The Female Brain" by Louann Brizendine, M.D.

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

I knew that I HAD to read this book by Louann Brizendine, M.D. (a neuropsychiatrist at the University of California) when I saw an interview with Whitney Cummings on Live With Kelly & Ryan (confession: I watch that sometimes), where she talked about how this book blew her mind and inspired her to co-write and direct a movie by the same name. 

The trailer is hilarious: 

The Female Brain had me from the first page where it explains that for most of history, the majority of scientists have assumed that women are basically "small men".

The reality is that there are some MAJOR differences between the male and female brain that affect how we react to different situations, how we see the world, how we make decisions, etc. But, because of the "men and women are the same" assumption, there was (has been) very little research conducted into the female brain and how things like hormone changes actually affect the way that women think and react in different situations. 

The book begins by tackling the daunting question: What makes us women? 

It then goes through the different phases of a woman's life from birth to death and everything in-between tackling how the brain reacts to love, sex, emotions, sexual orientation, and more. 

The text is witty, smart, and fascinating to read. It's like taking a deep dive into your head and coming out with an understanding of what makes you who you are, why you act the way you do, and what you should expect to happen in the next phase of your life. 

To quote Christiane Northrup, who's review sits on the front cover of the book, "All women — and the men who love them — should read this book." 

Banned Books In The USA: Top Books Banned By Genre + Why They Are Censored

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,

As soon as a book becomes banned, people all over the world want to get their hands on a copy to find out what the latest "controversial" novel has to say.

More often than not, they are disappointed as the content of the book seems a lot less shocking than something that you would see on TV on an average night. A few curse words are sometimes all it takes to ban a certain book from the average school.

What makes a book being banned so interesting is what it says about the people, place, and time period that thought it was bad enough to be banned. 

Using data from the ALA — the American Library Association — Invaluable has curated a list of the top books banned organized by literary genre that they've turned into an awesome infographic (below).

Check out the top reasons for banning books, the authors that get challenged the most, and what the three top offenders in each genre were banned for below. 


The Infographic above was created by and posted with permission from Invaluable

Sources: American Library Association 1 ,2345 | The Guardian | The University of Tulsa | Writer’s Digest University | Banned Books Week | Unbound Worlds | Dallas News | Banned Library 123 | PBS 

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Banned Books In The USA
Banned Books in The USA