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15 Delightful Picnic Traditions From Around The World

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The earliest known picnics were extravagant outdoor meals meant for groups of medieval royal hunters. Picnics would remain fancy meals for the wealthy throughout the Victorian Era, before eventually shifting to simple meals that anyone could pack in a bag and enjoy in the sunshine. Now, cultures across the world have added their own spin on eating outdoors, adding games, specialty foods, and specific holidays to enjoy dining alfresco.

1. HANAMI // JAPAN

Cherry blossom season announces spring’s arrival in Japan, along with the start of hanami—or cherry blossom-viewing picnics—season. To celebrate both, many Japanese spend warm days picnicking beneath the sakura blooms. The tradition is so popular—and the timeframe to enjoy the blossoms is so fleeting—that many parks are packed to the brim with friends and families enjoying homemade dishes (though food vendors peddle among picnickers who didn’t pack enough snacks, and department stores market hanami bento boxes).

2. CHRISTMAS PICNIC // ARGENTINA

While the upper hemisphere mostly dreams of a white Christmas during the snowflake and cold-weather season, Argentineans celebrate the holiday outdoors with Christmas picnics. These holiday events often take place on beaches or at home on patios, complete with roasted or barbecued turkey, pork, or goat.

3. SCOTCH EGGS // GREAT BRITAIN

Britain’s relationship with picnics dates back to the Middle Ages, when royalty would eat out of doors during hunting parties. But it wasn’t until the late 18th century when one of the UK’s most iconic picnic foods emerged: the Scotch egg. Self-proclaimed creator Fortnum & Mason fried sausage-wrapped boiled eggs as a luxury lunch item for upperclass travelers, as they became known for being easy to eat on the road. In years since, the savory snack has become popular among picnickers looking to pack a filling dish that can be served cold—perfect for celebrating the country’s National Picnic Week each June.

4. PICNIC DAY HOLIDAY // AUSTRALIA

There are a couple stories as to how Australia got a national holiday dedicated to picnicking, but regardless of whether it dates back to the 1910s or 1940s, its Northern Territory celebrates Railway Heritage Picnic Day on the first Monday of each August. The holiday allows families a long weekend full of activities like dancing, tug-of-war, and lizard racing.

5. REAL GLASSWARE FOR WINE // FRANCE

If you intend to sip wine at a French picnic, don’t expect to do it from a red plastic cup. Even when the French dine outdoors, fine diningware—specifically stemware—is still often used to ensure wine tastes its best. That’s because the shape of a wine glass allows flavors and aromas to breathe instead of being stifled by a normal shaped cup. And you and your wine both deserve to breathe in the lovely fresh air.

6. NAKED FRISBEE // GERMANY

Picnics aren’t just for eating—there are games to be played, too. But Germans take it one step further by disrobing before competition. It’s not unusual for picnic activities like a friendly Frisbee toss, a few kicks of a soccer ball, or a quick swim to be done au natural. Freikorperkultur (Free Body Culture) encourages Germans to venture out and enjoy daily activities sans-clothing, and nudity is considered a cultural norm—even at picnics in public parks.

7. EATING CONTESTS // UNITED STATES

Many Americans use the summer holidays—Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, and Labor Day—as excuses to picnic. These gatherings also include competitive games like three-legged races and egg relays, but Americans pride themselves on a race of another sort: the food eating contest. The first one appeared in 1916 and pitted hot dog eaters against one another. That year, the winner ate 13 hotdogs at an Independence Day celebration in Coney Island. Now, picnickers and those hosting outdoor events often include contests for speed-eating pies or watermelons.

8. PICNIC TEA // NEW ZEALAND

Below the equator, New Zealanders have historically enjoyed outdoor meals with standard picnic foods like sandwiches and pies. But during the 19th century, picnics mimicked barbecues with whole-roasted oxen and baked potatoes cooked over fire pits. Afternoon tea was also a common everyday staple that needed to be included with any picnic, so it was prepared hot in a “billy”—a metal can with a wire handle. After the invention of the thermos, tea arrived at picnic sites pre-prepared, and it remains a common picnicking beverage.

9. KUBB // SCANDINAVIA

Croquet, soccer, and badminton are common picnic games, but in Denmark, Finland, and Sweden, kubb is a regular game. The lawn game is a mix between bowling and chess, where players attempt to knock over wooden blocks called kubbs with wooden batons. Kubb players win by knocking over their opponents' smaller kubbs, followed by a large one called a king. And just like picnic games round the world, a good game of kubb can last a few minutes or several hours depending on skill level.

10. HERRING LUNCH // FINLAND

May Day offers Finland the opportunity to celebrate spring’s arrival with friends and family, and it tends to lead to some exceptionally exuberant parties and picnics. May Day celebrations begin on April 30, and by the first official day of May, many picnic-goers are looking for relief from overindulging the night before. Day-of meals are often called “herring lunch,” featuring pickled fish and other salty foods that supposedly cure hangovers, though Finns will wash it all down with a swig of schnapps. Hair of the dog, as they say.

11. BERRY PICKING // ICELAND

Not all picnics have to celebrate a holiday. Some are just for good fun and a day in the countryside. In Iceland, berry hunters often pack picnic lunches to take along on their search as berries ripen throughout the summer months. But besides the meats and cheeses, the most important ingredient for an Icelandic picnic is secrecy: Keeping berry picking spots under wraps means more for your own harvest.

12. GLAMOUROUS PICNICS // TURKEY

Turkey has a reputation for superb picnics, and it could have something to do with the country’s thousands of picnic grounds open to the public. Many Turkish families bring along cushions, rugs, and furniture to set up comfortable picnicking spots, along with games, string lighting, and a potluck-style selection of stuffed veggies, grilled meats, and desserts. By nighttime, many picnics are still going and turn into bonfires complete with music, dancing, and raki (a Turkish, licorice-flavored alcohol).

13. CHIMARRÃO // BRAZIL AND URUGUAY

Sharing a gourd of yerba mate (also called chimarrão) is a common practice among friends and family members in Brazil, Uruguay, and other South American countries, and takes place at picnics and other gatherings. One person will prepare the tea in a gourd or container with a straw, which is then passed around and refilled until the mate loses its flavor. Even though sharing chimarrão is among friends, there are rules: It is rude to break the circle and sip out of turn, or to wipe the straw before taking a sip.

14. KITE FLYING // GREECE

"Clean Monday" ushers in the start of Lent in Greece and brings about religious food restrictions. But, the holiday has its own special foods, such as mussels, octopus, and unleavened bread, that are shared at family picnics. Afterwards, families fly large, colorful kites to celebrate the day and mark the beginning of spring.

15. CEMETERY LUNCHES // WORLDWIDE

A Ukrainian family has a Sunday picnic at the grave of a loved one in Kiev.// Getty

Picnicking by the final resting places of friends and family isn’t confined to any one culture. Around the globe, friends and family have gathered in ceremonies to celebrate special occasions, holidays, and to remember deceased loved ones. During the Victorian Era, picnickers often set up lunch next to headstones, enjoying the cemetery as a recreational space for games and activities. In Mexico, those celebrating Día de los Muertos lunch among family gravesites, as do the Chinese during the annual Chung Yeung Festival honoring their ancestors. While cemetery lunching is less common in the modern U.S., some morticians and preservationists support its reemergence as a way to celebrate and enjoy life at all stages. After all, isn’t that what picnics are all about?

All photos via iStock unless otherwise noted.

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Animals
Switzerland Just Made It Illegal to Boil Live Lobsters
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No, lobsters don’t scream when you toss them into a pot of boiling water, but as far as the Swiss government is concerned, they can still feel pain. The path most lobsters take to the dinner plate is supposedly so inhumane that Switzerland has banned boiling lobsters alive unless they are stunned first, The Guardian reports.

The new law is based on assertions from animal rights advocates and some scientists that crustaceans like lobsters have complex nervous systems, making death by boiling incredibly painful. If chefs want to include lobster on their menus, they’re now required to knock them out before preparing them. Acceptable stunning methods under Swiss law include electric shock and the “mechanical destruction” of the lobster’s brain (i.e. stabbing it in the head).

The government has also outlawed the transportation of live lobsters on ice or in icy water. The animals should instead be kept in containers that are as close to their natural environment as possible until they’re ready for the pot.

Proponents of animal rights are happy with the decision, but others, including some scientists, are skeptical. The data still isn’t clear as to whether or not lobsters feel pain, at least in the way people think of it. Bob Bayer, head of the University of Maine’s Lobster Institute, told Mental Floss in 2014 that lobsters “sense their environment, but don’t have the intellectual hardware to process pain.”

If you live in a place where boiling lobsters is legal, but still have ethical concerns over eating them, try tossing your lobster in the freezer before giving it a hot water bath. Chilling it puts it to sleep and is less messy than butchering it while it’s still alive.

[h/t The Guardian]

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Food
Hate Red M&M's? You Need a Candy Color-Sorting Machine
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You don’t have to be a demanding rock star to live a life without brown M&M's or purple Skittles—all you need is some engineering know-how and a little bit of free time.

Mechanical engineering student Willem Pennings created a machine that can take small pieces of candy—like M&M's, Skittles, Reese’s Pieces, etc.—and sort them by color into individual piles. All Pennings needs to do is pour the candy into the top funnel; from there, the machine separates the candy—around two pieces per second—and dispenses all of it into smaller bowls at the bottom designated for each variety.

The color identification is performed with an RGB sensor that takes “optical measurements” of candy pieces of equal dimensions. There are limitations, though, as Pennings revealed in a Reddit Q&A: “I wouldn't be able to use this machine for peanut M&M's, since the sizes vary so much.”

The entire building process lasted from May through December 2016, and included the actual conceptualization, 3D printing (which was outsourced), and construction. The entire project was detailed on Pennings’s website and Reddit's DIY page.

With all of the motors, circuitry, and hardware that went into it, Pennings’s machine is likely too ambitious of a task for the average candy aficionado. So until a machine like this hits the open market, you're probably stuck buying bags of single-colored M&M’s in bulk online or sorting all of the candy out yourself the old fashioned way.

To see Pennings’s machine in action, check out the video below:

[h/t Refinery 29]

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