Category: Culture

Most In-Depth Documentaries About America

It has been said that history gets written by the victors. When one thinks about the United States, there is a distinctly pro-colonist view of what gets taught in the history books.

If you were part of the tribal culture during the initial settlement period, your feelings about the United States could be very different than what is societally “acceptable.” The same truth applies to the descendants of those who came to America due to slavery.

When we think about in-depth documentaries about America, we must look at the country’s individual stories. Here are some of the best ones out there.

1. The Overnighters

This documentary shows what life is like in a North Dakota small town after it draws a massive influx of oil workers. These people live on day labor, call their cars home, and often receive little support. It profiles one pastor who welcomes them into a shelter at the dismay of the congregation.

2. The Hand That Feeds

After suffering years of abuse from their bosses, undocumented immigrants decide to unionize for better working conditions and fair wages. The employees partner with some young activists in NYC to fight against their managers and the well-connected investors who support the bakery where they work.

3. True Son

After an African-American man graduates from Stanford University, he returns to Stockton to run for the city council. The town is bankrupt, but that doesn’t mean race or socioeconomic circumstances exclude you from your community. The documentary’s main character talks to people that anyone can have a seat at the table, even if your father is in jail, and your mother was in her teens when she had you.

4. Lady Valor: The Kristin Beck Story

After managing a transgender transition, Kristin (formerly Christopher) discusses her challenges that range from military service to becoming the person she knew she could be. It’s a unique take on the concept of what it means to pursue life, liberty, and happiness.

5. If You Build It

This documentary follows two designers who teach a 12-month class in the poorest county of North Carolina. The film concludes with the group building a structure while ten students learn how to be successful in the construction industry – and much more.

What are some of your favorite documentaries about America?

Most Noteworthy Comedy Clubs in New York

You can find numerous landmarks to see when visiting New York City. After you’ve shopped Fifth Avenue, explored Broadway, and got close to the Statue of Liberty, it is time to find one of the city’s top comedy clubs.

Many of today’s best comedians got their start in places like these while staying in the Big Apple.

1. New York Comedy Club

This club offers the classic look of a small stage and a brick wall. The showroom stays candlelit throughout each performance, and you can order from a traditional drink menu. You’ll find the place on E 24th Street.

2. Stand Up NY

You’ll discover this comedy fixture in the Upper West Side. It opened its doors in 1986, and the club is one of the few to offer an annual membership. You can get VIP seating, a free drink upon arrival, and access to unlimited shows with this investment.

3. The Comic Strip Live

This destination is one of the longest-running showcase clubs in the world. Comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, and Adam Sandler got their start here, and many of them still come back to do a few shows. There is a cover charge, and you have a two-item minimum purchase to navigate.

4. Gotham Comedy Club

If you make your way over to Chelsea, you’ll get a fantastic laugh inside the historic 1929 hotel where the club resides. It’s arguably more famous because of the movies and TV shows where it has made an appearance, including Curb Your Enthusiasm.

5. Dangerfields

Named after Rodney Dangerfield, this comedy club sets the bar high for the new comedians who want a shot at making it big in the industry. Ray Romano got his start here, and you’ll find numerous up-and-coming talents mixing in with some of the best headliners in the business.

Comedy clubs are an underrated part of NYC’s culture. If you find yourself in the city, consider stopping at one of these spots to have a great belly laugh!

Why Is Wisconsin Famous for Its Cheese?

If you travel to Monroe, WI, you’ll find something unique. It is the only town in the United States that produces Limburger cheese.

You’ll find similar stories throughout the state. With numerous dairy farms and a mostly German-style culture, Wisconsin promotes itself as one of the world’s best cheese providers.

One reason for this attribute is the state’s Master Cheesemaker Program. It was created in 1994, and it continues to remain the only program of its kind. Only ten people can graduate from the program annually.

When you mix Wisconsin cheese with products from brands like Renew Life and Body Ecology, you can have a satisfying experience every day!

Exciting Facts About Wisconsin Cheese

1. Over one million dairy cows live in Wisconsin. That number equates to about one animal for every five residents.

2. 90% of the milk from Wisconsin dairy farms gets turned into cheese, translating into about three billion pounds per year. That’s one-quarter of what gets made in the entire United States! Hundreds of different varieties are made throughout the state, turned into curds, wheels, blocks, and more to enjoy.

3. If you want to enjoy cheddar cheese, the freshest form comes from the curds. Cheesemakers separate them from the whey, squeeze them dry, and add flavors based on local preferences. You know that you’ve got a great batch when they squeak against your teeth!

4. The average American consumes approximately 40 pounds of cheese per year.

5. Wisconsin cheese products have won more awards than any other country that competes in the annual world championships.

6. The most popular variety of cheese made in Wisconsin is mozzarella, representing one-third of what gets made. Cheddar comes in second, at 21%. Various Italian types hold 17% of the market.

7. Limburger cheese becomes spreadable about three months after it ripens. A popular way to eat it is with a thick slice of onion, rye bread, and cooked liver with strong coffee.

A Brief History of Christmas in America

Although Christmas feels like a traditional holiday with embedded roots throughout human civilization, the interpretation of our celebrations today is relatively new. Did you know that the U.S. government didn’t recognize it as a federal holiday until 1870?

The Christmas season didn’t always celebrate the birth of Jesus. It used to be a time when the solstice was more important, indicating the progression of the year.

It wouldn’t be until the Roman Empire decided to mark the day of Jesus’ birth as a celebration in the fourth century that the holiday traditions would start. Religious leaders transformed a festival called Saturnalia, a time that honored the sun, to one that focused on Christianity. 

When the colonists came to the United States in the 17th century, the idea of celebrating Christ through decadence was seen as sinful.

Christmas was outlawed for early Americans. 

What Changed Christmas in the United States?

During the 1800s, several fictional Christmas stories became popular in the United States. Washington Irving was particularly famous for his fictitious portrayals of how the day was celebrated in England before society transformed to become more Puritan.

Many of those stories inspired American practices for the Christmas holiday.

German settlers came to the United States with the tradition of having evergreen trees and branches in their homes. These actions were originally meant to signify that life is possible, even during challenging times.

At the same time, Catholic immigrants brought over the tradition of keeping a small nativity scene in their homes.

By the time the American government decided to make Christmas a federal holiday, most families were already celebrating it anyway. Since then, it has grown into a spectacle of gifts, lighted trees, and hope for a peaceful new year.

Each family celebrates in their own way today. How do you mark this joyous time of the season?

Check Out These Impressive Tree Lighting Ceremonies

The holidays are almost upon us. It has been a stressful year in 2020 for most people, which is why a sense of pending relief is permeating the air. We are all looking toward the hope that a new year offers.

As your family gathers together at home, on Zoom, or whatever other plans you have, one of the great holiday traditions worldwide is to light the tree. Gather your gifts, have your Gaia Herbs products available, and enjoy these ceremonies this year. 

Best Lighting Ceremonies in the United States

Rockefeller Center

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree is a global symbol of the Christmas holiday. This massive tree stands multiple stories tall, shining brightly over an ice skating rink. During most years, live concerts and plenty of festivities are included in the event that typically happens during the first week of December.

Lobster Trap Trees

Several New England communities put together Christmas trees made of local lobster traps. It’s wildly popular in towns like Gloucester and Rockland. The latter town has been performing this tradition since 2003. Don’t forget about the 5-foot lobster at the top to serve as the star!

National Christmas Tree Lighting

The national Christmas tree lighting ceremony started in 1923 when President Calvin Coolidge had the honor of lighting a 48-foot tree. This tradition continues today, often on the first week of December, to commemorate the messages of hope and peace that the nation strives for in the coming year.

Ski Tree Ceremony

Telluride is one of Colorado’s most popular skiing destinations. Each winter, the community uses old skis donated to the cause to create a Christmas tree from them. The ceremony usually happens during the first weekend in December, including a ceremonial bonfire where other old equipment gets lit to honor skiers’ patron saint.

With 2020 attendance restrictions to think about, many tree lighting ceremonies are moving online. What are some of your favorite holiday events to celebrate throughout the season?

How Pittsburgh Became Known as the Steel City

Pittsburgh was one of the largest American cities up until the 1950s. It plays a significant role in early U.S. development, including battles in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. Part of the reason why everyone came here involved the availability of raw materials.

Tremendous coal deposits were found all around Pittsburgh. Andrew Carnegie used that knowledge to build one of the largest companies in world history, beginning steel production in 1875. By 1901, Carnegie and his partner, Henry Clay Frick, merged several businesses together to create the United States Steel Corporation.

Up until the 1950s, almost half of America’s steel output came from Pittsburgh. Many of the city’s buildings and neighborhoods testify to the industrial work, wealth, and creativity that flowed through the town.

How Did the Steel City Stop Growing?

During the 1970s and 1980s, steel production collapsed by over 50%. In 1973, the U.S. produced 111.4 million tons. It wouldn’t be until 2000 when the industry would reach the 100 million ton production level again.

Imports hurt Pittsburgh’s place in the American economy. The U.S. went from importing 146,000 tons in 1946 to 24 million tons in 1978 because the international market was cheaper than domestic production.

After the recessions of the 1980s resolved, Pittsburgh had to reinvent itself. It is now a place for research, medical development, and education.

Although the steel mills along the riverfront are mostly gone, the money made from its production continues to put Pittsburgh on the map. Carnegie donated much of his wealth to establish libraries, an art collection, the Carnegie Museums, and Carnegie Mellon University.

Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams still pay homage to the city’s traditions from the past. Black and gold are the colors that represent the industrial past, with the Steelers in the NFL directly named for the productivity and innovation that brought economic growth to the region.

Most Notable Female Writers from Early America

Early America had some fantastic literature. When schools teach the classics, you’ll find many authors who were white, male, and straight.

We must remember the groundbreaking Early American women who had their works published. Although they were drastically underrepresented, their work still had a profound impact on society.

How did they accomplish this feat? Many of them had to pretend to be white, male, and straight to their publishers.

Here are the women you should get to know better.

1. Judith Sargent Murray

She wrote the feminist essay called “On the Equality of the Sexes” in 1791, right around the age of 40. That was a full year before the famous piece by Mary Wollstonecraft that always gets discussed. Murray is quite rightly recognized today as one of America’s first published feminists.

2. Catharine Maria Sedgwick

Sedgwick was highly prolific for a female writer during her era. She had her short stories published by numerous periodicals, starting in the 1820s. Several novellas, 100+ prose works, eight children’s books, and six novels are part of her biography. At the time, her work was in the same league as Copper and Irving.

3. Anne Bradstreet

Her writing in the early 17th century was some of the first to come from the American colonies. It helped that she came from a wealthy family, and her father had always insisted on giving her a world-class education. It wasn’t considered proper for women to write then, but she didn’t care. In Bradstreet’s eyes, the notion of a woman being inferior was ridiculous.

4. Susanna Rowson

Rowson wrote Charlotte Temple in 1790. It would be the first international bestselling novel to come out of the United States. That status wouldn’t change until another woman, Harrier Beecher Stowe, dethroned the book with Uncle Tom’s Cabin in 1852. Rowson also worked as an actress, wrote several operas, plays, and novels, and has numerous poetry volumes to her credit.

These notable female writers from Early America changed the course of their lives by refusing to back down. Their public performance inspired private changes in many households, eventually leading society to a place where true equality became possible.

Myths About Thanksgiving’s Origins

What do you know about Thanksgiving’s origins? Many of today’s American parents were taught that the Pilgrims and Native tribes sat together, exchanged food, and found a way to create peace.

The truth about Thanksgiving is that disease and massacres were on the menu. If you ask the surviving Wampanoags about the holiday, they’ll say it is a time of deep mourning.

Here’s a truth bomb: the first Thanksgiving was actually held in 1598 in Texas by Juan de Onate after a 350-mile hike through the Mexican desert.

How many other Thanksgiving myths are lingering out there?

Worst Myths to Debunk About Thanksgiving

1. Thanksgiving Was About Family

The original Thanksgiving holiday was a multicultural event. It was never about bringing your family together to stuff your face full of turkey. Even if you believe the Pilgrim origin story elements, they invited the Native tribes to join them.

2. Turkey and Cranberries Were Original

Did you know that the current tradition of having turkey with cranberries on Thanksgiving comes from the Victorian era? Since that culture was the one to create the holiday, their habits became part of the process. The one food we know that the original settlers had was deer. Anything beyond that is just conjecture.

3. There Is Only One Thanksgiving

When Abraham Lincoln declared that Thanksgiving would be a holiday, his proclamation said that the event should be held in November… and in August. Most Americans outside of New England didn’t even recognize this tradition until the 1863 declaration.

4. Plymouth Rock Was the Key

The first person to tell the story of Plymouth Rock was Thomas Faunce, a 95-year-old man with dubious references. Their first landfall was at Provincetown anyway. Still, going to Plymouth to see a rock stamped with 1620 does make for an exciting little adventure.

You need energy to prepare the modern Thanksgiving meal. Whether you’re a turkey, ham, or lasagna family, taking items from Life Extension and Bluebonnet can help you prepare and serve this meal.

What tips do you have for surviving the Thanksgiving experience?

Origins of Halloween in the United States

Halloween is a treasured time for many children in the United States. Dressing up in a costume, going trick-or-treating, and spending time with their families is a tradition that goes back several generations.

With the kids hyped-up for Halloween this year, parents may want to take their preferred items from Kirkman and Douglas Labs to be ready for the experience. The 2020 version of this holiday may look a little different with some mask or gathering requirements, so please follow whatever local guidelines are in place for your community.

When you’re finished gathering candy, you can talk about the origins of Halloween in America.

How Did Halloween Get Started in the United States?

The first Halloween celebrations in the United States involved the colonists. Many of the old Celtic religious practices were still followed even though most people had converted to Christianity. All Hallow’s Eve marked the end of the growing season, with celebrations involving animal costumes and fortune-telling. 

When Irish immigrants started coming to the United States in the 1800s, their updated Halloween traditions came along for the ride.

Instead of dressing up as animals at private parties, the event had shifted to asking neighbors for money or food. They pulled pranks on some of them, evolving into the idea of trick-or-treating that kids say after knocking on a door today. 

Most communities didn’t offer much candy or food during the early 20th century Halloween celebrations. Some pranks got so out of control that they became logistical expenses for cities to manage. One way to switch the holiday to something more family-friendly was to offer candy, with several companies obliging.

That process helped to create the modern Halloween holiday that we celebrate today. You still might get a trick or two out there each year, but that outcome might be better than getting a box of raisins.

Best Science Museums to Visit in America

The United States is a large country filled with several geographical wonders and cultural differences. While the East Coast feels more European, the West Coast provides a rustic, laid back personality filled with big skies and open spaces.

You can find farming communities in the Midwest, deserts in the Southwest, and the French/Creole celebrations in the South.


Each region has a different take on how to offer a fantastic science museum. Here are some of the best options to visit.

What U.S. Science Museums Are the Best?

Museum of Science, Boston

Several hands-on activities are available at this museum, making it a delightful stop for all ages. You can explore the science behind colors and light, visit a Butterfly Garden, or enjoy a show at the planetarium. There’s even a 3D ride simulator to bring thrills.

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago

At over 400,000 square feet, this science museum is one of the largest in the world. The facility’s goal is to bring out the genius in everyone, which means you’ll find several activities to enjoy at every age. You can explore the physics of a tornado, see real-time representations of the Earth with the facilities floating glob, and embrace your curiosity.

California Science Center, Los Angeles

If you visit the permanent exhibits at this facility, your entry into the museum is free. You’ll see interactive and time-limited presentations that range from planetary ecosystems to spatial technology. Several programs are hosted throughout the month, including no-cost shows in the IMAX theater. You can even see the shuttle Endeavour during your tour.

California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco

You’ll find a natural history museum, a planetarium, an aquarium, and a working research lab under the same roof when visiting this fantastic site. They sometimes host pajama sleepovers and fun events with penguins to make learning a blast. Don’t miss the four-story tropical rainforest and the photography exhibits during your stay.

Arkansas Museum of Discovery, Little Rock

With over 90 different interactive exhibits, young children will have plenty of fun at this museum. The spotlight is on mathematical applications and general education, helping everyone learn more about how the universe works.

The best science museums to visit in America often include on-site cafés, modern amenities, and gift shops to help everyone enjoy the experience even more. Where do you plan to travel first?