Planning a Trip to Europe

In a few months, I will be going back to Europe for the third time! The past two times I went to Europe, I traveled to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Belgium, Holland, and Denmark. This time I will be going to Austria, Germany, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Italy, Luxembourg, and France. 

So far, I’ve traveled to 13 countries. After this trip, though, I will have traveled 17 countries in total. Right now, I’m still currently in the process of planning the trip. Some of the places I’ll be revisiting and some of the places are going to be completely new to me. I’m not going to say exactly where I’m going just yet. I’ll leave that for after I come back and can post pictures. 

Dia de los Muertos: Day of the Dead

From November 1 to November 2, the people of Mexico celebrate Dia de los Muertos, otherwise known as day of the dead. During Dia de los Muertos, people celebrate the lives of the deceased. It is said that on November 1 the spirits of deceased children come down to reunite with their families, while on November 2 the spirits of deceased adults come down. 

Dia de los Muertos is celebrated first in each family’s home. An altar, called an ofrenda, made for the deceased and then decorated. The altar is decorated with candles, flowers, foods such as tortilla and Day of the Dead-bread, drinks, toys and candies for the children, cigarettes and alcohol for the adults, skeletons and sugar skulls, and favorite memories or things of the deceased. They leave these things for the deceased, because it is said that the deceased’s spirit will come down and enjoy these things when they come down to reunite with their families.

On the afternoon of November 2, families go to the cemetary to their loved ones’ graves. They clean the graves, play games, listen to music, and celebrate the lives and memories of their deceased loved ones. 

Easter

Today is Easter. Heute is Ostern. 오늘은 부활절이다.

It is the day of the Easter bunny, Easter candy and chocolate, Easter egg hunts, and dying and decorating Easter eggs.

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However, Easter is also the day Jesus resurrected from the dead. The true meaning and purpose of Easter is to celebrate his resurrection.

Easter also is the end of Lent, a 40-day period of fasting, repentance, moderation, and spiritual discipline. Lent starts Ash Wednesday and ends Easter Sunday. Easter is always celebrated the Sunday after the Paschal Full Moon.

On Easter, most Christians go to Easter church services. Families also often have Easter dinners or lunches. For example, my family had an Easter lunch (since my dad has to work in the day). We had ham (actually it was turkey ham), mash potatoes, and carrots. For dessert, we had dutch apple pie topped with rocky road ice cream (which was delicious by the way).

easter dinner

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Happy Easter everyone! Frohe Ostern! 부활절을 잘 보내세요!

Cherry Blossom Festival

When I was in Washington D.C. for the past four days, I noticed something in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. Cherry blossoms. I was looking around the gift shop in the museum and saw souvenirs that were related to the Cherry Blossom Festival. I became very curious about the Cherry Blossom Festival, so here we are.

cherry blossomcherry blossoms

History: The National Cherry Blossom Festival (全米桜祭り) is a spring festival in Washington D.C. This festival commemorates the March 27, 1912 Japanese cherry tree gift from Mayor Yuki Ozaki of Tokyo (he donated 3,000 cherry trees). Mayor Yuki Ozaki gave these trees to the United States in an effort to enhance and support the friendship between the United States and Japan.

Read more information on the history on:

http://www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org/about/history/

The first Cherry Blossom Festival was held in 1935 under a joint sponsorship by numerous of civic groups. Now, the National Cherry Blossom Festival is coordinated by the National Cherry Blossom Festival, Inc. Each year, more than 700,000 people come to Washington D.C. to admire the cherry trees in the beginning of spring.

national cherry blossom

The National Cherry Blossom Festival is a festival that starts on the last Saturday in March (and lasts several weeks) with an opening ceremony in the National Building Ceremony. The 2013 National Cherry Blossom Festival is from March 20, 2013-April 14,2013.  There is a multitude of activities and cultural events on the following days such as photography, sculpture, and animation exhibits, parades, dancing, singing, kimono fashion shows, martial arts, and a rugby tournament. Every day there is a sushi and sake (Japanese alcoholic beverage) celebration, cherry blossom classes, and bike tours. The second Saturday of the festival, a three-stage festival takes place. After the three-stage festival ends, there is a firework show. The next morning, people can choose to participate in the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run (Washington Monument). At the end of the day, dignitaries gather at the Tidal Basin to light the 360 year old Japanese stone lantern in a ceremonial lighting. On the last Saturday of the festival, the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade takes place (Constitution Avenue) and the Sakura Matsuri-Japanese Street takes place during and after the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (Pennsylvania Avenue-Northwest).

cherry blossom festival

cherry blossom float

cherry blossom washington

Festival gathering

sakura matsuri parade

If you’re ever in Washington D.C. at the end of March-early April, participate in this festival. I have never participated in this festival myself, but I would like to one day since cherry blossoms are one of my favorite types of flowers. Even if you’re not a “flower kind of person,” still participate. You only get to live life once, so you might as well live life to its fullest. Experience a new culture, you’ll be surprised about how different cultures (or anything in general) may appeal/fascinate to you.

Lunar New Year

Happy Lunar New Year’s! 새해 복 많이 받으세요! 新年快樂!

오늘은 설날이다! Today is the Lunar New Year! Can you feel the excitement? Some of you might be asking, what exactly is Lunar New Year’s? Well, I’m glad you asked!

Lunar New Year is the first day of the lunar calendar. Lunar calendar? There’s more than one type of calendar? Yes, there is actually. In America, we follow the Gregorian calendar (365 days a year, leap year every 4 years, 12 months, 28-31 days each month). The Lunar calendar is based on the cycles of the moon-hence the lunar. The first day of a lunar month varies. For the Chinese calendar, the first day is when a new moon occurs during a particular time zone. For the Hindi calendar, the first is the day after the full moon.Each month is approximately 29.530589 days.

lunar calendar

*Note: I’m not an expert on this, click on this website if you want to read more on lunar calendars:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_calendar

Moving on now. I’m sure a lot of you heard of the Chinese New Year (a.k.a. the Chinese Lunar New Year)The Lunar New Year is celebrated by more than the just the Chinese. The Lunar New Year is also celebrated by the Koreans, Tibetans, Vietnamese, and the Mongolians. Of course, Lunar New Year celebrations are not solely held in China, Vietnam, South and North Korea, etc. There are Chinese, Koreans, Tibetans, Vietnamese, and Mongolians living throughout the world in different countries. The Chinese community in Indonesia and Malaysia celebrates the Lunar New Year, Chinese-Americans/Korean-Americans/Vietnamese-Americans (and so forth) in the United States celebrate the Lunar New Year, you get my point right?

If you noticed from years past, the Lunar New Year is never on the same day. Lunar New Year is the first day of the Lunar Year and like I said before, the calendar is based on the phases of the moon. So every year, the days will never be exactly the same as the year before. The Lunar New Year this year is February 10, 2013 (hence the reason for this post). In this post, I’m mainly going to focus on the Chinese New Year and Korean New Year.

Chinese New Year: 新年快樂! Gong Xi Fa Cai! Happy New Year in Mandarin, which actually means “congratulations and prosperity.” (*There’s numerous ways to say Happy New Year in Mandarin, not just Gong Xi Fa Cai.” This year is the year of the snake.

year of snake

chinese zodiac

The twelve zodiac signs are the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and pig/boar.

The Chinese New Year (also known as the Spring Festival) is the time for celebrations which includes feasts, music, red envelopes, gift exchange, visiting relatives, fireworks, dances, decorations/ornaments, and lots of symbolism.

Food, of course, plays an important role in the Chinese New Year celebration (as it does for any culture or celebration. The Chinese eat foods that are symbolic. Here are SOME foods for instance:

Spring rolls and jiao zi symbolize wealth.

spring rolls

jiaozi

Chicken symbolizes happiness and marriage.

chinese new year chicken

Noodles symbolize a good life.

chinese new year noodles

Eggs symbolizes fertility. (Tea eggs)

tea eggs

Pomelo represents abundance, prosperity, and fertility.

pomelo

Niangao symbolizes raising oneself “higher” in the coming year.

nian gao

Red Envelopes: During the Chinese New Year, red envelopes /紅包 hongbao (usually decorated with gold characters-happiness and wealth ) filled with money are given to children, young people, and unmarried adults with no jobs from the older generations. The envelopes are red, because red symbolizes luck. Red envelopes are also given out on birthdays and weddings, and the amount of money depends on the recipient’s age and the relationship between giver-recipient.

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red envelopes

Dances: There are two types of dances: dragon dances and lion dances. Dragon dances are performed to scare away the evil spirits. The Chinese view dragons as helpful and friendly creatures and symbolize luck, long life, and wisdom. is thought that the longer dragons are more lucky than smaller dragons. During the dragon dance, many people are needed to operate the dragon. The lion dance only needs two people to operate the lion. There are two types of “lion styles.” The Chinese Northern Lions (northern China)-northern lions have shaggy orange and yellow hair with a green bow (males) or red bow (females). This dance usually have more acrobatic movements and have stunts.The Southern Lion (southern China) resembles the Nian (a fierce horned monster). Its head is shaped like a dragon and has a drape. During performance, the Southern Lion thrusts its head to the sound of the drums and other percussion instruments. The colors of the dragon is usually red (bravery), gold (lively and dynamic spirit), and green (friendship and goodwill).

dragon dance

lion dance

dragon dance

Decorations/Ornaments: Chunlian, lanterns, paper cuttings, Chinese calligraphy

chunlian

red lanterns

paper cuttings

The Chinese New Year  is a celebrated for 15 days. To read what happens each day, click on the link below:

http://www.nationsonline.org/oneworld/Chinese_Customs/chinese-new-year-festivities.htm

The Lantern Festival ends the 15 day celebration.

lantern festival

lantern dragon

lantern castle

Alright, now let’s talk about the Korean New Year.

Korean New Year: The Korean New Year (know as 설날/seollal) is also the first day of the lunar calendar. Seollal is a three day celebration. Koreans also celebrate the solar/Gregorian New Year’s Day, but Seollal is a more important national holiday. Seollal is more of a family holiday. It is a time to pay respects to the ancestors and catch up with family members. During Seollal, Koreans wear hanboks (I’ll make a post on this later), perform ancestral rites, play folk games, give gifts, tell stories, and eat traditional foods.

Ancestral Rites: The morning is first start off with 제사/ancestral rite ceremony. Family members wearing their hanboks will gather in front of a ritual table and will place an ancestral tablet and ritual foods according to the ancestral laws on the table. Afterwards, the ancestral rites begin with 세배/ deep bows  to the ancestors. Children will do 세배 to the elders (parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc) and the elders will give them money as a Seollal gift. They will then proceed with offerings and prayers. After saying farewell, all will eat the ritual foods. The main dish eaten is 떡국/ddeokgook (rice cake soup). After you eat 떡국, you are one year older. So some children will eat two bowls, so they will be two years older. After eating, children will perform 세배 to the elders (parents/aunts/uncles/grandparents/etc) and the elders will give them 세뱃돈/ New Year’s money as a gift

ancestral food

ddeokgook

After eating, the younger generation will pay respects to the elders. They take a deep bow and present the elders with gifts. The elders accept and offer them their offerings and blessings for a prosperous year.

Folk games: After doing ancestral rites, Korean will often play folk games. Some of these games are yutnori, jegichagi, neolttwigi, and paengichigi.

윷놀이/Yutnori-board game played with sticks

윷놀이

yutnori

제기차기/Jegichagi-game played with the foot

jegichagi

널뛰기Neolttwigi-seesaw game

neolttwigi

파엔기치기/pa-engichgi-goal is to knock over the other person’s spinning top

paengichigi

Gifts: Some popular gifts given on Seollal are money (of course), ginseng, honey, health products, toiletry, spam, tuna, and hangwa (see below).

Food: There are numerous traditional dishes that can be eaten during Seollal. Some of these are rice, ddeokgook (see above), kimchi, mandu dumplings, Korean pancakes, hangwa, and many other dishes.

김치/Kimchi

kimchi

만두/Mandu dumplings

mandu

한과/Hangwa (confectionaries)

hangwa

If you ever go to Korea for Seollal, make sure to visit the palaces, parks, and theme parks. Seollal is pretty much a pretty quiet day, besides family visiting relatives..But the palaces, parks, and theme parks are the busiest during Seollal; they offer tourists traditional games to play and events to enjoy.

If you know a Korean/visit a Korean community during the Lunar New Year, make sure to say “새해 복 많이 받으세요! (sae hae bong mah-ni bah-deu se yo)” to them. Or if you know someone who is Chinese/visit a Chinese community, make sure to say “新年快樂! (gong shee fa cai)” to them.

korean new year

chinese new year

Pancha Ganapati/A Hindu Winter Festival

Last week, my English teacher had all her English classes select a country (or religion) and research how they celebrate their Christmas. I saw Korean and German on the list, but I was already oh so familiar with how Koreans and Germans celebrate Christmas. So, I looked down on the list and decided to do something out of the ordinary: Hindu.

So, I’m off from my normal posts: Korean, German, Mandarin Chinese (did I even do anything on Mandarin Chinese or China yet? If not, I will soon), and Latin (I will post something Latin-related soon). I actually finished my project around Wednesday, but I decided to wait since today is actually the start of the holiday. So here’s a little something about what I found:

Pancha Ganapati-The Hindus do not celebrate Christmas; instead they celebrate a festival called Pancha Ganapati or “The Family Festival of Giving.” Pancha Ganapati is a modern winter holiday for the Hindus, which is full of family-centered activities, such as picnics, outings, feasts, and gift giving (especially for the children). During the five days of Pancha Ganapati, which is from December 21st to December 25th, the Hindus worship Lord Ganesha (the elephant-headed Lord of culture and new beginnings). Family members would work to rectify past mistakes and bring Lord Ganapati’s blessings of joy and harmony into their lives by focusing on a different sadhana (self-enrichment) for each of the five days. Each day, a tray of sweets, incense, and fruits are prepared and then offered to Lord Ganapati, preferably from the children. They also sing and chant songs to praise him and give colorful presents to the children, who will then place them before Lord Ganapati.

Instead of Christmas trees and Christmas decorations galore, the home is decorated like the forest. The home can be decorated with bamboo, pine boughs, banana leaves, or palm fronds. In the main living room of the house, a shrine (or any type of picture/statue) of Panchamukha (a five-faced form of Ganesha) Ganapati is created and placed. Adding sugarcane, lime garlands, durva grass, vadai, sweet modaka, flashing lights, oil lamps, or colorful ornaments can enhance the shrine. Then, the children will decorate and dress him in the color of the day each morning. Each of the five colors represent one of Lord Ganapati’s five rays of shaktis (energy).

The first day of Pancha Ganapati is golden yellow. Golden yellow is devoted to creating a vibration of love and harmony among the family. Family members will rise early in the morning to work and decorate the shrine with traditional symbols, lamps, etc. Afterwards, they perform a grand puja to invoke Pancha Ganapati’s blessings and then, the family sit with one another to share their love and make amends for any past misdeeds, insults, injuries, mental pain, etc. Gifts are then exchanged and placed (unopened) before the shrine. The second day is royal blue, which devotes love and harmony among neighbors, relatives, and close friends. They offer gifts and apologies to one another to relieve tension, clear up misunderstandings, and forgiveness is obtained. The third day is ruby red, which devotes love and harmony among business associates, merchants, and the public. The Hindus present gifts to their fellow workers and customers. They also honor their employers and employees by giving them gifts and showing them appreciation. The fourth day is emerald green, which draws forth the spiritual discipline of art, music, drama, and dance. On this day, family and friends sit in front of Lord Ganesha, the Patron of Arts and the Guardian of Culture, to share their artistic gifts, discuss Hindu Dharma, and make plans to bring more cultural refinements to their home. The last day is brilliant orange, which devotes bringing forth love and harmony to charity and religiousness. Since the previous four sadhanas (self-enrichment) have been performed well the previous four days, everyone is aware and experiences the love and grace of Lord Ganesha. Lord Ganesha’s flowing love pervades through the house and into people’s hearts, so everyone is inspired for the next year. Now that all five sadhanas are fulfilled, peace, love, and harmony has been restored once again. Finally, all the gifts are distributed and opened.

Hopefully this is all the correct information, but if you like to know more…here’s the websites I obtained all my information from:

http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5071

http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/Hinduism/2000/12/A-Hindu-Answer-To-The-December-Dilemma.aspx

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