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. 

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White Day

해피 화트데이! Happy White Day everyone! Many of you may be asking, “What exactly is White Day?” Well my dear readers, let me explain.

White Day is celebrated on March 14, one month after Valentine’s Day. It is celebrated in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. White Day (ホワイトデーHowaito-de)originated in Japan; it was first celebrated in 1978. It was started by the National Confectionary Industry Association on the thought that the men should give back to the women that gave them chocolate and gifts on Valentine’s Day. This holiday has not always been known as White Day. A candy company known as Ishimura Manseido also started to produce marshmallow treats for people to give on this holiday, which lead to the holiday’s original name, Marshmallow Day. Later on, confectionary companies started to produce white chocolate for this holiday and the name White Day was eventually given.

marshmallow heartswhite chocolate

On Valentine’s Day, girls and women in Japan give chocolates and other gifts to men and boys as an expression of love, courtesy, or simply, social obligation. Chocolates are put into three separate categories: giri choco, honmei choco, and tomo choco. Giri choco is obligatory or courtesy chocolate. For example, women would give their superiors and male co-workers giri choco (basically to any male that one does not have any romantic feelings for). Honmei choco is chocolate given to a man a woman loves or is serious about. Tomo choco is chocolate women give to their male friends (that they are NOT serious/in love with). Tomo choco, however, is not as common as giri choco and honmei choco. Handmade chocolate is usually preferred over store-bought chocolate, because of the thought, emotion, and effort put into the chocolate.

Then on White Day, the men who received chocolates are expected to return the favor and give gifts back (to “answer” or “reply” back to the women) such as white chocolates, dark chocolates, candies, cookies, marshmallows, jewelry, accessories, stuffed animals, and lingerie. There is a recited rule on returning a gift known as sunbai gaeshi/“triple the return,” the return gift should be twice or triple times the cost of the Valentine’s gift received. If a woman spends $5, the man is expected to spend $15. Or if a woman spends $50, the man is expected to spend $150.

Japan chocolate hearts

Japan chocolate

White Day gifts

In South Korea, White Day (화이트데이 Hwai-teu-deh-ee) is basically the same as Japan’s White Day except  chocolates and gifts are usually only exchanged between couples and lovers. School children, however, often give lollipops and other candies to their friends and classmates. When women and girls give men chocolates and gifts on Valentine’s Day,  the men return the favor on White Day. There is also another holiday that goes along with Valentine’s Day and White Day for all the people who did not receive any chocolates or gifts, which is known as Black Day (April 14) (I’ll make a post on Black Day later on). Anyways, gifts given on South Korea are commonly candies and sweets  (and of course, flowers). Chupa Chups lollipops are the most selling candies during White Day.

Happy White Day

화이트데이 캔디

화이트데이 헬로키티

츄파춮스

이민호 화이트데이

This last picture of Lee Min Ho, I randomly came across on the internet. I thought this was pretty relevant. And also the fact that Lee Min Ho is very handsome…

If any of you are wondering (probably not), I did not receive anything for White Day. Mainly because, I do not know many people from my area who is particularly interested in the Korean culture, Japanese culture, Chinese culture, etc. that know about White Day (especially the young men). However, my dad did get me flowers and chocolate for Valentine’s Day so that makes up for it.

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.

red envelope2

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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Saint Nicholas’ Day/Der Nikolaustag

Today, December 6th, is St. Nicholas’ Day/Der Nikolaustag. So here’s some brief information/history about St. Nicholas’ Day.

St. Nicholas’ Day is celebrated annually in Germany (and other European countries) on December 6th. St. Nicholas/Sankt Nikolaus is portrayed to be the Bishop of Myra and it is said that his companion is (dark, scary-looking) Knecht Ruprecht. Knecht Ruprecht would wear a tattered robe and carry around a large sack. A legend has it that he would stuff all the naughty children in the sack.

St. Nicholas was the patron of children, students, teachers, bakers, merchants, and sailors. He is also credited with performing miracles on December 6th and also, he was known for his gift-giving to children. German-speaking countries celebrate and feast these miracles to honor him.

Saint Nicholas’ Day Tradition-The evening of December 5th, kids will put their shoes outside their doors (or windows) and St. Nicholas will come put chocolate, goodies, & small toys for the good children and coal for the bad children. Then on December 6th, the little boys and girls will discover their presents (or coal).

I remember back in 2nd grade, my 2nd grade teacher did this with us. I can still remember the little brown bear I found in my shoe and the excitement I felt afterwards. Culture is all around us and you never know how much cultures will intrigue you, unless you take time to experience them.