The Daily Bug

Chinese New Year/Year of the Dog

By: palmettobug53, 3:55 PM GMT on January 29, 2006

Chinese New Year
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

.Chinese New Year (Chinese: 春節, 春节, Chūnjíe; or 農曆新年, 农历新年, Nónglì Xīnnián), also known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It consists of a period of celebrations, starting on New Year's Day, celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Chinese calendar, i.e. the day of the second new moon after the day on which the winter solstice occurs, unless there is an intercalary eleventh or twelfth month in the lead-up to the New Year—in such a case, the New Year falls on the day of the third new moon after the solstice. (The next time this occurs is in 2033.) The Chinese New Year period ends with the Lantern Festival, on the fifteenth day of the festival.

Legend has it that in ancient China, Nian ("Nyan") was a man-devouring predator beast that could infiltrate houses silently. The Chinese soon learned that Nian was sensitive to loud noises and the color red, and they scared it away with explosions, fireworks and the liberal use of color red domestically. These customs led to the first New Year celebrations.

Celebrated internationally in areas with large populations of ethnic Chinese, Chinese New Year is considered to be a major holiday for the Chinese as well as ethnic groups such as the Mongolians, Koreans, the Miao (Chinese Hmong), the Vietnamese (see Tết), Tibetans, the Nepalese and the Bhutanese (see Losar) who were influenced by Chinese culture in terms of religious and philosophical worldview, language and culture in general. Chinese New Year is also the time when the largest human migration takes place when Chinese all around the world return home on the eve of Chinese New Year to have reunion dinners with their families.

The New Year season lasts fifteen days. The first week is the most important and most often celebrated with visits to friends and family as well as greetings of good luck. The celebrations end on the important and colourful Lantern Festival on the evening of the 15th day of the month. However, Chinese believe that on the third day (年初三) of the Chinese New Year it is not appropriate to visit family and friends, and call the day "chec hao" (赤口), meaning "easy to get into arguments".

The date of the Chinese New Year is determined by the Chinese calendar, a lunisolar calendar. The same calendar is used in countries that have adopted the Confucian and Buddhism tradition and in many cultures influenced by the Chinese, notably the Koreans, the Tibetans, the Vietnamese and the pagan Bulgars. Chinese New Year starts on the first day of the new year containing a new moon (some sources even include New Year's Eve) and ends on the Lantern Festival fourteen days later. This occurs around the time of the full moon as each lunation is about 29.53 days in duration. In the Gregorian calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on different dates each year, on a date between January 21 and February 21.

On the days before the New Year celebration, Chinese families give their home a thorough cleaning. It is believed the cleaning sweeps away bad luck and makes their homes ready for good luck to arrive. All brooms and dust pans are put away on New Year's Eve so that good luck cannot be swept away. Some people give their homes, doors and windowpanes a new coat of red paint. Homes are decorated with paper cutouts of Chinese auspicious phrases and couplets (short phrases) that speak of "happiness", "wealth", "longevity".

A reunion dinner is held on New Year's Eve where members of the family, near and far, get together for celebration. The New Year's Eve dinner is very large and traditionally includes chicken. Fish (魚, yú) is included, but not eaten up completely (and the remaining stored overnight), as the Chinese phrase 年年有餘; (nián nián yǒu yú, or "every year there is leftover/surpluses") is a homophone for phrases which could mean "be blessed every year" or "have something leftover every year" or phrases to that effect, since "yú" is also the pronunciation for "leftover" or more accurately, surplus. A type of black hair-like algae, pronounced "fatt choy" in Cantonese, is also featured in many dishes since its name sounds similar to "prosperity". Hakka will serve kiu nyuk (扣肉) and ngiong tiu fu. Because certain things and/or food sound alike to certain Chinese well-wishes, the belief is that having one will lead to the other, like the old child's aphorism "step on a crack, break your mother's back".

Chinese Ancient Gold Nugget
Most Northerners serve dumplings as the main dish on this festive season, although most Chinese around the world would do the same because it is believed that dumplings (饺子--jiǎo zi) 饺子 is wrapped in the semblance of Chinese gold nuggets a long time ago in ancient China. This gold nugget is called 金元宝 (jin yuán bǎo). However, mandarin oranges are the most popular and most abundant fruit during Chinese New Year amongst Chinese simply because of, inter alia, how the name of the fruit is phonetically similar to gold -- Jin ju (金橘子) or Kamm (金) in Cantonese.

First day of the new year
The first day (初一 or "chu yi") is for the welcoming of the gods of the heavens and earth. Many people abstain from meat consumption on the first day because it is believed that this will ensure long and happy lives for them.

New Year's day is also celebrated within the family. Usually family members gather on the morning of New Year's Day. It is at this gathering that red envelopes are given to unmarried members of the family, usually by married members of the family. The age of the recipient is immaterial to receiving the envelope. Married couples usually give out two red envelopes, one each from wife and husband, on the first new year after being married. In subsequent years they may give one as a couple.

Red envelopes traditionally consisted of amounts which were considered multiples. Amounts like $2 (two pieces of $1), or $20 were acceptable. Similarly "multiples" such as $1.10 and $2.20 were also acceptable. However, this is not strictly adhered to. The gift was originally a token amount but these days it is not uncommon to receive large sums in affluent families. In some families this tradition has evolved into the practice to substituting money-like instruments (stocks, bonds, unit trust) in place of large sums of cash.

Red envelopes are also given to unmarried visitors but the sums are often smaller than the envelope given to family members or close friends. Employers may also give red envelopes to their employees on the first working day after the festival.

Most importantly, the first day of Chinese New Year is a time where family members, in order of their seniority, will pay a visit to their oldest and most senior member of their family, usually their parents or grandparents, or even great grandparents. The venue of the aforementioned Renunion Dinner is usually, if not always, at the eldest and most respected family member's residence. This has been in practice for many centuries.

Some families will invite a Lion dance troupe to their home as a symbolic ritual to usher in the Lunar New Year as well as to force-evict bad spirits out of the premises. Chinese red firecrackers will also be on display where the deaftening explosions of each firecracker is believed to scare evil spirits away.

Second day of the new year
On this day, the Chinese offer prayers to their ancestors as well as to all the deities. They are extra kind to dogs and feed them well. It is also believed that the second day is the birthday of all dogs.

Third day and fourth of the new year
These are two days for sons-in-laws to pay respect and visit their parents-in-law. The fourth day is also an occassion to pay homage to "Cai Shen", the Chinese God of Wealth.

Fifth day of the new year
This day is called Po Woo. This is the day when people stay home to welcome the God of Wealth. Traditionally, people do not visit families and friends on the fifth day because it is believed it will bring both parties bad luck.

Sixth day through the tenth day of the new year
From the sixth to the tenth day, people visit their relatives and friends freely. Many people also visit temples to pray for good fortune and health.

Seventh day of the new year
The seventh day traditionally is known as the common man's birthday, the day when everyone grows one year older. It is also the day when tossed fish salad, yusheng, is eaten. People get together to toss the colourful salad and make wishes for continued wealth and prosperity. This is celebrated primarily amongst the Chinese in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Singapore, a tradition which may mean nothing to other Chinese.

The seventh day is also the day for farmers to display their produce. Farmers make a drink from seven types of vegetables to celebrate the occasion.

Eighth day of the new year
On this day, the Fujian people have another family reunion dinner. At midnight they offer prayers to the Jade Emperor or the God of Heaven.

Ninth day of the new year
On this day, people make offerings to the Jade Emperor.

Tenth day through twelfth day of the new year
From the tenth day through the twelfth day are periods when friends and relatives would be invited for dinner.

Thirteenth day of the new year
On the thirteenth day, people traditionally have simple rice congee and mustard greens to cleanse their digestive system after having so much rich food during the past twelve days.

Fourteenth day of the new year
On this day, people have preparations to celebrate the Lantern Festival which is held on the fifteenth day (last new year day).

Fifteenth day of the new year
The fifteenth and last day of the new year is celebrated as Yuanxiao jie (元宵节) or otherwise known as Chap Goh Mei in Fujian dialect, marked by the eating of tangyuan (Simplified Chinese: 汤圆; Traditional Chinese: 湯圓; Hanyu Pinyin: tāngyuán), a sweet rice ball dumpling soup. Depending on locality, the same day may also be celebrated as the Lantern Festival, or as the Chinese Valentine's Day.

Traditionally, red packets (Mandarin: 'hong bao' (紅包); Hokkien: 'ang pow' (POJ: âng-pau); Hakka: 'fung bao'; Cantonese: 'lai see' (利是)) are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from married couples to unmarried people (usually children). Chinese New Year is celebrated with firecrackers, dragon dances and lion dances. Typically the game of mahjong is played in some families.

The Chinese New Year is often accompanied by loud, enthusiastic greetings, often refered to as 吉祥話 (Jíxiánghùa), or loosely translated as auspicious words or phrases. Some of the most common examples may include:

Traditional Chinese: 新年快樂; Simplified Chinese: 新年快乐; pinyin: Xīnnián kuàilè; Hokkien POJ: Sin-nî khòai-lo̍k; Cantonese: Sun nin fai loh. A more contemporary greeting reflective of western influences, it literally translates from the greeting "Happy new year" more common in the west.
Traditional Chinese: 恭喜發財; Simplified Chinese: 恭喜发财; pinyin: Gōngxǐ fācái; Hokkien Keong hee huat chye (POJ: Kiong-hí hoat-châi); Cantonese: Kung hei fat choi (also spelled kung hei fat choy or kung hey fat choi); Hakka: Kung hee fat choi, which loosely translates to "Congratulations and be prosperous." Often mistakenly assumed to be synonymous with "Happy new year", its usage dates back several centuries, with the Cantonese transliteration said to have first entered English usage in the 1800s, for instance. While the first two words of this phrase had a much longer historical significance (legend has it that the congratulatory messages were traded for surviving the ravaging beast of Nian, although in practical terms in may also involve surviving the harsh winter conditions), the last two words were added later as capitalism and consumerism ideas took greater significance in Chinese societies around the world.
The saying is now commonly heard in English speaking communities for greetings during Chinese New Year in parts of the world where there is a sizeable Chinese-speaking community, for instance in Australia, Canada and America among others. In other English-speaking communities with a larger Chinese-speaking population, the Mandarin version tend to prevail especially when multiple dialect groups exist, particularly in Malaysia and Singapore.

Numerous other greetings exist, some of which may be exclaimed out loud to no one in particular during specific events or actions. For example, as breaking objects during the new year is considered inauspicious, one may then say 歲歲平安 (Suìsuì píngān) immediately, which means everlasting peace year after year. 歲 (Suì) sounds phonetically similar to the word 碎 (Suì), the latter of which refers to the action of shattering, in a demonstration of the Chinese love for utilising phonetical patterns in coming up with similar auspicious phrases. Hence, 年年有余 (Niánnián yǒuyú), meaning a wish for surpluses and bountiful harvests every year, plays on the word yú to also refer to 魚 (meaning fish), thus using it as a catch phrase for fish-based Chinese new year dishes or writtern on paintings or graphics of fish and hung on walls or presented as gifts.

Other circumstances which may trigger the use of these greetings or phrases may be when children greet their elders just before receiving their red packets, when gifts are exchanged, during visits to the temples, or even when tossing the shredded ingredients of Yusheng particularly popular in Malaysia and Singapore.

Updated: 1:01 PM GMT on July 01, 2006


The Mystic Order of WUBA !!!

By: palmettobug53, 1:57 AM GMT on January 11, 2006

Jack Laine's Reliance Band Lining Up At the Rex Parade, 1914
Painting by George Schmidt

The annual bacchanalia known as Mardi Gras has roots extending as far back as ancient Rome, (some say thousands of years before that—the druids) in the feast of Lupercalia which goes back several centuries BC. Originally meant to celebrate the founding of Rome on Palatine Hill by Romulus and Remus who were suckled by a wolf, it was an early spring festival, marked with much riotous clamor and revelry. The Christians who later dominated in the same area, wished to replace what was utterly pagan with something more palatable to their religious beliefs and yet, not too unsettling to the natives. .

All Christians waited until Easter Sunday to be baptized in the early church, and they marked the period beforehand with extended periods of fasting. This came to be known as “Lent.” Eventually a set date for the beginning of Lent was established, called “Ash Wednesday,” and it was always 46 days before Easter Sunday. Since Easter is based on the lunar calendar of the Jewish and Catholic calends it is a moveable feast, thus Ash Wednesday which began the fasting season was also a mobile feast. Since it is human nature to absolutely have one last splurge on the last day before surrendering indulgence, the day before Ash Wednesday came to be known as “Fat Tuesday”, or in French, “Mardi Gras.”

Mardi Gras can come as early as February 3, or as late as March 9, due to the shifting lunar calendar dictating the location of Easter; but the Mardi Gras season actually begins on the night of January 6, which is the Feast of the Epiphany, or “King’s” Day. We’ve all heard the song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and some of us know this is in reference to the twelve days from Dec. 25, to Jan 6, quite literally, the “Twelfth Day of Christmas.” It is on this night that the group known as “Twelfth Night Revelers” picks their royal court and begins the season of Carnival. The earliest way the royal court was picked was using a cake with silver and gold beans placed in it; the one who got the piece with the gold bean was chosen Queen of the revel. Thus began the legacy of the much heralded “King Cakes.” The golden bean has long since been replaced with a tiny baby; but the tradition of having King Cake parties every Friday from twelfth-night, till the Friday before Mardi Gras continues to this day, with the one who draws the baby as the King and provider of the next party.

Okay, enough prehistoric background. Let’s get to how it came to be a New Orleans specialty! As stated earlier, the Christians, wisely realized it would be better to incorporate and Christianize some fetes as opposed to demanding their complete abandonment, finding a way to inculcate much of the revelry that was associated with Lupercalia into Mardi Gras. The ethnic group that seemed to make the most of it were the French, with their love for masking, Royalty, and, well, debauchery. The first time we KNOW of Mardi Gras arrival in the New Orleans environs (indeed the New World) was when Sieur D’Iberville traversing the newly claimed lands of Louisiana, set up camp about 60 miles south of the where the city would be established, at a location aptly named “Point du Mardi Gras.” Kind of let’s you know what the day was when they established this little campsite. The date was March 3, 1699. Despite Mobile’s arguable claim to the very first Mardi Gras in America, this goes down as the very earliest celebration of the day in America. In the year 1999 Rex, the king of Carnival dedicated a plaque on this very site, celebrating 300 years of Mardi Gras in the New World.

The first celebrations by an established city were indeed held in Mobile, the first capital of the colony that was called Louisianne, in 1703. With the establishment of New Orleans, the capital moved there, and many of the Mobile troupes did as well bringing with them Mardi Gras (which incidentally has continued to this day in that Alabama city). What was to become the “Greatest free show on Earth” has a history and evolution as complex and unique as the Old World City in the New World which celebrates it. It is a rich mixture of cultures unlike any found in North America. New Orleans was truly a center of cultural diversity long before the term had ever been engendered in our PC lexicon. The Indian tribes of the area, the Black Culture, freed and slave, the French, all became a mixture called “Creole.” Later the Acadian French relocated from Nova Scotia (whose name became localized as “Cajun”) added their own brand of cultural spice, as did the Spanish when they took control of the city, and then the second French rule, and ultimately that of the United States.

Some of the riotous clamoring did not shed Mardi Gras in a favorable light with the ruling class of New Orleans, and at various times the masking and partying had been restricted or outright banned; but with the final removal of all prohibitions against masked partying in 1823-7, the stage had been set, and the players began to meld into that unique animal we know today as Mardi Gras. By the 1830’s the Cowbellians who had their roots in Mobile, began the first street parading in New Orleans, and by 1857 the Mystick Krewe of Comus was formed, becoming the very first of the legendary “Krewes” of Carnival. It is said with some justification, that Comus “saved” Mardi Gras, as until this group formed the riot and clamor had brought the fete to the point of being completely prohibited once again. Instead, their tableau ball held at the Gaiety Theatre, which had over 3,000 participants, resurrected the true spirit of Mardi Gras. Comus is and has always been a very secretive society never releasing the names of its king or queen. The title of this installment is called “Sic volo sic jubeo” (As I will it, there WILL be JOY) since that became the motto of the Krewe that saved Mardi Gras: Comus, the oldest existing Krewe. It held the first street parade in 1857, complete with flambeaux to light the areas around its two floats, had the first consistent theme, was the first to invoke the mythological ties that many would later emulate, and culminated with its massive ball. Comus took its name from a Greek term “Komos” loosely translated as “Revelers” and since Mardi Gras begins with the Twelfth Night Revelers, thus endeth the first installment in the history of the great tradition we know as Mardi Gras! King Cake anyone?

Laissez les Bontemps Roullette!

(Contributed by DMS816)

Updated: 1:53 PM GMT on July 01, 2006



By: palmettobug53, 3:31 PM GMT on January 09, 2006

Just to let you guys know why I haven't been around since briefly late Sat. night. Had been noticing a few problems with my computer at home. Sat. night it seemed real slow, but not that unusual. When I tried to cut on Sunday afternoon, KERFLOOEY! The display driver had crashed again. I've had it worked on several times in the last 2 years, and decided that this was the last straw. Will have to see about getting a new one, getting it set up, and installing all the firewalls, antivirus, adware/spyware garbage again...
So until then, will only be able to touch base briefly from work, during my lunch break.



Weather Lore

By: palmettobug53, 11:01 PM GMT on January 02, 2006

Prior to the advent of modern forecasting technology, man had to be in tune with his environment in order to deduce when bad weather was on the way. Farmers, hunters and sailors, especially, had to develop a good sense of what the weather was going to do in order to go about their daily lives productively and safely. Would the coming winter be mild or not? Was a storm brewing? Would it be safe to set sail?
Traveling, sowing and harvesting crops, fishing, hunting and myriads of other activities depended on the weather. Survival itself could hinge on whether or not one developed a good "weather eye". The clouds, the wind, the behavior of wildlife in the surrounding forests, as well as that of the animals in the barnyard, even the local plants were indicators of upcoming weather events.
I'll post some that I found in "The Foxfire Book", the first volume in the Foxfire series, written and published by the students at Rabun Gap-Nacooche High School, in Rabun Gap, Georgia. Please add any weather lore you have picked up from older relatives or have heard growing up. Do you actively watch for weather signs yourself? Do you know if there is a scientific basis for any of them? We'd like to hear what you have to say!

Updated: 1:05 PM GMT on July 01, 2006


The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

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WU member since Oct. 2005. I enjoy reading, crafts, crosswords, puttering in the yard, old movies and hanging out with my friends on WU.

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