Saturday, September 13, 2014

How Japanese Honor the Elderly Each Year on Respect For the Aged Day

Every September the Chinese recognize and celebrate their teachers, but in Japan this holiday comes with the arrival of November. In September, the Japanese celebrate a different group of people, highly regarded in their culture. 

Each year on the third Monday in September, Japan celebrates Keiro no hi, or Respect for the Aged Day. This year the annual holiday falls on September 15th. The holiday is purposed to respect, honor, and appreciate the elderly citizens of Japan. It is the duty of the younger generations of Japan to express gratitude for their endless contributions to society and most importantly, celebrate their long lives. 

Due to improvements in healthcare, Japanese people are living longer than ever before. Within the next month, the number of Japanese citizens over 100-years-old is expected to reach around 32,000! This revelation makes the holiday more relevant and significant than ever as well. 

The holiday began in 1947 when September 15th was dubbed “Old Folks Day”. However, the holiday began to grow in status as well as popularity until 1966 when it was renamed “Respect for the Aged Day” and added to Japan’s list of national holidays. It was also eventually moved from September 15th to the third Monday of September as part of Japan’s Happy Monday System. 

Since becoming a national holiday, families all over Japan have celebrated their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents in a variety of ways. Many communities will get together and throw large parties for all the elderly in their community. The younger generations will bring special gifts to present to the older generations to encourage longevity to their lives and thank them for the wisdom. 

In addition to large parties, volunteers distribute free “obento” boxed lunches to the elderly in their neighborhoods. Younger generations and school children prepare and perform dances at the keirokai ceremonies that are put on in the older generation’s honor. Elderly attendees are treated to lunch, tea, and sweets as they watch the special performance.  

The media also plays a role in the annual celebration, using this day to feature the elderly and their accomplishments as well as highlighting and recognizing the oldest people living in Japan. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

People All Across China Celebrate their Teachers on National Teacher's Day

In China there are special days each year set aside to celebrate parents, children, grandparents and ancestors, so it only seems appropriate that they would have a special day to celebrate teachers as well. 

Most people would argue that educators play the biggest role, other than families, towards the creation of a generation of children that grow up to become successful, happy, intelligent, and productive people in society. A teacher can have the power to influence a child to reach their full potential and find success far beyond the walls of a classroom. This alone is reason enough to have not just one day be set aside towards appreciating teachers, but every day.
Across the world, countless countries have a day or week dedicated to celebrating teachers. In the United States there is a teacher appreciation week each year in May. In China, September 10th is the annual day where the country recognizes teachers.

Each year come September 10th, children celebrate their teachers and let them know how much they care by presenting them gifts like flowers and cards. Many former students will return to their old high schools to visit their favorite teachers and bring them gifts as well.

The People's Republic of China announced the national celebration of Teacher's Day in 1985. They never clearly stated why September 10th was the day they chose, but none the less, you can expect hundreds of Chinese children and young adults honoring the national holiday and showering their teachers with gifts and praise all day tomorrow.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

How the Chinese Celebrate the Moon During their Second Largest Festival: the Mid-Autumn Festival

This weekend people all over China were celebrating one of China’s biggest festivals, the Mid-Autumn Festival. Only second to the Spring Festival in size and grandeur, the annual Mid-Autumn Festival spans over several days and attracts thousands of participants. Several of the elements of the holiday that creates this enormous attraction, other than the numerous legends associated with it, are the rich history and deep traditions behind it. For centuries the Chinese people have celebrated the fall season and the cycles of the moon, making it all the more special. So this weekend how have the Chinese been celebrating their beloved Mid-Autumn Festival? 

Beginning during the Zhou Dynasty (which lasted from 1046- 256 BC) sacrificial offerings to the moon were a major part of the holiday tradition. The people recognized that the moon cycles played a role in the changing of seasons and thus, affected their autumn harvests. They felt in order to continue having good fall harvests it was necessary to thank the moon for its part. Fast forward to today and sacrificial offerings are a less widespread part of the celebration, only being continued in certain rural areas. 

However, in modern times people still use this time of year to express appreciation of the moon and all it does for us. Family members sit around a table while talking about the wonderful things the moon does for us and why they appreciate its presence. Although it is a more relaxing and less serious custom, its roots are derived from the ancient sacrificial ceremonies of the Zhou Dynasty. 

The offering and consumption of certain foods also has its place in the Mid-Autumn Festival weekend. The food most well known and associated with the holiday is the moon cake. The origins of the moon cake can be traced back to the Yuan Dynasty when messages were passed between army leaders using notes baked into moon cakes. One of the leaders began giving the cakes to his subordinates as gifts around the time of the Mid-Autumn Festival. Since then it became a ritual for families to give each other moon cakes during the festival to signify reunion and the beginning of fall. 

Other foods including watermelons cut into the shape of lotus flowers, grapefruits, soybeans, oranges, and wine are commonly consumed during this special time. 

In addition to appreciating the moon and eating moon cakes, the Mid-Autumn Festival features many other fun traditions and customs. Some of these include burning of incense, traditional Fire Dragon dances, releasing of festival lanterns, stealing vegetables in hopes of finding “Mr. Right”, and many many more. Certain customs differ depending on what region you are in but there is no doubt that they are all equally interesting and exciting. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The History and Legends Behind China's Mid-Autumn Festival

Beginning this weekend and lasting through September 8th is the Chinese Mid-Autumn Festival. This festival is one of China’s most widely celebrated and “grand”, only second to the Spring Festival. Also named the Moon Festival, the holiday revolves around (no pun intended) both the movements of the moon as well as the beginning of the fall season. 

The annual three day celebration of the moon dates back thousands of years to the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC). The ancient Chinese people began to notice a relationship between the movement of the moon and the changing seasons. And with the changing season came the harvests. This connection sparked the beginnings of custom moon sacrificial ceremonies. A practice where the people would make offerings to “thank” the moon during those critical autumn days. 

During the Tang Dynasty the ceremony began to morph into a more widely celebrated folk festival. While still making offerings to the moon, the people would praise and celebrate the harvests too. 

Due to the length of time this festival has been celebrated and the time in which its celebration began, there are many myths and legends associated with the holiday. One of the most well known of which is the story of Chang E flying to the moon. 

The legend says that during ancient times there where ten suns that surrounded our planet, creating extreme heat and making life on Earth very uncomfortable for those who lived here. But a courageous man named Hou Yi wanted to help the people so he shot down nine of the ten suns. Shortly after his heroic act, he met a woman named Chang E. They fell in love and were happily married until his wife was forced to drink a potion that caused her to float away from the earth and towards the heavens. Hou Yi was devastated and cried her name out into the night sky. Upon looking up, he was amazed to see a figure who looked just like his wife standing on the moon. After this discovery, Hou Yi began to pray and make offerings to the moon in honor of his beloved wife. After the other villagers found out the fate of Chang E, they began to do the same until it became a widely spread custom. 

Other popular legends behind the Mid-Autumn Festival include  Wu Gang Chopping Laurel Tree, Jade Rabbit Pounding Medicine, and Zhu Yuanzhang and the Moon Cake Uprising. 

Keep a look out for part two of the Mid Autumn Festival Series to learn about the traditions and celebrations surrounding the exciting holiday! 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Chef Roy Choi is Revolutionizing the World of Food by Creating a Healthy Fast Food Chain

Every year for the past four years, chefs from around the world have gathered in Copenhagen to attend the MAD Conference where lengthy discussions of the future of food take place. Ideas range from progressive to wild but generally something amazing comes out of the unique gathering created by chef Redzepi. But that is no surprise seeing as it is a room full of some of the top chefs and food industry professionals in the world. 

This year, it was Roy Choi who produced a revolutionary idea. He intends to design a fast food concept to compete with famous fast food chains Burger King, Wendy’s, and McDonalds. But this concept doesn’t involve just burgers and fries. Named Loco’l, the chain will offer a range of healthy food options all priced between $2 and $6. Food options will include burgers made with a beef and grain mixture, salads, rice bowls, tacos, falafel, and more. Choi stressed the desire to have cross-cultural foods available on the menu. 

According to Choi, the intention is to “go toe to toe with fast-food chains and give the community a choice.” Loco’l would give people those choices by providing the low-income communities nourishing, healthy food without the financial burden. 

The idea first began developing in Choi’s head at last year’s MAD Conference when the chef’s were discussion food deserts and the hunger crisis. But he hasn’t just talked about it, he has already started to take action. 

Since that conference, Choi has opened 3 Worlds Cafe in South Los Angeles serving fresh fruit and smoothies “amid a sea of liquor stores.” 

Choi has paired up with famous chef Daniel Patterson to make this idea into a reality. In addition to Choi’s 3 Worlds Cafe, Patterson has been working with the Larkin Street Youth Clinic providing services to homeless youth.

As Patterson says, “It’s not that chefs aren’t making the effort. What I question is how our efforts are being used.”

But if more chefs and other food professionals get on board with Patterson and Choi, the food industry will begin to see some serious changes, for the better. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Latest and Greatest in 2014’s Apps, Gadgets, and Toys (Part One)

The last decade has seen some phenomenal advances in technology and 2014 was no exception. Companies all over the world are busy trying to create the coolest and most popular new technological devices and listed below are 8 of the most awesome ones that I came across from this year.  

1. Century’s “Floe”
So many women, myself included, love ending a long, stressful day with a nice, relaxing soak in the tub. Often that includes bubbles, music, maybe even candles. Personally, I think the music is one of the best parts of the bath experience, but it can also be the most challenging. Dragging in a clunky docking station or blaring speakers from the other room serves as such an inconvenience for what is supposed to be a relaxing occasion. Enter in Floe, Century’s latest bluetooth speaker. It is a small, cone-shaped speaker that can play music from your smartphone or tablet via bluetooth, no cords required. The LED lights can be switched to a calming blue and the battery-charged speaker actually floats on water like a mini buoy. 

2. Takara Tomy’s Decora Palette
We live in a digitalized world and kids are some of the biggest consumers (and sometimes it seems, the most knowledgable) of modern day technology.  If your child loves taking pictures but you aren’t ready to commit to buying them a smartphone, this is the perfect gadget for you. It is not just a device that snaps photos but it also comes with various fun features such as the ability to alter images and add decorative stamps and frames. Cool features and it looks cute coming in blue, black, or bright pink. 

3. Aeropress
Are you a coffee drinker? If yes then you might consider this the #1 invention of the year. The Aeropress only costs about a week’s worth of coffee and saves you tons of money in the future. All it requires is a spoonful of your favorite coffee grounds and some hot water, then you press down and fresh, hot coffee comes out. It is way cheaper and less wasteful then making a whole pot for one or two cups or spending all that money on Nespresso cups. Did i mention its easy to clean?

4. Philips Norelco QT4070 Vacuum Beard Trimmer
Speaking of cleaning, finally someone has added a clean up system to one of their electric razors. Philips has created a vacuum to go along with one of their powerful electric razors so when you’re done giving yourself a stylish trim you can have a quick and easy clean up. I’m sure your spouses will appreciate it too! 

5. Logitech Powershell
For anyone who has gamers in their family, this gadget will be a favorite. The Logitech Powershell is a gaming controller made specifically for the iPhone. It works by sliding the iPhone directly into a built-in slot in the controller, allowing the phone to retain its independent functions while being attached to the controller. Another great feature is that the headphone jack stays open so your child can listen to music while they play. 

6. Mophie Space Pack
If you aren’t worried about adding a little bulk to your iPhone, then the Mophie Space Pack can serve as an awesome memory-adding addition to your mobile device. The 3-in-1 gadget includes a case, a charger, and a storage provider. 

7. Misfit Shine
Anyone interested in fitness or getting healthy should look to the new Misfit Shine. It is a stylish gadget that provides a new take on the typical fitness tracker. It can be worn in a variety of ways and is small, making it unintrusive and practically unnoticeable. Not to mention you only have to change the batteries every four months, so you don’t have to worry about it dying on you.

8. Nest Learning Thermostat
Control the heat from anywhere in your home with a click of a button on your smartphone and save on your heating bill with the Nest Learning Thermostat. Not only can you control the heat, but the device also comes with a humidity sensor that you can hook up to your dehumidifier and set to three temperature sensors. And we can’t forget the wifi radio! It also looks way cooler than any other thermostat you’re going to see in someone’s house. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kids and Smartphones- How Much is Too Much?

Parents around the world are battling the pros and cons to their children owning and using smartphones. The idea of letting their children have unrestricted access to the Internet their phone provides sounds pretty unappealing to most parents, but the weight of the pressure of not wanting their children to be different from all the other kids also serves as a setback. 

With increasing uses of technology in our education system, it’s not a bad idea for kids and teens to be up-to-speed on all the latest gadgets and their uses- but it continues to raise the question: how much is too much? 

Back in January of 2009, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology issued a notice to schools requesting a ban on cellphones within elementary and junior high schools, as well as restrictions for high schools. Fast forward to 2014 and the problem only seems to be more of a problem with smartphones being more popular, and well, smarter, than ever. Most parents are all too familiar with the horror stories surrounding cyber bullying that seems to be the dominating form of bullying these days. 

Parents and educators aren’t the only ones interested in answering this question nowadays, the toy industry is as well. Recently MegaHouse developed Fairisia, a smartphone made just for kids that can easily be monitored and limited by parents. 

But, at the end of the day technology is only going to become more prevalent and harder to avoid, so instead of bashing it or banning it parents should become more educated about it. Knowing how smartphones work and using one yourself can help you be aware about how your child may be using their phone. It is important to know the dangers as well as the benefits of smartphones as well as techniques for monitoring their use. Issuing a curfew, limiting the number of hours they can use their phone, having them keep their phone downstairs at night are all examples of ways to monitor their use. If they have social media accounts such as Twitter or Facebook, make your own account and see what they are up to! Or if that is totally not up your alley at all and your child is still young, require them to give you their user name and passwords so you can occasionally sign on and take a peak at what they are doing online. 

The advancing technology and kids' advancing knowledge of it can seem intimidating to most parents, but being aware and checked in as well as knowledgable yourself are all ways to ease your qualms around the subject of kids and smartphones.