Thursday, January 17, 2013

Tangerines and Oranges: The Symbols of the Chinese New Year

Although many people in China, especially in the younger generation, have adopted many aspects of a "western" lifestyle, the rich Chinese culture and tradition is still alive and well- especially regarding the celebration of the New Year

One of the traditions that has continued to be honored each New Year is the association of various colors, fruits, and flowers with a special symbolic meaning. Examples of symbols whose meaning becomes incredibly important during the celebration of the Chinese New Year includes the fruits tangerines and oranges

These symbols importance becomes so great that Chinese people put them throughout their houses to welcome the coming of one of their most important festivals. Upon learning this I wondered to myself- why tangerines and oranges? 

What initially drew the Chinese people to the seemingly random fruit was their bright orange color, thought to symbolize gold which brings the people good luck and wealth. In fact, in Chinese tangerine sounds just like the word "luck" and orange is similar to the word "wealth". 

The symbolic importance of tangerines and oranges isn't random at all, but actually an association of happiness and prosperity with the gifts of tangerines and oranges. For this reason, tangerines and oranges can be seen displayed throughout houses and stores. They are also served to guests who are visiting during this exciting time of year. 

Another way the Chinese like to invite happiness and prosperity into their homes this time of year is by displaying miniature orange trees in the form of a potted plant. Although they look impossibly delicious, the trees are infused with high dosages of fertilizer so it's not recommended that you eat them- not matter how tempting they look!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

KARA Becomes 1st All-Girl Group to Perform at Tokyo Dome [VIDEO}

KARA changed the face of K-pop on the 6th of January by becoming the first Korean all-girl group to perform at the Tokyo Dome. 

Performing a total of 25 songs, the girls included their hits like "Pandora", "Speed Up", "Winter Magic", "Jet Coaster Love", "Pretty Girl", and more. 

To put a unique spin on their show, each KARA member also performed solo. The crowd went crazy when their hit song, "Mister", the song they debuted in Japan with, began to play. 

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The show at the Tokyo Dome was a success for these rising stars. When tickets went on sale, the girls sold out all 45,000 tickets in an astonishing five minutes. The concert an Tokyo was just one of a six part tour in Japan. They started out in Yokohama, then moved on to Osaka, Nagoya, Fukuoka, and then finally Tokyo before moving on to their final destination. 

Six cities, twelve performances, and 15,000 fans have been how these girls have kicked off their 2013.  

Click here to watch a their music video to their hit song "Mister" 

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year's Day in Korea

The celebration of a new year at the start of the lunar calendar has been a tradition in Korea for thousands of years. A new custom has also emerged in Korea -- the celebration of a new year at the start of the solar calendar, which falls on January 1st. 

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This year the start of the lunar calendar doesn't begin until February 10th but that doesn't mean that people across Korea weren't toasting to a new year with their friends and family January 1st! The lunar New Year is a three-day event that involves gathering with neighbors and friends, as well as family. 

However, New Year's Day is a more family-oriented event. People across the country travel back to their hometowns to be with their relatives and acknowledge their ancestors. A ceremonial ritual, called seh bae, is one of the most important aspects of this day. Seh bae involves a deep bow to the floor and making food and drink offerings to the spirits of their ancestors, or charae. To wish each other a safe, healthy, and happy New Year money and gifts are exchanged between family members, especially to the children. 

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Family time is greatly stressed during this holiday, so between meals, families gather to play board games, outdoor games (such as kite-flying), participate in karaoke, or just relax. Traditional meals are also included on this day. It is customary for families to prepare and eat a meal consisting of a soup of duk gook, or thinly sliced rice cakes and different variations of dumplings. White rice cakes are believed to represent a new beginning and fresh start for the New Year. 

Japanese New Year: Traditions (Part 1 of 2)

Everybody at ONCEKids wants to wish you a happy and healthy new year! It has been a very busy time in Japan as the people welcome the New Year with many traditions and celebrations rich in Japanese culture. 

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The festivities begin December 31st, also known as Omisoka. A special selection of dishes are reserved for this celebratory time of year. Mashed sweet potatoes, boiled seaweed, fish cakes, and sweetened black soybeans can all be found being prepared in the kitchen of Japanese homes during this time.

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Traditional foods continue to be prepared and eaten throughout the week, even with a seven-herb rice soup being prepared on the seventh day to allow the stomach to rest. The traditional New Year's foods date back to time where there was no refrigerators so most of the foods are dried, sour, or sweet to prevent spoiling while stores were closed for the holiday season. Other foods commonly consumed for New Years are sashimi and sushi. Soup with mochi rice cake is another very popular dish but the ingredients differ throughout the various regions of Japan. 

Other methods Japanese people like to use to ring in the New Year include bell ringing and sending postcards. Beginning on December 31st, the ringing of bells can be heard coming from Buddhist temples all over Japan. The temples ring their bells a total of 108 times to symbolize the 108 human sins of Buddhist tradition. They felt that the ringing of the bells would rid of the 108 worldly desires of the Japanese people. Once the bells have been rung the sins of the previous year are eliminated with the welcoming of the next year. The gesture of sending postcards to friends and family is custom for this celebration as well. The handwritten postcards are timed so they will arrive specifically on January 1st. Similarly to the Western custom of sending cards for Christmas, the Japanese send postcards for New Years to wish friends and family a happy and fulfilling year. 

Entertainment such as games and television specials are found at family gatherings and parties, as well as the reading of various Japanese poems. Poetry such as haiku and renga is read by people to family and friends to welcome and celebrate that special time of year. 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

China's "Lost In Thailand" Beats out "Titanic" [VIDEO]

The 1997 film, Titanic, directed by James Cameron, was nominated for fourteen Academy Awards, winning eleven of them, and earned a total of $2.18 billion -- making it the first film in history to surpass the billlion-dollar mark. $200 million was the budget set for the film, making it it the most expensive film ever made during its time. After the release of the film in 3D, more records were set but now China has done one better

A domestically produced comedy has become the highest-grossing Chinese film to date, grossing more than $160 million since December 12. The Xinhua News Agency says that this makes it the most popular film in Chinese theaters for 2012, including the Titanic 3D. 

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Due to the popularity of the film, titled Lost in Thailand, you would expect that tons of money went into its production but it's actually just the opposite. The best -- and most surprising -- part about the record-setting production was that it was a low-budget film. 

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Lost in Thailand is a film threaded with both humor and action, which tells the story of two businessmen who go on a search throughout Thailand to find their boss, eventually linking up with another tourist looking for adventure. 

Watch the trailer here: