Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Chinese Honor Their Ancestors During the Qingming Festival

On April 5th ancestors all over China will be remembered by their families and loved ones during the holiday known as the Qingming Festival. The festival, also called Ancestors Day or Tomb Sweeping Day, presents an opportunity for the Chinese to visit the grave sites of their deceased loved ones to remember and celebrate them. 

It is traditional for participants to sweep the grave sites clean and then present tea, food, wine, and chopsticks as a sign of love and respect. After the dead have been honored, the celebration continues with fun family outings. Families will fly kites in the shapes of animals, attend festivals with singing and dancing, and enjoy the new spring weather. This is also a day seen as the perfect time for young couples to begin dating. 

The festival is seen as a time to reflect and honor on the accomplishments of those who came before them and, above all, a time to be with family and cherish those close to you. In Southeast Asian nations, including Singapore and Malaysia, the holiday has been taken very seriously and the rituals followed faithfully all the way back since the Ming and Qing Dynasties. In addition to the traditional celebrations, Malaysian communities celebrate the festival with a huge family gathering and a visit to a Buddhist or Taoist temple. 

The creation of the festival can be attributed to the Tang Emperor Xuanzong, dating back to over 2,500 years ago. He observed that wealthy Chinese families were holding dozens of extravagant ceremonies to honor their ancestors, which was costing a lot of money, so he declared that the 15th day after the Spring Equinox would become the new official day for the remembrance and celebration of ancestors. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What's New in the World of Kpop

Korean pop music is an explosively popular genre of pop music with fans all of the world and Youtube videos that rack up millions of views. And with extreme popularity comes rapid change and many rising stars. Its hard to keep up with all the craziness of the Kpop world but every once in a while I like to check in with some of my favorite artists, and check out some new ones, just to see what’s new in all that is Korean pop music. And with this awesome genre there is never a dull moment. 

For example, popular and successful producer Crush announced that he will be making his own debut with his first single. The producer has helped many artists rise to fame throughout his career, but on April 2nd it’s his turn to test himself as not a producer but an artist himself. His talent has already been recognized through several successful collaborations with artists such as Gary and LOCO, but this will be his very first try at a solo career. So good luck to him and based off of what I have heard, I have no doubts that he will make it as a musician. 

Speaking of collaborations, Chunji from TEEN TOP will be teaming up with the all-girl group TINT for their next track “Wolves Don’t Know”. The song describes the challenges some girls face when dealing with a guy that they feel doesn’t understand their perspective or where they are coming from, using the concept of Little Red Riding Hood as a central theme. To complete the masterpiece and act as the guy’s perspective, they sought out the talent of Chunji. He expresses his excitement about the project saying, “I am joyful to be able to participate in TINT’s new song and I hope the song receives a lot of love.” 

The day that fans have long awaited is here! After four years of waiting, singer Jo Sung Mo is finally making his comeback with the release of a brand new album, appropriately titled, “Wind of Change”. The album is amazing right from the first track, which remembers back to one’s first love. Creatively titled, “Una Ya”, the song can have multiple meanings. It could be referring to a woman’s name or, if directly translated in Korean, it could mean “you are me.” The upbeat and beautiful album presents the perfect comeback, so I encourage you to take a listen to this talented artist’s work!

Click below to listen to a sample of the girls' group TINT with their track titled "Love at First Sight"

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Japanese Welcome Spring after a Long Winter on Vernal Equinox Day

After a long winter, the Japanese look forward to a day off on March 20th in celebration of Vernal Equinox Day, or Shunbun no hi. This public holiday is celebrated annually on the day when the sun crosses the equator making day and night equal in length. On this day everyone is encouraged to celebrate all living things and welcome the arrival of spring through the appreciation of nature and all the beauty it holds. 

With the arrival of spring comes the arrival of new beginnings. In addition to being with family and in nature, people use this time to “renew their lives” and have a fresh start with the new season. In order to do this, people will thoroughly clean their homes and make some important life changes they have been putting off, such as acquiring a new hobby or finishing something they started. 

For farmers, the vernal equinox is also a very important time. They use the holiday to pray for good luck and fortune regarding their crops during the upcoming season. 

During the Vernal Equinox also comes a time known as Higan. Higan is a seven day period where the Japanese pay respect to their ancestors. During this time it is popular for Japanese to visit their ancestors and loved ones’ grave sites and pay homage to them by cleaning their graves and leaving gifts to show respect. Taking advantage of the day off, many Japanese will also return to their childhood homes to be with their family. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Countries in Asia Know How to Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Too

It might not be the first places you think of- but countries in Asia have some pretty incredible St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Although, there is not a high Irish population throughout Asia, on St. Patrick’s Day everyone is Irish right? The holiday isn’t big everywhere in Asia but there are a few places that really get into the spirit of things and would be a great place to spend the holiday if you’re ever around the area in March!

Seoul, South Korea
It is a fairly recent addition to the list of Korean festivals, but since 2001 the Irish Association of Korea has been celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with an annual parade that hosts up to 15,000 attendees. It is complete with everything you would expect for a St. Patty’s Day bagpipes, Irish dancing, Celtic music, lots of green, and of course lots of beer! The Koreans love any excuse for a good party!

Tokyo, Japan
This may come as a surprise to you, but the Japanese have celebrated and embraced Irish culture for quite some time, and this includes- of course- St. Patrick’s Day. Each year, Tokyo hosts an amazing parade bringing 30,000 people to the streets to celebrate and several thousand parade participants. And like in Seoul, lots of green, music, food, and alcohol can be expected!

Due to it’s strong associations with the British Isles, Singapore also has a connection to Irish heritage and with it, St. Patrick’s Day. In addition to a spectacular parade, Singapore also hosts an annual St. Patrick’s Day Ball. The celebrations stretch over a three day period. First begins the ball on the eve before the big day. Then on the 17th, the streets fill with
green for the parade. And the fun continues on the 18th with street parties outside of local Irish pubs and Irish Festivals.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In previous years, Kuala Lumpur has had parties and festivals that have reached over 8,000 attendees. But Malaysia is making our list because of their public determination to host Asia’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade, even making an online pledge to make it into the Guinness Book of World Records. And they take it one step further, wanting to make not just the 17th the day of celebrations- but all of March!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lupita Nyong’o Blows Us Away with Her Powerful Words about Beauty and Being a Woman

Just days before her amazing win at the Oscars for her performance in 12 Years a Slave”, she accepted another award for the “Best Breakthrough Performance” at the annual Black Women in Hollywood Luncheon.

Her double dose of wins would have been impressive no matter who it was but did we mention this was her first movie? So we can already admire her for her talent but after the speech she delivered at the Luncheon I admire a whole lot more about her than just her acting skills. The speech was moving, inspirational, and a little heartbreaking all at the same time- and something every little girl needs to hear. In the United States, March is Women’s Month and Lupita Nyong’o is an example of a woman who definitely deserves to be celebrated. She is an excellent role model for young girls everywhere and her touching words reveal the beauty, power, and strength that all women are capable of. 

Watch Lupita Nyong’o's Incredible Speech here:

Japan Puts Their Own Twist on Valentine's Day with White Day

For us the holiday dedicated to love has been long forgotten till next year, but in Japan that was only one of two days reserved for romance!

Nearly one month ago people around the world celebrated Valentine's Day. It is common knowledge that this is a day for men to rush out for those red roses, box of chocolates, and dinner reservations- but Japan does Valentine's day a little differently. 

In Japan, it is custom for the women to express their love or friendship to men by presenting them with chocolates and chocolate gifts. When the chocolates are handmade it is meant to represent more sincerity, emotion, and effort on the woman's part. The favor is then returned to the women a month later with a holiday known as White Day.

On March 14th, it is custom in Japan for men to shower the woman in their life with gifts. Traditional White Day gifts include cookies, white chocolate, white lingerie, jewelry, and marshmallows. A general principle of the holiday is that the men who received a honmei-choco, or the chocolate of love, on Valentine's day are expected to pay two to three times the price when choosing their White day gift! The term sanbai gaeshi, literally translating to triple the return, is often used to describe this rule. 

Other countries in Asia also acknowledge White day but put a slightly different spin on it than China. For example, in China Valentine's day is where the men give women presents and White day is the day for women to return the favor. In Korea it is popular for children to exchange candies and chocolates with their classmates on both holidays. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake Crack Us Up with their “History of Rap” Performance

Jimmy Fallon’s ‘Tonight Show’ videos are blowing up YouTube left and right, and his recent video with Justin Timberlake, “The History of Rap”, is no exception. Posted only a week ago, the video has already received over 6 million views- and counting. After watching the video I can understand why! The two are hilarious together as they spontaneously break into a coordinated dance and rap featuring songs from Notorious B.I.G’s ‘Big Poppa’ to the theme song of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. And did I mention how perfect Justin Timberlake is? The guy can act, sing, dance, AND he's hilarious? Where’s my engagement ring…?

Click below to view “History of Rap” and see what all the buzz is about: