Tuesday, September 30, 2014

China Honors their History and Culture Through the Celebration of National Day and Golden Week

In China, the arrival of October doesn't only mean autumn weather and color changing leaves, but also the widespread celebration of their country with National Day and their annual fall Golden Week, lasting from October 1st through the 7th. 

The seven day length makes this the longest Chinese public holiday after the Spring Festival, so people love taking this time to travel. It is also a very popular time for tourists to come to the country to witness the display of patriotism, so if you ever want to visit during this week make sure to plan ahead! The much anticipated week is purposed to commemorate the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949. 

Although the People's Republic of China was technically founded on September 21st of 1949, the ceremony to celebrate this revolutionary formation was held in Tiananmen Square on the first day of October, passing the "Resolution on the National Day of PRC" the following day. Curiously, even though National Day was not declared a holiday until 1949, the term appears within writings and the Chinese language as far back as the Western Jin Dynasty, which lasted from 265-316 AD.

Today, people express their national pride through spectacular parades and parties. The Military Review and Parade at Tiananmen Square is held every five years- with the 5 year anniversaries being smaller parades and the ten year anniversaries very large and more heavily celebrated.

For people across China unable to make it to Tiananmen Square, many of the towns will host their own celebrations. Across China, people participate in flag-raising ceremonies, dancing, watch firework displays, and go to art exhibitions. For lovers of bargains and discounts, the 7-day holiday is one of the best times to shop, so get your wallet ready!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

15,000 Fans Pack Ko Olina to Hear Japanese Idol Group Arashi

People in Japan are well acquainted with the Japanese band known as Arashi, but not many people in the United States have ever even heard of them before. But that may all change after their recent performance in Oahu

Around 15,000 fans jammed Ko Olina to witness the concert, waiting patiently for hours on their folding chairs. Line up for the 5:30 pm concert began at a whopping 9am. Finally after much patience and excitement, the helicopter flew overhead and the fans knew the moment they had long waited for had arrived. But the band’s popularity that night was not just limited to Ko Olina, an estimated 160,000 fans attended showings in theaters across Japan. 

Fans from the mainland knew the concert was going to be a big deal, Arashi is not just any band in Japan, but even they were shocked at the incredible turn out. 

Arashi is a five member Japanese idol group that has been performing since they officially formed in 1999. Their first few years proved to be a slow start but after the release of their 8th single, “Love So Sweet”, they gained a significant amount of commercial success. Not long after, “Love So Sweet” became the fifth top selling single of 2007 in Japan. Since then the group has seen a lot of success, becoming the first group to place in the top two on the Oricon singles chart for two consecutive years and the third group in Oricon history to monopolize the top three best-selling singles of the year. In 2010, their list of achievements grew even longer as all six of their singles made it to the top ten chart and their album was dubbed the best selling album of the year in Japan.

After their recent performance in Ko Olina, their success and popularity is bound to stretch beyond Japan. Even those in the crowd who were not as familiar with the band were blown away by their performance. Promotor Tom Moffatt reacted very enthusiastically saying, “These guys! What performers! And the costume changes! And the audience is-wow! Just amazing.”

The concert had such a good turn out and so much positive feedback that Arashi will surely return for another incredible performance sometime in the not-too-distant future. 

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!