Seasons & Holidays

Chinese New Year 2012: Year of the Dragon

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade. The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to “catch up” with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-yearcycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year. New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors. The sacrifice to the ancestors, the most vital of all the rituals, united the living members with those who had passed away. Departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family.

Click here for Year of the Dragon in the Chinese Zodiac

top

New Year Traditions from Around the World

1) Baby New Year Tradition
The tradition of using a baby to signify the New Year was started around 600 B.C by the ancient Greeks, who, at the start of a year would carry a baby around in a basket. The purpose of it was to honor Dionysus, the God of Fertility and symbolize his annual rebirth.

2) Hogmanay
The New Year in Scotland is called Hogmanay. The people in Scotland follow a ritual that appears nutty but actually has a great significance. One can find barrels of tar set afire and gradually rolled down the streets in the villages of Scotland. This ritual symbolizes that the old year is burned up and New Year is going to begin.

3) Burning “Mr. Old Year” 
In Columbia, Cuba and Puerto Rico families stuff a life-size male doll with things and then they dress it up in old clothes from each family member. At the stroke of midnight, this ‘Mr. Old Year’ is set on fire. This is done with the simple belief that a doll thus stuffed have bad memories or sadness associated with them, and that the burning of these will help one to do away with all past grief’s and usher in happiness in life with the coming year.

4) Eating Noodles
Late on the evening of December 31, people of Japan would eat a bowl of buckwheat noodles called “toshikoshisoba” (“year-crossing noodles”) and listen for the sound of the Buddhist temple bells, which were rung 108 times at midnight. The sound of these bells is said to purify the listeners of the 108 sins or evil passions that plague every human being.

5) Eating 12 Grapes
In Spain people eat 12 grapes as the clock strikes midnight (one each time the clock chimes) on New Year’s Eve. This peculiar ritual originated in the twentieth century when freak weather conditions resulted in an unseasonable bumper harvest of grapes. Not able to decide what to do about so many grapes at Christmas time, the King of Spain and the grape growers came up with the idea of the New Year ritual.

6) Gifts in Shoes
In Greece children leave their shoes by the fireside on New Year’s Day (also the Festival of Saint Basil in Greece) with the hope that Saint Basil, who was famous for his kindness, will come and fill their shoes with gifts.

7) Carrying a Suitcase
In Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, and Mexico, those with hopes of traveling in the New Year, carry a suitcase around the house at midnight.  Some even carry it around the block to ensure traveling at greater distances.

8) Burning Crackers
The people in China believe that there are evil spirits that roam the earth. So on New Year they burn crackers to scare the evil spirits. The doors and windows of every home in china can be seen sealed with paper. This is to keep the evil demons out.

9) Times Square Celebrations
The first Ball Lowering celebration atop One Times Square was held on December 31, 1907 and is now a worldwide symbol of the turn of the New Year, seen via satellite by more than one billion people each year. The original New Year’s Eve Ball weighed 700 pounds and was 5 feet in diameter. It was made of iron and wood and was decorated with 100 25-watt light bulbs.

10) Foods
It was thought that one could affect the luck they would have throughout the coming year by what they did or ate on the first day of the year. It is still held in some regions that special New Year foods are the harbingers of luck. For that reason, the Dutch believe that eating donuts on New Year’s Day will bring good fortune. The hog, and its meat, is considered lucky because it symbolizes prosperity. Cabbage is another “good luck” vegetable that is consumed on New Year’s Day by many. Cabbage leaves are also considered a sign of prosperity, being representative of paper currency. In some regions, rice is a lucky food that is eaten on New Year’s Day. The ancient Persians gave New Year’s gifts of eggs, which symbolized productiveness.

11) Black-eyed peas
Many parts of the U.S. celebrate the new year by consuming black-eyed peas. These legumes are typically accompanied by either hog jowls or ham. Black-eyed peas and other legumes have been considered good luck in many cultures.

12) Rings
Many cultures believe that anything in the shape of a ring is good luck, because it symbolizes “coming full circle,” completing a year’s cycle.

13) Wearing new slippers
In China, many people wear in the new year a new pair of slippers that is bought before the new year, because it means to step on the people who gossip about you.

14) Sealed doors & windows
During new year , the doors and windows of every home in China can be seen sealed with paper. The Chinese think that this will succeed in keep the evil demons out.

15) Jewish New Year
The Jewish New Year is called Rosh Hashanah. It is a holy time when Jews recall the things they have done wrong in the past, and then promise to do better in the future. Special services are held in the synagogues, children are given new clothes and New Year loaves are baked to remind people of harvest time.

16) Japanese New Year
On New Year’s Day in Japan, everyone gets dressed in their new clothes. Homes are decorated with pine branches and bamboo, both of which are considered to be the symbols of long life.

17) American resolutions
40 to 45% of American adults make one or more New Year’s resolutions each year. And these range from debt reduction to giving up bad habits to what not? But the ones that are the most common deal with weight loss to exercise to giving up smoking.

Source:  http://www.theholidayspot.com/newyear/around_the_world.htm

top

Autumn

In the United States and the rest of the northern hemisphere, the first day of the autumn season is the day of the year when the Sun crosses the celestial equator moving southward (on September 22nd or 23rd). This day is known as the Autumnal Equinox.

A common misconception is that the earth is further from the sun in winter than in summer. Actually, the Earth is closest to the sun in December which is winter in the Northern hemisphere.

As the Earth travels around the Sun in its orbit, the north-south position of the Sun changes over the course of the year because of the changing orientation of the Earth’s tilted rotation axes. The dates of maximum tilt of the Earth’s equator correspond to the Summer Solstice and Winter Solstice, and the dates of zero tilt to the Vernal Equinox and Autumnal Equinox.

The reason for these changes has to do with the Earth’s yearly trip around the sun. For part of the year the Earth’s North Pole points away from the sun and part of the time toward it. This is what causes our seasons. When the North Pole points toward the sun, the sun’s rays hit the northern half of the world more directly. That means it is warmer and we have summer. The declination of the Sun on the autumnal equinox is 0° 00′. On the day of the autumnal equinox, day and night are nearly the same amounts of time. In the United States, there are about 12 hours of daylight on this day.

top

Summer Time!

During summer vacation we are faced with the question of what to do with all that time? Here are some helpful ideas to fill in those long summer days.

Start some type of collection – Bugs are everywhere and once properly dried can be collected, marbles of every color and shape, coins or whatever interest them.

Visit the Zoo – But don’t just walk through it and you’re done. Sit and draw the animals, figure out what they’re doing. Research where the animals came from and what do they eat. Have each child pick an animal to research and go back and visit the animal that their interested in several times. Try to come up with ways to raise money for that animal.

Take an Etiquette course, for kids!  These 2 Hours courses are crafted to help boys and girls aged 8-13 gain confidence at parties and dining situations. It includes a 3-course lunch (presented with a Youth Dining Etiquette Certificate) and taught by Fiona Cameron.

Record and catalog information – What type of birds they have spotted, wild flowers or animals. There is not enough science in schools and what better way to learn than from hands on experience.

Visit and Art Museum – Have them pick one of their favorite pieces of art and research the artist. Where did they come from and what other works of art are they known for?

Go to the park – Pack a picnic lunch, invite some friends and have fun.

Go fishing – Dust off that old fishing pole and take them fishing. Learn the different types of fish that they could catch. What types of bait to use. Don’t forget that fishing license.

Go biking – Pack a small backpack with water, snacks, and drinks.

Go hiking – Hit those trails and start walking. Find some trails that you’ve never been on before.

Study the architect for buildings and walk around town. Take photos or draw the different designs. Research who came up with those ideas and are those designs still used today.

Or even better still…

Have your child part-take in an etiquette class, that could prove to be informative and fun. As summer vacation approaches, kids will have more than enough free time on their hands than pool, beach, ball games, sleep overs, summer camp etc. can cover. Why not allocate some time to teach them proper etiquette? Fiona’s teen etiquette boot camp at the United Nations International School in Queens, New York, proved highly successful in transforming impatient teens into charming adolescents with proper table manners! The 6-weeks-long course covered everything from “Kids Telephone Etiquette” to “Good Table Manners.”

Teen Etiquette    
3 Hours. Teens learn how to generate great first impressions in interviews and during social events.
Suggested for ages 14-18.Includes a 3-course lunch (Presented with a Teen Dining Etiquette Certificate).

Junior/Parent Workshop                
2 Hours. A parent or guardian must attend with their child. Crafted to help boys and girls aged 5-10 gain confidence at parties and dining situations. Includes a 3-course lunch (Presented with a Youth Dining Etiquette Certificate).

top