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Thursday, January 30, 2014

Lunar New Year and Year of the Horse Book Review


Disclosure: I was sent these books digitally to review free of charge from Immedium. All opinions in this post are my own. I did not receive any other compensation for this review. I am including links to each item for your convenience but do not receive anything if you purchase them.

Although we celebrate our New Year on January 1st, there are many places around the world that celebrate the new year at a different time (and some celebrate it at two times January 1st and a cultural traditional time). Friday, January 31st is the lunar new year. Now some cultures that celebrate the lunar new year are the Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Mongolian. The Chinese are the largest group that celebrate it and is the one we hear about most often.


China
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 Now China is the largest celebrated lunar new year. Traditionally the celebration of the lunar new year lasted fifteen days. Now in modern times it is usually two or three days. The days leading up to the new year are important in China. The Chinese clean their houses from top to bottom prior to the new year and never on New Year's Day in fear that good fortune will be swept away. They pay off their debts, buy new clothes and shoes to wear on the first day of the year (it is considered lucky to wear all new clothing on the first day of the year since wearing old clothes brings bad luck in the year to come) and have their hair cut. As the old year ends people focus on their mistakes and failures and think about how to act better in the new year. Oranges and tangerines are traditional gifts for friends and family. They are also a favorite offering to the ancestors. Tangerines still have their leaves attached to make sure the family ties remain secure. For food, a chicken is served to ensure prosperity, a Tray of Togetherness (circular or octagonal candy tray) serves sweets each symbolizing happiness, long life, good health and other good wishes.



 The Shēngxiào also known as the Chinese Zodiac relates an animal with each year in a twelve year cycle. The year ending tonight is the year of the snake. The new year is the year of the horse. There are different legends of how the animals were picked and the order they go were picked in. Each animal presents certain personality traits for the people born in those years as well as ways the year should go. People born in the year of the horse love to be in a crowd and extremely active and animated. They love to be the center of attention and can be impatient and hot-blooded. 



I was lucky enough to receive a digital copy of Oliver Chin's The Year of the Horse: Tales from the Chinese Zodiac from Immedium. This adorable story goes through the live a foal and a young boy, Tom. Tom and the foal, Hannah, become good friends. The young boy's teacher has been asked to send a painting for the governor. She needs someone to deliver it, but everyone is busy. Tom offers to do the job, but the teacher feels he needs someone to go with him. All of the horses in Hannah's family are too busy to help so Hannah volunteers. Hannah and Tom ride off to make the delivery. They come across some challenges: a snake, a tiger, and dark, chilly nights, but together they are able to get through/past all of them. Hannah jumps the snake and walks nimbly by the sleeping tiger. Together the pair spends the cold night in a cave with a fire. They make the delivery and the governor invites them to dinner. They see a few sights of the city, but want to get home. They enjoy the sights on the way home since they do not have an important job to accomplish anymore. When they arrive home, the teacher shares a copy of the painting. It is the Chinese word for horse and the teacher says it describes Hannah's valiant spirit. The two friends loved to play together and remained good companions.

For more on China check out DIY Fortune Cookies, Chinese Cinderella, Chinese New Year 2013, Chinese New Year Instruments,

Sources: World Book's Celebrations and Rituals Around the World New Year's Celebrations  and Wikipedia and China Highlights



Korea
In Korea the lunar new year is called Seol. Generally it falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice. It is a family holiday with much respect for one's family and ancestors. The Korean house is usually cleaned and special foods are prepared. The house lights remain on throughout the night and the people stay up to greet New Year's Day or Seollal. On Seollal people dress in the best clothes and start their day with Chayre. Charye is the ritual to make the food offerings to their ancestors. An altar table is set carefully with special foods. The family's leader conducts the ritual while someone else reads the chuk mun, the list of ancestor's names. Then the children perform Sebae, when they formally greet their elders (parents and grandparents). The children receive money and cakes and then there are special breakfasts, visits with neighbors, games, fortune telling and dancing. A typical game is yut which involves four sticks being thrown into the air and telling a fortune from how they land. Everyone in Korea eats one bowl of ttokkuk, rice cake soup on New Year's Day and they count their age by the number of New Year's Days they have lived through or how many bowls of ttokkuk they have eaten.

For more information and stories from Korea check out our past posts: The Korean Cinderella, Chap ch'ae (Around the World in 12 Dishes), and Kongi and Potgi: A Korean Cinderella.

Sources: Wikipedia and World Book's Celebrations and Rituals Around the World New Year's Celebrations 

Vietnam
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In Vietnam, the new year is called Tết. It is the most important celebration of the Vietnamese culture. People prepare for it by cleaning the house and preparing special foods. There are also many customs that go along with it like visiting friends and relatives and forgetting the bad of the past year. Similar to the Chinese, children receive red envelopes of money from their elders on New Year's Day. The first day of the new year is reserved for nuclear family. Since the Vietnamese think the first person to enter their house in the new year determines their fortune for the whole year, no one visits without an invitation. Sweeping during the holiday is taboo in fear of sleeping away good luck. The second day is usually reserved for friends and the third for teachers. They have some traditional food. One such food is Hạt Dưa or roasted watermelon seeds.

For more on Thailand check out The Golden Slipper post.

Sources: Wikipedia

Mongolia
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Tsagaan Sar, the Mongolian New Year, literally means white moon. It is one of the most important holidays in Mongolia. Around the new year families burn candles on the altar to symbolize Buddhist Enlightenment. Typically the family meets in the dwelling of the eldest member and dress in traditional Mongol costumes. When greeting their elders during Tsagaan Sar, Mongols perform a greeting ceremony called zolgokh. The eldest receives the greeting from each member except his spouse. After the greeting the family eats mutton, sheep's tail, dairy products, rice with curds, and buuz and exchange gifts. 

The day before Tsagaan Sar the Mongols completely clean their homes and herders clean their livestock barns to provide a complete fresh start for the new year. They also have a ceremony that includes burning candles on this day. 

Source: Wikipedia




So that is a bit about the lunar new year. What will you do to celebrate? We are planning on making some dumplings and having a Chinese inspired meal. We did make horse stick puppets. The pattern and idea came from Better Homes and Garden.



Finally, as promised here are some more ideas for learning about the Chinese New Year and crafts to do--these all came from last week's Sharing Saturday!


1) From Afterschool Learning for Smarty Pants: 8 Ways to Teach Your Kids about China


2) From In the Playroom: Chinese Crafts for Kids - Chinese Fans


3) From Gift of Curiosity: Chinese New Year Do-a-Dot Printables


If you are featured here, please feel free to grab a featured button. I hope you will join us for this week's Sharing Saturday!