January

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Here is a list of the pagan, religious, and secular holidays for January 2020 that have thus far been shared here on The Pagan Calendar. As you can see I have divided it into sections with the almanac and astrological dates listed separately.

Almanac:

Astrological Info – The Sun:

Astrological Info – The Moon:

Lucky and Unlucky Days:

  • January has 6 days that are lucky:
    1, 2, 15, 26, 27 and 28.
  • January has 7 days that are unlucky:
    3, 4, 6, 13, 14, 20 and 21.

January Lore and General Info:

Celebrations Around The World

Best Days:

  • Plant above ground crops: 4, 5, 9, 26 – 28, 31
  • Plant root crops: 10, 15 – 18, 21 – 23
  • Plant flowers: 9, 10, 15, 16
  • Transplant: 10, 17, 18
  • Seed beds: 9, 10, 17, 18
  • Tend hydroponics: 10, 27 – 29
  • Prune to encourage growth: 10, 15 – 18, 21 – 23
  • Prune to discourage growth: 1 – 3, 24, 25, 29, 30
  • Apply chemical fertilizer: 11, 26 – 28
  • Apply organic fertilizer: 10, 17, 18
  • Destroy weeds: 11 – 14
  • Control pests: 20, 21
  • Harvest crops: 11, 12, 19, 20
  • Wean: 19 – 28
  • Kill farm meat: 17
  • Set hens and incubators: 2 – 9
  • Castrate: 1, 2, 21 – 31

Any January lore, almanac, astrological, and celebration dates that have been shared after this post was published can be found by searching the January posts to see what’s new.

In Tabayama Village of Kitatsuru District, Yamanashi Prefecture, a (a Fire Festival dedicated to the Dōsojin or the deity of pathways and roads practiced throughout Eastern Japan. The festivity called Dondoyaki, and is celebrated between 14th and 15th January.

In this festivity, the villagers gather their Mayudama Dumplings, decorative rice dumplings made for the Japanese New Year and suspended from lines or tree tweeds. These are cooked over a bonfire and then eaten. Eating those dumplings is believed to prevent cavities, while the heat from the bonfire makes the person healthy for the rest of the year. Ashes from the fire can be used as snake and disease repellent as well as fire hazard preventative.

Source: Japanese Folklore Research Center

In Voodoo, Voudoo or Voodun, Mange Loa is the feeding of the Loa (Gods). This refers to a large annual feasting of all the Loa during which they are offered drinks, syrups, cakes, birds, chickens and even bulls. Other names for this feast are “The Breaking of the Cakes” and “Jan Case Gateaux.” It is believed that the powers of all Loa increase at Earth level during these celebrations often held on January 2.

In this, the most frequently performed ritual in voodoo, food or animal sacrifices are offered up to the Loa. Literally, this is a “feeding of the Gods.” Each Loa has a taste for a particular food or drink, all the better to summon the Loa to the living world. When rituals are held outside, food and other offerings might be left at a crossroad or other place of significance

Strictly speaking, every voodoo ceremony at which offerings are presented – birds, a goat and chickens, even a bull, and always the accompanying offerings such as liquor or cakes – is a feeding of the Loa; an augmentation of their powers at earth level.

Today give offerings to your personal Loa or deity. This both gives strength and power to the Loa/deity and also strengthens the connections between you both.

Who are the Loa?

Loa (also spelled lwa) are the spirits of Haitian Vodou and Louisiana Voodoo. They are also referred to as “mystères” and “the invisibles” and are intermediaries between Bondye (from French Bon Dieu, meaning “good God”) —the Supreme Creator, who is distant from the world—and humanity.

Unlike saints or angels, however, they are not simply prayed to, they are served. They are each distinct beings with their own personal likes and dislikes, distinct sacred rhythms, songs, dances, ritual symbols, and special modes of service. Contrary to popular belief, the Loa are not deities in and of themselves; they are intermediaries for, and dependent on, the distant Bondye.

The Loa protect children from misfortune. In return the families must feed the Loa through periodic rituals in which food, drink and other gifts are offered to the spirits. Services are usually held at a sanctuary on family land.

Collected from various sources

 

The main theme for January is “CLEAN IT UP”.

We have some very big energies coming in that you will not be able to take advantage of if you are bogged down in physical, emotional and energetic clutter, old intentions, unfinished business, anything you have put off or procrastinated and should have done “yesterday”, regrets, unexpressed communication, attachments to disappointments and unmanifested dreams, persisting bad habits, and we can go on and on as the list is very long.

You cannot bring in the new without making space by cleaning out the old. It is very simple. We spend lots of time making new lists and talking about what we want to accomplish in 2019 but there is no room for anything new unless we declutter the past. If you clean up the past, you will have many more options about what and how to bring in some new dreams and experiences. And we have tremendous opportunity to do so.

Here is an image. You have an old roof that has been fixed and layered with new material many, many times. Now it is time for a new roof again as this one does not serve you. It is cracked and leaking. You can patch or put on another layer of roofing making the roof very heavy and requiring you to use the same material. Or you can completely remove the existing roof and start over giving you many options of what materials to use. Although it will take more time and energy up front, it will be something better and much improved and certainly much lighter.

The container of your life is like your roof. You can either layer it with the same old beliefs, judgments, intentions and habits, or you clean up the clutter and start over. Cleaning up requires courage to let go, to complete and to tie up loose ends. It may require you to release some old hopes and dreams. We need to recapitulate our sentimentality and make sure it is not getting in the way of creating something new. There are many layers and aspects of cleaning up and each of us will have different percentages of each one to do.

The year starts off with a set of eclipses potentiating any focused work we do this month. There is a pressurized quality to the month that motivates us to clean under the rug and dig deep to see what we actually have, what we want to keep, and what we need to clean up. You can find yourself busy these days with the inspiration to get that new roof on but it is important to do this in a structured and organized way. Otherwise the chaos (yes, it follows us into 2019) will have you distracted and focused in unimportant areas.

Physical Clean Up

This one is easy as it is very clear where the clutter is. Look with fresh eyes at what you surround yourself with and have the courage to get rid of things even if they are “still useful” but you have not actually used them in a long time. Be generous in passing them along to someone who may actually use them.

Papers, files, old photos, stuff your kids made, things people have given you, clothing equipment, electronics etc. If they do not have an active place in your life today, release them. Another category is unfinished projects that may have seemed like a good idea at one time but ask yourself if you are really going to ever get back and finish them. The attachment to all of these physical things is usually of the ego as they represent something connected to our identity; a success, relationship, time in our life, experience or event, recognition, education etc.

The artisan role of the year is a master of destruction. Use this artisan talent wisely in dismantling your current container so you can recreate it to serve you better. Take one aspect or section at a time and drawer by drawer, you will gain momentum in your process of clean up. There will be many parts you will keep, but they will end up being organized differently. To support this, you can start by making some changes in your schedule to accommodate the clean-up process.

Emotional Clean Up

This is an area that is usually somewhat messy as it has to do mostly with relationships, karma, betrayal, unrequited love, what was said, what wasn’t said, and lots of unfinished business and loose end especially around endings. Emotional confusion falls into this category as well. This includes not trusting your intuition or sitting on the fence about something and either not going after what you feel is right or not cutting something loose that looks right but isn’t, because you are too cautious to take the leap.

Feelings can be confusing especially when it comes to karmic agreements around relationships. When do you known when something is finished? And how do you know when something is right? The truth is, if it does not feel right or good, it probably isn’t and it is time to change the relationship. Sometimes, relationships need to simply change and not be banned forever. This is a great opportunity to clean up old relationships, even if just from your end, as well as to complete necessary communication. If someone has passed on before you got to say what you wanted to say, you can always write a letter to them and then burn it as an offering to clean the emotional energy.

Forgiveness is a big part of the emotional clean up and goes a long way to neutralize what has been charged with negative emotions. Practice forgiveness when possible especially with yourself as most judgment ends up being focused back inward in some way. It is time to release the attachment we have to suffering and low self-esteem. It will not get us through the pearly gates. Bottom line is that anything that has an emotional charge to it can use some clean up.

Energetic Clean Up

What are you still carrying for others? Where are your energy leaks?

The energetic clean up includes your belief systems and what you take on from others and how you allow the attention points and judgments of others to affect you energetically. This is often a subtle area to recognize but one that can profoundly affect you. Sometimes we do not know why we feel the way we do and what we feel makes no sense. This is probably due to an energy field that is cluttered with what is not yours.

This is an excellent month to learn how to differentiate between what is yours and what is not, and to set good boundaries.

On the other hand, when you hold your boundaries too close out of fear of losing control of your energy field, you are also not available for the power you could receive from all the greater sources of energy that support us, such as the elements, your essence, the energy of love, beauty, inspiration, wisdom, powerful times like the eclipses and moon cycles. Your allies, guides and spirit helpers and the ones that can connect you to those greater sources of energy. Cleaning up your energy and eliminating fear will open up communication and make room for these sources of greater power and energy.

~The Power Path


February 17 is the Feast of Shesmu, Eqyptian god of execution, slaughter, blood, embalming oil, wine, and perfume. Old Kingdom texts mention a special feast celebrated for Shesmu: young men would press grapes with their feet and then dance and sing for Shesmu.

Shesmu is also known as:

  • Shezmu, Schezemu, Schesmu, Shesemu, Shezmou, Shesmou, Sezmu and Sesmu.

Shesmu was a god with a contradictory personality. On one hand, he was lord of perfume, maker of all precious oil, lord of the oil press, lord of ointments and lord of wine; a celebration deity.

On the other hand, Shesmu was very vindictive and bloodthirsty. He was also lord of blood, great slaughterer of the gods and he who dismembers bodies. In Old Kingdom pyramid texts several prayers ask Shesmu to dismember and cook certain deities in an attempt to give the food to a deceased king. The deceased king needed the divine powers to survive the dangerous journey to the stars.

Shesmu had the head, fangs, and mane of a lion drenched in blood, and he wore human skulls around his waist. He could form into a man or falcon.

Shezmu did away with bad people, putting their heads through winepresses, draining them of their blood and turning it into wine on the order of Osiris. The bodies and blood of the dead gave sustenance for Unas, Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt, and the last ruler of the Fifth dynasty from the Old Kingdom.

Due to its color, red wine became strongly identified with blood, and thus Shezmu was identified as lord of blood. Since wine was seen as a good thing, his association with blood was considered one of righteousness, making him considered an executioner of the unrighteous, being the slaughterer of souls. When the main form of execution was by beheading, it was said that Shezmu ripped off the heads of those who were wicked, and threw them into a wine press, to be crushed into red wine, which was given to the righteous dead.

Beheading was commonly carried out by the victim resting their head on a wooden block, and so Shezmu was referred to as Overthrower of the Wicked at the Block. This violent aspect lead to depiction, in art, as a lion-headed man, thus being known as fierce of face.

In later times, Egyptians used the wine press for producing oils instead of wine, which was produced by crushing under foot instead. Consequently, Shezmu became associated with unguents and embalming oils, and thus the preservation of the body, and of beauty.

The violent character of Shesmu made him a protector among the companions of Ra’s nocturnal barque. Shesmu protected Ra by threatening the demons and brawling with them.

Shezmu followed the commands of The God of The Dead. Though he seemed a fierce underworld deity, he offered protection to the virtuous. Shezmu offered red wine to those who had passed on.

The feast is no longer celebrated, but most Ancient Egyptian feasts were religious in nature. Bread, cakes, wine/beer, meat, and fowl would have been consumed, incense burned, and prayers offered to Shesmu.

Sources:

According to historical documents, on the day when Shun, who was one of ancient China’s mythological emperors, came to the throne more than 4000 years ago, he led his ministers to worship heaven and earth. From then on, that day was regarded as the first day of the first lunar month in the Chinese calendar. This is the basic origin of Chinese New Year.

The new year is by far the most important festival of the Chinese lunar calendar. A long time ago, the emperor determined the start of the New Year. Today, celebrations are based on Emperor Han Wu Di’s almanac. It uses the first day of the first month of the Lunar Year as the start of Chinese New Year. The Chinese New Year always occurs in January or February on the second new moon after the winter solstice, though on occasion it has been the third new moon.

In 2019, the Chinese New Year officially begins on February 5th and ends on February 19th. This begins the Year of the Pig.

The holiday is a time of renewal, with debts cleared, new clothes bought, shops and homes decorated, and families gathered for a reunion dinner. Enjoying extravagant foods with family and friends is arguably the cornerstone of the occasion, along with receiving the ubiquitous red envelopes full of cash (called lai see in Cantonese, or hongbao in Mandarin).

Chinese New Year is marked by fireworks, traditional lion dances, gift giving, and special foods. This is one of the most important holidays. It is observed all over the world. Similar celebrations occur in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam known as the Lunar New Year or the Spring Festival. The “Spring Festival” in modern Mainland China, is China’s most important traditional festival, this public holiday starts on the Chinese New Year, and lasts for 7 days.

About The Chinese Calendar

The Chinese Calendar is a based on the cycles of the moon. The start of the New Year begins anywhere from late January to mid-February. A complete lunar cycle takes 60 years. It is composed of five cycles that are 12 years each. Each 12-year segment is named after an animal.

According to legend, Buddha called all the animals to him before he departed from earth. Only twelve came and as a reward to them, he named the years after them in the order they arrive (the order is listed below). It is believed the animal ruling of the year you are born effects your personality and “it is the animal that hides in your heart”.

The Chinese calendar uses the stem-branch system. The branches are the 12 years. There are ten stems that are used in the counting system. The stems are metal, water, wood, fire and soil; each having a yin and a yang side. There are a lot more intricacies in the system, but you should also know that the elements correlate to colors. Metal=white or golden, water=black, wood=green, fire=red, and soil=brown.

When you put all of this together you end up with the following:

  • 2007 is the Year of the Red Pig
  • 2008 is the Year of the Brown Rat
  • 2009 is the Year of the Brown Ox
  • 2010 is the Year of the White or Golden Tiger
  • 2011 is the Year of the White or Golden Rabbit
  • 2012 is the Year of the Black Dragon
  • 2013 is the Year of the Black Snake
  • 2014 is the Year of the Green Horse
  • 2015 is the Year of the Green Sheep
  • 2016 is the Year of the Red Monkey
  • 2017 is the Year of the Red Rooster
  • 2018 is the Year of the Brown Dog
  • 2019 is the Year of the Brown Pig
  • 2020 is the Year of the White Rat

Which Chinese zodiac animal are you?

According to the Asian astrology, your year of birth – and the animal this represents – determines a lot about your personality traits. Find the year you were born, and you can figure out which animal in the Chinese Zodiac is yours. The animal changes at the beginning of the Chinese New Year, and traditionally these animals were used to date the years.

Remember, Chinese New Year is a movable celebration, dictated by the lunar cycle, which can fall anytime between January 21 and February 20. So, if you were born during that time, you may need to do some research to figure out which animal applies to you.

  • Rat: 2008, 1996, 1984, 1972, 1960, 1948
  • Ox: 2009, 1997, 1985, 1973, 1961, 1949
  • Tiger: 2010, 1998, 1986, 1974, 1962, 1950
  • Rabbit: 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, 1951
  • Dragon: 2012, 2000, 1988, 1976, 1964, 1952
  • Snake: 2013, 2001, 1989, 1977, 1965, 1953
  • Horse: 2014, 2002, 1990, 1978, 1966, 1954
  • Goat: 2015, 2003, 1991, 1979, 1967, 1955
  • Monkey: 2016, 2004, 1992, 1980, 1968, 1956
  • Rooster: 2017, 2005, 1993, 1981, 1969, 1957
  • Dog: 2018, 2006, 1994, 1982, 1970, 1958
  • Pig: 2019, 2007, 1995, 1983, 1971, 1959

Traditions

Traditions observed during the New Year stem from legends and practices from ancient times. Legend tells of a village, thousands of years ago, that was ravaged by Nian, an evil monster, one winter’s night. The following year the monster returned and again ravaged the village. Before it could happen a third time, the villagers devised a plan to scare the monster away.

The color red protects against evil. Red banners were hung everywhere. Firecrackers were set off, and people banged on drums and gongs creating loud noises to scare the beast away. The plan worked. The celebration lasted several days during which people visited with each other, exchanged gifts, danced, and ate tasty food. Today, celebrations last two weeks.

The red posters with poetic verses on it were initially a type of amulet, but now it simply means good fortune and joy. Various Chinese New Year symbols express different meanings. For example, an image of a fish symbolizes “having more than one needs every year”. A firecracker symbolizes “good luck in the coming year”. The festival lanterns symbolize “pursuing the bright and the beautiful.”

Preparing for the New Year

Spring cleaning is started about a month prior to the new year and must be completed before the celebrations begin. All the negativity and bad luck from the previous year must be swept out of the house.

Many people clean their homes to welcome the Spring Festival. They put up the red posters with poetic verses on it to their doors, Chinese New Year pictures on their walls, and decorate their homes with red lanterns. It is also a time to reunite with relatives so many people visit their families at this time of the year.

People also get haircuts and purchase new clothing. It symbolizes a fresh start. Flowers and decorations are purchased. Decorations include a New year picture (Chinese colored woodblock print), Chinese knots, and paper-cuttings, and couplets.

Flowers have special meanings and the flower market stocks up on:

  • Plum blossom for luck
  • Kumquats for prosperity
  • Narcissus for prosperity
  • Sunflowers to have a good year
  • Eggplant to heal sickness
  • Chom mon planta for tranquility

Offerings are made to the Kitchen God about a week before the New Year.

On The Eve of The Spring Festival

The Annual Reunion Dinner, Nian Ye Fan, is held on the eve of the festival. This is an important part of the celebration. Families come together and eat together. The food is symbolic. Many dishes have ingredients that sound the same as good tidings. In northern China, dumplings are served at midnight, they symbolize wealth.

In the evening of the Spring Festival Eve, many people set off fireworks and firecrackers, hoping to cast away any bad luck and bring forth good luck. Children often receive “luck” money. Many people wear new clothes and send Chinese New Year greetings to each other. Various activities such as beating drums and striking gongs, as well as dragon and lion dances, are all part of the Spring Festival festivities.

The dragon dance is a highlight in the celebrations. A team of dances mimic the movements of the dragon river spirit. Dragons bring good luck.

Lions are considered good omens. The lion dance repels demons. Each lion has two dancers, one to maneuver the head, the other to guide the back. Business owners offer the lions a head of lettuce and oranges or tangerines. The offerings hope to insure a successful year in business. Lettuce translates into “growing wealth” and tangerines and oranges sound like “gold” and “wealth” in Chinese. The lions eat the oranges, then spew them up and out into the hordes of people who eagerly tried to catch the them. After eating the lettuce, they spit out it out in a thousand pieces.

During the New Year

Red packets called Lai See Hong Bao (or Hongbao) with money tucked inside are given out as a symbol of good luck. The amount is an even number as odd numbers are regarded as unlucky.

  • Bright red lanterns are hung.
  • Brooms and cleaning material are put away. No cleaning takes place during the holiday so no good luck is swept out of the home.
  • During the New Year celebrations people do not fight and avoid being mean to each other, as this would bring a bad, unlucky year.
  • Bright colors and red are worn.
  • Everyone celebrates their birthday this day and they turn one year older.
  • Traditional red oval shaped lanterns are hung.

The end of the New Year is celebrated with the Lantern Festival.

Top Ten Taboos for The Chinese New Year

The Spring Festival is a time of celebration. It’s to welcome the new year with a smile and let the fortune and happiness continue on. At the same time, the Spring Festival involves somber ceremonies to wish for a good harvest. Strict rules and restrictions go without saying.

To help you with that, here are the top 10 taboos during the Chinese New Year. Follow these and fortune will smile on you.

  • 1. Do not say negative words

All words with negative connotations are forbidden! These include: death, sick, empty, pain, ghost, poor, break, kill and more. The reason behind this should be obvious. You wouldn’t want to jinx yourself or bring those misfortunes onto you and your loved ones.

  • 2. Do not break ceramics or glass

Breaking things will break your connection to prosperity and fortune. If a plate or bowl is dropped, immediately wrap it with red paper while murmuring auspicious phrases. Some would say 岁岁平安 (suì suì píng ān). This asks for peace and security every year. 岁 (suì) is also a homophone of 碎, which means “broken” or “shattered.” After the New Year, throw the wrapped up shards into a lake or river.

  • 3. Do not clean or sweep

Before the Spring Festival, there is a day of cleaning. That is to sweep away the bad luck. But during the actual celebration, it becomes a taboo. Cleaning or throwing out garbage may sweep away good luck instead.

If you must, make sure to start at the outer edge of a room and sweep inwards. Bag up any garbage and throw it away after the 5th day. Similarly, you shouldn’t take a shower on Chinese New Year’s Day.

  • 4. Do not use scissors, knives or other sharp objects

There are 2 reasons behind this rule. Scissors and needles shouldn’t be used. In olden times, this was to give women a well-deserved break.

Sharp objects in general will cut your stream of wealth and success. This is why 99% of hair salons are closed during the holidays. Hair cutting is taboo and forbidden until Lunar February 2, when all festivities are over.

  • 5. Do not visit the wife’s family

Traditionally, multiple generations live together. The bride moves into the groom’s home after marriage. And, of course, she will celebrate Chinese New Year with her in-laws.

Returning to her parents on New Year’s Day means that there are marriage problems and may also bring bad luck to the entire family. The couple should visit the wife’s family on the 2nd day. They’d bring their children, as well as a modest gift (because it’s the thought that counts).

  • 6. Do not demand debt repayment

This custom is a show of understanding. It allows everyone a chance to celebrate without worry. If you knock on someone’s door, demanding repayment, you’ll bring bad luck to both parties. However, it’s fair game after the 5th day. Borrowing money is also taboo. You could end up having to borrow the entire year.

  • 7. Avoid fighting and crying

Unless there is a special circumstance, try not to cry. But if a child cries, do not reprimand them. All issues should be solved peacefully. In the past, neighbors would come over to play peacemaker for any arguments that occurred. This is all to ensure a smooth path in the new year.

  • 8. Avoid taking medicine

Try not to take medicine during the Spring Festival to avoid being sick the entire year. Of course, if you are chronically ill or contract a sudden serious disease, immediate health should still come first. Related taboos include the following ~ Don’t visit the doctor, Don’t perform/undergo surgery, Don’t get shots

  • 9. Do not give New Year blessings to someone still in bed

You are supposed to give New Year blessings (拜年—bài nián). But let the recipient get up from bed first. Otherwise, they’ll be bed-ridden for the entire year. You also shouldn’t tell someone to wake up. You don’t want them to be rushed around and bossed around for the year. Take advantage of this and sleep in!

  • 10. Chinese gift-giving taboos

It was mentioned above that you should bring gifts when paying visits. It’s the thought that counts, but some gifts are forbidden.

  • Clocks are the worst gifts. The word for clock is a homophone (sounds like) “the funeral ritual”. Also, clocks and watches are items that show that time is running out.
  • Items associated with funerals – handkerchiefs, towels, chrysanthemums, items colored white and black.
  • Sharp objects that symbolize cutting a tie (i.e. scissors and knives).
  • Items that symbolize that you want to walk away from a relationship (examples: shoes and sandals)
  • Mirrors
  • Homonyms for unpleasant topics (examples:green hats because “wear a green hat” sounds like “cuckold”, “handkerchief” sounds like “goodbye”, “pear” sounds like “separate”, and “umbrella” sounds like “disperse”).

Some regions have their own local taboos too. For example, in Mandarin, “apple” (苹果) is pronounced píng guǒ. But in Shanghainese, it is bing1 gu, which sounds like “passed away from sickness.”

These don’t just apply to the Spring Festival, so keep it in the back of your mind!

For the Spring Festival, these rules may seem excessive. Especially when you add in the cultural norms, customs and manners. But like a parent would say, they are all for your own good. Formed over thousands of years, these taboos embody the beliefs, wishes and worries of the Chinese people.

Foods For The New Year

Dishes may vary slightly according to regional and family customs. Dumplings (gau ji) are more commonly served in the north of China, while Hong Kong families often go for a dim sum meal.

Food symbolism goes back centuries in China, and is taken very seriously on special occasions such as Lunar New Year. All food items have their symbolic meanings which, for Hongkongers, are often derived from their Cantonese homonyms. For instance, the Cantonese word for lettuce – sang choi – sounds very similar to the phrase which means “growing wealth”. Of course, nothing considered “unlucky” is allowed near the dining table.

By carefully choosing the menu in this way, families will supposedly be able to increase their luck and manifest their wishes for the coming year, whether those be earning more money or having more children.

Red meat is not served and one is careful not to serve or eat from a chipped or cracked plate. Fish is eaten to ensure long life and good fortune. Red dates bring the hope for prosperity, melon seeds for proliferation, and lotus seeds means the family will prosper through time. Oranges and tangerines symbolize wealth and good fortune. Nian gao, the New Year’s Cake is always served. It is believed that the higher the cake rises the better the year will be. When company stops by a “prosperity tray” is served. The tray has eight sides (another symbol of prosperity) and is filled with goodies like red dates, melon seeds, cookies, and New Year Cakes.

Here the origins of some traditional Chinese festival foods and their often quirky symbolic meanings.

  • Lettuce for the lion dance

No traditional Lunar New Year celebration is complete without the famous lion dance, which is thought to bring good luck and ward off evil spirits. Performers wearing the traditional lion costume normally dance through the streets to the sound of gongs and drums. When the lion briefly stops at houses and businesses along the way, it will “eat” lettuce that is hung up outside the doors, since the humble vegetable symbolizes “growing fortune”. Inside the head of the lettuce will often be a red envelope, further emphasizing its significance.

  • Dried oysters and ‘hair vegetable’ stir-fry

This unusual but lucky dish is named ho see fat choy in Cantonese, which sounds a lot like the words meaning “flourishing business”. For an extra dose of luck, ho see (oyster) on its own sounds similar to the Cantonese for “good things” or “good business”, while fat choy (hair vegetable) sounds similar to “prosperity”, as in the traditional Lunar New Year greeting kung hei fat choi. What’s more, the expensive “hair vegetable”, which looks like strands of black hair, is actually a type of fungus. But that doesn’t put off Cantonese restaurants from serving the auspicious dish at Lunar New Year.

  • Egg noodles, or yi mein

This classic dish of stir-fried egg noodles is often served at formal dinners during Lunar New Year and other festivals, as it symbolises longevity. The chef must not cut the noodle strands to preserve their length. For this reason, yi mein is often eaten at birthday celebrations too – kind of like the Chinese equivalent of a candle-lit birthday cake.

  • Glutinous rice cake, or neen go

The Cantonese term for this traditional sticky treat sounds the same as the literal words “year high”, which symbolize the promise of a better year to come. Families may eat this for several reasons: wanting to have a higher income, higher social status or even more children. Rice cake can be cooked in a variety of ways, and can be sweet or savory. Historical records date the yearly custom to at least 1,000 years ago, in the days of the Liao dynasty (AD907-1125). If there’s one thing that is unmissable from every family’s Lunar New Year feast in all parts of China and Hong Kong, it must be this dish.

  • ‘Basin food’, or poon choi

Originating from the walled villages of the New Territories, this traditional celebratory dish soon spread throughout Hong Kong and later China. Legend has it that the early settlers in the New Territories would pool together their most prized ingredients – meat and seafood – in a big wooden washbasin and cook them to be served to the whole village. The communal dish required huge efforts of co-ordination and manpower to cook, so it quickly became associated with celebrations and religious rituals. Each village had its own secret poon choi recipe consisting of various ingredients layered in a particular order in the pot, but the dish is now found in most Cantonese restaurants on special occasions.

  • Lotus root soup, or leen gnau tong

The fleshy, tuber-like roots of the lotus flower have been a staple of Chinese cooking for millennia, and traditionally symbolise “abundance”, since the Cantonese term sounds like “having [money] year after year”. The ingredient is also prized for its supposed “cooling” effect on the body, according to traditional Chinese medicine. Lotus root soup, or alternatively stir-fried lotus root, is commonly eaten at Lunar New Year for these reasons.

  • Dim sum

Another Cantonese food tradition that is now common in the West is dim sum. The phrase literally means “a light touch of the heart” or “a little bit of heart”. This reflects the care and attention put into each bite-sized dish that is shared between the table, such as har gau (shrimp dumplings), various types of filled buns, and cheung fun (rice noodle rolls). Like a Chinese take on brunch, dim sum is often served at lengthy afternoon yum cha sessions in tea houses. But Hongkongers often go for an even more lavish version of this meal around Lunar New Year.

Auspicious Greetings

The Chinese New Year is often accompanied by loud, enthusiastic greetings, often referred to as auspicious words or phrases. New Year couplets printed in gold letters on bright red paper is another way of expressing auspicious new year wishes. The most common auspicious greetings and sayings consist of four characters, such as the following:

  • 金玉滿堂 Jīnyùmǎntáng –
    “May your wealth [gold and jade] come to fill a hall”
  • 大展鴻圖 Dàzhǎnhóngtú –
    “May you realize your ambitions”
  • 迎春接福 Yíngchúnjiēfú –
    “Greet the New Year and encounter happiness”
  • 萬事如意 Wànshìrúyì –
    “May all your wishes be fulfilled”
  • 吉慶有餘 Jíqìngyǒuyú –
    “May your happiness be without limit”
  • 竹報平安 Zhúbàopíng’ān –
    “May you hear [in a letter] that all is well”
  • 一本萬利 Yīběnwànlì –
    “May a small investment bring ten-thousandfold profits”
  • 福壽雙全 Fúshòushuāngquán –
    “May your happiness and longevity be complete”
  • 招財進寶 Zhāocáijìnbǎo –
    “When wealth is acquired, precious objects follow”

These greetings or phrases may also be used just before children receive their red packets, when gifts are exchanged, when visiting temples, or even when tossing the shredded ingredients of yusheng particularly popular in Malaysia and Singapore. Children and their parents can also pray in the temple, in hopes of getting good blessings for the new year to come.

Sources:

 

Mauni Amavasya, also known as ‘Mauna Amavasya’ is a unique Hindu tradition observed on the ‘amavasya’ (no moon day) during the Hindu month of ‘Magha’. It falls during the month of January-February as per the Gregorian calendar.

As name suggests it is the day of silence in Hinduism when people take pledge to observe one day fasting by not uttering a word throughout the day. It is believed that the water of the most sacred and holy river in Hinduism, the Ganga, turns into the nectar on Mauni Amavasya day. Due to this belief Mauni Amavasya day is the most important day in Hindu calendar to take holy dip in the Ganges.

If this date falls on Monday, (which it does in 2019), then its auspiciousness increases all the more.

The day is also celebrated as the birthday of Manu rishi. It is believed, Lord Brahma gave origination to Maharaja Manu and queen Shatrupa. Hence, this day is considered as the beginning of the creation of the universe.

Do’s and Don’ts For Today

  • Silence is considered auspicious on this day.
  • Wake up early in the morning and take a bath while keeping silence.
  • Better yet, bathe in a river, lake or sacred pool.
  • After bathing, offer Sun (fire)  to the God.
  • Silence on Mauni Amavas is of particular importance. If it is not possible to remain silent then do not speak bitter words from your mouth.
  • In Vedic astrology the moon is said to be the factor of the mind. Restraining the mind by keeping a silence fast strengthens the mind.
  • On this day there is also the law of worship of both Lord Vishnu and Shiva.
  • The poor and the hungry should definitely have food. Offer food in grains, textiles, sesame, amla, blankets, beds, ghee and cows.
  • Donations of gold or land can also be done.
  • Remember the ancestors also on Mauni Amavas, this leads them to salvation.
  • Both men and women should avoid having physical relations on this day. According to Garuda Purana, children born with sexual relation on the Mauni Amavas may have to face many kinds of problems in life.
  • Men and women should avoid arguments. This brings an atmosphere of unrest to the house. It always gives birth to negative power.
  • At the same time, one should remain silent on this day and worship God.
  • Do not insult the poor and helpless. According to beliefs, Shani Dev represents the poor. In such a situation, Shani Dev does not bless the person who insults the poor.
  • The worship of the Banyan Tree (Peepal) on the new moon day is considered to be auspicious and fruitful.
  • It is considered inauspicious to touch a Banyan Tree on a day other than Saturday. So worship on Mauni Amavasya, but do not touch it.
  • Do not go to the graveyard, negative powers are active on the night of the new moon.

Collected from various sources

Dakini day, celebrated on the 25th day of each lunar month in Vajrayana Buddhist traditions, celebrates the feminine energy of wisdom. Devoted Buddhists will celebrate with a Tsok (Tsog), a feast including food, singing, a group (or single) sadhana full of sound and celebration. Most Tibetan Buddhist temples and meditation centers try to arrange a monthly Tsog on this day each month, with celebrants bringing food as offerings. It is always a happy day, that invites blessings not only for the attendees, but for all sentient beings.

This is one of the special days during a month, when Vajrayana practitioners perform a ritual of offering and purification of their commitments. It is believed that on this particular day, all the Dakinis gather in special sacred places and their energy is potently vivid and present at that moment.

When we perform practice on those auspicious days, we can connect with this potent energy and thus gain a lot of merit. It allows us to develop our practice and capacities, as well as purify our defilements and mistakes that we have accumulated with time. In this way, Dakini Day becomes very important for Vajrayana practitioners.

What is a Dakini?

The Dakini is a female being of generally volatile temperament, who acts as a muse for spiritual practice. Dakinis can be likened to elves, angels, or other such supernatural beings, and are symbolically representative of testing one’s awareness and adherence to Buddhist tantric sadhana.

Dakinis are portrayed as elusive, playful and often fierce and naked to symbolically convey how elusive true Wisdom encompassing “Emptiness” can be.

Without contradiction to their role as exemplars of Emptiness, Dakinis can also represent fierce activities, such as protection — the ferocious protective love of a mother.

Khandro Rinpoche defines the authentic Dakini principle as “a very sharp, brilliant wisdom mind that is uncompromising, honest, with a little bit of wrath.”

Dakinis appear in many forms. “The Dakinis are the most important elements of the enlightened feminine in Tibetan Buddhism,” says American teacher Tsultrim Allione. “They are the luminous, subtle, spiritual energy, the key, the gatekeeper, the guardian of the unconditioned state. If we are not willing to invite the Dakini into our life, then we cannot enter these subtle states of mind. Sometimes the Dakinis appear as messengers, sometimes as guides, and sometimes as protectors.”

Dakini are timeless, inorganic, immortal, non-human beings who have co-existed since the very beginning with the Spiritual Energy. In some New Age belief systems, they are angelic. This New Age paradigm differs from that of the Judeo-Christian by not insisting on angels being bona fide servants of God.

Moreover, an angel is the Western equivalent of a Dakini. The behavior of Dakini has always been revelatory and mysterious; they respond to the state of spiritual energy within individuals. Love is their usual domain – one explanation for Dakini or angels supposedly living in the sky or heaven. Manifestations of Dakini in human form occur because they supposedly can assume any form. Most often they appear as a human female. By convention, a male of this type is called a ‘Daka’.

In Buddhism, typically, the male Buddhas represent compassionate means, while the female Buddhas represent Wisdom. The symbols of bell and vajra (Ghanta and Dorje) represent female wisdom — the bell, which makes the sound of “Emptiness” — and the Vajra, representing compassionate means.

Dakini’s have always been a part of Buddhism, starting with the Jataka’s (stories of Buddha’s former lives) in which “divine beings are described as travelling through the air. In Sanskrit, such a being is called a Dakini, a term generally translated as “space-goer,” “celestial woman,” or “cloud fairy.”

Dakinis are typically thought of as the emanation of the “Enlightened Mind” understanding Emptiness. Another concept usually tied to Dakini practice is “bliss” — the state of blissful awareness of emptiness.

It is a wonderful experience to have a moment that realizes emptiness, a feeling of joy-bliss rather than “nothingness.” This is why Dakinis are often portrayed as active, dancing, joyful or fierce, naked and unencumbered.

Five Dakini Healing Mantra

The meaning of Dakini is the female enlightened energy and the awakened state of consciousness. Therefore, chanting this mantra increases and enhances all enlightened feminine energy.

Bam Ha Ri Ni Sa

The 5 Dakini also represents each of the 5 Elements:

  • BAM  ~ Buddha Dakini ~ (blue) ~ Mind energy, pacifies Ignorance
  • HA ~ Vajra Dakini ~ (white) ~ Body energy, pacifies Anger
  • RI  ~ Ratna Dakini ~ (yellow) ~ Knowledge/Qualities/Healing, pacifies Ego/Pride
  • NI ~ Padma Dakini ~ (red) ~ Speech energy, pacifies Desire
  • SA ~ Karma Dakini ~ (green) ~ Action/Removes Obstacles, pacifies Jealousy

This mantra is helpful for all female related health issues, transforms negative emotions, unblocks channels, and balance 5 elements. When chanting this mantra on Dakini Day, the power magnifies ten-fold!

After chanting, blow into a glass of water, which infuses the healing vibration into the water, drink, and continue to enjoy its healing properties.

Sources:

January 29th is National Carnation Day, also known as Red Carnation Day, this day honors the memory of President William McKinley. The carnation was said to be McKinley’s favorite flower, and he always wore one in his lapel. The Columbus, Ohio Statehouse often commemorates by giving discounts at the museum shop for individuals wearing red carnations or dressed in scarlet.

In magick, carnations are used to remove hexes and negative energy. Carnations are especially good for clearing out love problems. You can brush carnation flowers down your body for a nice cleansing. After reaching your feet, break the stems to trap and hold the negative energy.

Adding white and red carnations or essential oil to your bathwater will stabilize your love life.

This flower also helps relieve the depression of winter. Keep red carnations on your altar to increase your energy level and to create more optimism in life. More on the magick and lore of carnations can be found here: Magickal Ingredients

Sources:

The Xiao Nian Festival (Little New Year) or the Kitchen God Festival occurs approximately a week before the Chinese New Year. The dates vary depending on the region, and from year to year.

It is believed that people in northern China celebrate it on the twenty-third day of the twelfth lunar month, while the people in southern China celebrate it on the twenty-fourth. Along with location, traditionally the date may also be determined by one’s Profession. For example, “feudal officials made their offerings to the Kitchen God on the twenty-third, the common people on the twenty-fourth, and coastal fishing people on the twenty-fifth”.

In 2019, in Taiwan, the festival will be celebrated on January 29.

It is believed that just before Chinese New Year, the Kitchen God returns to Heaven to report the activities of every household over the past year to Yu Huang, the Jade Emperor. Once in Heaven, the words of the Kitchen God influences the amount of prosperity and abundance that each family will have bestowed on them in the new year. The Jade Emperor, emperor of the heavens, either rewards or punishes a family based on Zao Jun’s yearly report.

In order to ensure that the Kitchen God speaks sweetly of the family, offerings of incense and bowls of ‘sweet treats’ such as ripe melons, honey, glutinous cakes, and sugar candies are presented for his delight before his image is burned and his journey begins.

Gold and silver ‘ingots’ fashioned from paper are also offered, and little paper-mache sedan chairs are sometimes provided to offer comfort on the journey to Heaven.

On this day, the lips of Zao Jun’s paper effigy are often smeared with honey to sweeten his words to Yu Huang (Jade Emperor), or to keep his lips stuck together. Incense and candles are lit around the house. Sticky sweets are left for the Kitchen God, usually on an alter or shrine. The stickier the candy the better, so the god’s mouth sticks closed and he can’t speak poorly of the family. According to custom, men must leave the sweets.

To send the god on his way, his picture is taken outside and the effigy is burned and replaced by a new one on Chinese New Year’s Day. Firecrackers are often lit as well, to speed him on his way to heaven. If the household has a statue or a nameplate of Zao Jun it will be taken down and cleaned on this day for the new year.

In days leading up to the Lunar New Year, people clean their houses, decorate their homes with paper cuttings, couplets and written blessings, and prepare festival food. After the cleaning is done, homes are decorated in red papercuts and posters, and fresh flowers.

In order to establish a fresh beginning in the New Year, families must be organized both within their family unit, in their home, and around their yard. This custom of a thorough house cleaning and yard cleaning is another popular custom during “Little New Year”. It is believed that in order for ghosts and deities to depart to Heaven, both their homes and “persons” must be cleansed. Lastly, the old decorations are taken down, and there are new posters and decorations put up for the following Spring Festival.

According to traditional Chinese culture, the kitchen god returns from heaven on the eve of Spring Festival, so the sacrifices for the god are served until the day he returns.

How Zao Jun Became The Kitchen God

Though there are many stories on how Zao Jun became the Kitchen God, the most popular one dates back to around the 2nd Century BC. Zao Jun was originally a mortal man living on earth whose name was Zhang Lang. He eventually became married to a virtuous woman, but ended up falling in love with a younger woman. He left his wife to be with this younger woman and, as punishment for this adulterous act, the heavens afflicted him with ill-fortune. He became blind, and his young lover abandoned him, leaving him to resort to begging to support himself.

Once, while begging for alms, he happened across the house of his former wife. Being blind, he did not recognize her. Despite his shoddy treatment of her, she took pity on him and invited him in. She cooked him a fabulous meal and tended to him lovingly; he then related his story to her. As he shared his story, Zhang Lang became overwhelmed with self-pity and the pain of his error and began to weep.

Upon hearing him apologize, Zhang’s former wife told him to open his eyes and his vision was restored. Recognizing the wife he had abandoned, Zhang felt such shame that he threw himself into the kitchen hearth, not realizing that it was lit. His former wife attempted to save him, but all she managed to salvage was one of his legs.

The devoted woman then created a shrine to her former husband above the fireplace, which began Zao Jun’s association with the stove in Chinese homes. To this day, a fire poker is sometimes referred to as “Zhang Lang’s Leg”.

Alternatively, there is another tale where Zao Jun was a man so poor he was forced to sell his wife. Years later he unwittingly became a servant in the house of her new husband. Taking pity on him she baked him some cakes into which she had hidden money, but he failed to notice this and sold the cakes for a pittance. When he realized what he had done he took his own life in despair.

In both stories Heaven takes pity on Zhang Lang’s tragic story. Instead of becoming a vampirish hopping corpse, the usual fate of suicides, he was made the god of the Kitchen, and was reunited with his wife.

Another possible story of the “Stove god” is believed to have appeared soon after the invention of the brick stove. The Kitchen God was originally believed to have resided in the stove and only later took on human form.

During the Han Dynasty, it is believed that a poor farmer named Yin Zifang, was surprised by the Kitchen God who appeared on Lunar New Year as he was cooking his breakfast. Yin Zifang decided to sacrifice his only yellow sheep. In doing so, he became rich and decided that every winter he would sacrifice one yellow sheep in order to display his deep gratitude.

Source:

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