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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 05/13/11

Friday, May 13, 2011

CHEUNG CHAU BUN FESTIVAL FROM CHINA!





Cheung Chau Bun Festival or Cheung Chau Da Jiu Festival is a traditional Chinese festival on the island of Cheung Chau in Hong Kong.  Being held annually, and with therefore the most public exposure, it is by far the most famous of such Da Jiu festivals, with Jiu being a Taoist sacrificial ceremony. Such events are held by mostly rural communities in Hong Kong, either annually or at a set interval of years ranging all the way up to once every 60 years ( the same year in the Chinese astrological calendar). Other places that may share the folk custom include Taiwan, Sichuan, Fujian and Guangdong.
Cheung Chau's Bun Festival, which draws tens of thousands of local and overseas tourists every year, is staged to mark the Eighth day of the Fourth Moon, in the Chinese calendar (this is usually in early May). It coincides with the local celebration of Buddha's Birthday.





   The Cheung Chau Bun Festival began as a fun and exciting ritual for fishing communities to pray for safety from pirates. Today this religious origin has largely been forgotten, and the festival has mainly become a showcase of traditional Chinese culture
HistoryOne story of the origin of the festival is that in the 18th Century the island of Cheung Chau was devastated by a plague and infiltrated by pirates until local fishermen brought an image of the god Pak Tai to the island. Paraded through the village lanes, the deity drove away evil spirits. Villagers also disguised themselves as different deities and walked around the island to drive away the evil spirits.





History

   One story of the origin of the festival is that in the 18th Century the island of Cheung Chau was devastated by a plague and infiltrated by pirates until local fishermen brought an image of the god Pak Tai to the island. Paraded through the village lanes, the deity drove away evil spirits. Villagers also disguised themselves as different deities and walked around the island to drive away the evil spirits.




Activities

Vegetarian:

   A notice announces that McDonald's is selling vegetarian burgersEvery year on the 8th day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar, the islanders organise a weeklong thanksgiving, the Cheung Chau Bun Festival usually in April or May. The festival lasts for seven days. On three of these days the entire island goes vegetarian; most of the island's famous seafood restaurants adhere to this tradition. The local McDonald's also takes meat off the menu and instead sells burgers made of mushrooms.





   Parade of Floats / Parade-In-The-Air:
   In addition to traditional lion dances and dragon dances, children dressed as legendary and modern heroes are suspended above the crowd on the tips of swords and paper fans.  They form the parade-in-the-air and are all secured within steel frames, though they appear to glide through the air. Parents consider it a great honour for their offspring to be part of the parade.
This fascinating procession is accompanied by the bedlam of musicians loudly beating gongs and drums to scare away evil spirits. It is led by a spectacular image of Pak Tai, the God of Water and Spirit of the North, to whom the island's Temple of the Jade Vacuity is dedicated.






Deities

   Here are some divinities Cheung Chau people celebrate in the festival:

Pak Tai
   Since Cheung Chau is traditionally an island of fisherfolk, Pak Tai is its most revered divinity, since it is believed he has the power to confer smooth sailing for the fishing boats as well as providing good catches for their crews. Pious believers recognise him as "Pei Fang Chen Wu Hsuan T'ien Shang Ti" (True Soldier and Superior Divinity of the Deep Heaven of the North).





Tin Hau
  The second of the significant deities whose images add a supplementary splatter of Oriental holiness to the pageant is the much-revered Tin Hau, Goddess of the Seas and protector of all fishermen and boat people. Celebrated for providing warnings of imminent storms and saving countless lives from wreckage, she is in many ways Pak Tai's competitor for the fondness of the fisherfolk.

Kuan Yin and Hung Hsing
Two more gods complete the celestial divinities taking part in the parade: Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy with her tranquil and ever compassionate smile; and Hung Hsing, the terrifying God of the South with his menacing head-dress, unkind face, bushy black beard, and stave at the ready to chastise all enemies.






Bun Snatching


   Steamed buns for the "Bun Mountain", being stamped the crimson characters of the respective district, "Northern Society" shown in a combined way) on the island.The centrepiece of the festival is at Pak Tai Temple where are the "Bun Mountains" or "Bun Towers",  three giant 60-feet bamboo towers covered with buns. It is those bun-covered towers that give the festival its name. Historically, young men would race up the tower to get hold of the buns; the higher the bun, the better fortune it was supposed to bring to the holder's family; the race was known as "Bun-snatching".  However, during a race in 1978 one of the towers collapsed, injuring more than 100 people. In subsequent years, three designated climbers (one climber to each tower) raced up their respective towers and having cleared the top buns proceeded to strip the towers of their buns as they descended.





   The three "Bun Mountains" are still placed in the area in front of Pak Tai Temple, and are constructed using the traditional fixation method -- bamboo scaffolding.
   In 2005, a single tower climbing event in the adjacent sports ground was revived as a race -- with extra safety precautions including proper mountain-climbing tools as well as tutorials for participants (which now include women). A teamwork version of the event was added in 2006.The revised version of "Bun-snatching" as well as the traditional three "Bun Mountains" still have their buns removed from the towers at midnight of the Festival.
   In February 2007, it was further announced that the buns on the single-tower construct will henceforth be made of plastic.  During the festival, Chinese operas, lion dances, and religious services also take place on the island.



    Burning of Paper Effigies

   At a quarter to midnight a paper effigy of the King of the Ghosts is set ablaze, enormous incense sticks are lit and the buns are harvested and distributed to the villagers, who, pleased to be sharing in this propitious good fortune, rejoice late into the night





Return of Bun-Snatching


   The new "Bun Mountain" used for bun-snatching competitions.   The bun-snatching ritual was abandoned by the government due to the 1978 collapse. Still, a large portion of Cheung Chau villagers regard this as part and parcel of their daily life, and the precious culture of Hong Kong to boot. In addition to the villagers' immense urge to resume the ritual, a local cartoon movie "My life as McDull, " recalled the forlorn ceremony, giving a tinge of nostalgia to its audience. As such, the long-awaited ritual was reintroduced on 15 May 2005. Safety measures were intensified: only 12 well-trained athletes selected from preliminary competitions were permitted to climb on one single "Bun Mountain"; instead of bamboo, the framework of the "Bun Mountains" was made up of steel.

HALLOWEEN COSTUMES THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS, A LITTLE HISTORY ON EARLY COSTUMES!

Masked Halloween Mystery






   Decked out for Halloween, a masked woman on roller skates—most likely a random addition to her costume—poses in 1910.
   Masquerade parties in the United States were much more common a hundred years ago, when people dressed up not just for Halloween but also for several other holidays, including Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve, according to Lesley Bannatyne, author of the forthcoming book Halloween Nation: Behind the Scenes of America's Fright Night.
   Private social clubs often threw Halloween parties for their members, as it was the first major holiday after most people had returned from their summer homes.
   That said, it's "not like Halloween [in the early 1900s] was an East Coast phenomenon or a high-society phenomenon"—people of all classes donned costumes across the country, even in small Western mining towns, she said.
   The "early 20th century also was the beginning of a real democratic movement, a push toward a popular culture," Bannatyne said, so Halloween was "very egalitarian—everyone celebrated it in their own way."

 
Schoolhouse Ghost






   A person in a ghost costume stands with a table full of Halloween decorations in a rural U.S. schoolhouse in 1905. Nature often inspired Halloween costumes and decorations a century ago, with cornstalks (as seen above), vegetables, tree branches, and leaves showing up as common elements, according to Bannatyne.
   Halloween was originally perceived as a "rustic, country holiday," especially during the U.S. Victorian period, about 1840 to 1900, she noted. (Also see "Candy Facts: Halloween Treats From Ancient Recipes.")
   "Overwhelmed by the fallout of industrialization, [Victorians and early Halloween revelers] sought out a simpler time where people were more connected to the land and the natural world.
   "The quaint, old-world, country nature of Halloween appealed to them."
 

Halloween Child's Play







   Part of an old U.S. Halloween tradition, blindfolded children attempt to put out a candle in a photograph dated to the 1900s.  The game, probably called "blow out the candle," is often mentioned in early Halloween party books, Bannatyne said.
   Halloween in the U.S. was mainly a celebration for children until the premiere of the 1978 slasher flick Halloween, when the holiday "became paired with contemporary horror," she added.
   This new association with bloody violence—and the attendant gory costumes and decorations—"opened up the holiday for adults and older children to celebrate, and made it more popular."



Magic Moment






   Possibly conjuring a witch, sorcerer, or clown, one woman's 1910 Halloween costume (pictured) has several possible meanings, according to Bannatyne.
   The star and moon icons, for instance, may reflect a fascination with mysticism and magic, which have been   connected to the "spooky aura" of Halloween for centuries, Bannatyne said.
   "Many of the first Halloween costumes reflected people's interest in the exotic, such as other cultures," she said. "You often find Egyptian-inspired costumes, for example, because of the mystic association with ancient Egypt."
   Likewise, she added, this costume's celestial symbols could represent night—"the domain of Halloween."


Bewitched on Halloween







    Women wearing improvised witch costumes line up for a photograph in the U.S. in 1910.
   "Witches and Halloween have been tied together in the public's imagination since at least 16th-century Scotland," Bannatyne said. At that time, "you begin to find poems such as Alexander Montgomerie's 'The Flighting of Polwart,' where witches ride through the night on All Hallow's Eve."
   "Also, costumes were always homemade at first," she noted. "People only began to buy manufactured costumes in the second and third decades of the 20th century, when a few savvy companies—Dennison and Beistle were the first—became aware that money could be made from Halloween decorations."


Halloween Dance








   Costumed girls—including one swathed in swastikas—smile for the camera on October 25, 1918, on the way to a Halloween dance pageant. The swastika had different meanings before the rise of the Nazi party in the mid-20th century—for one, it's an ancient symbol for life in some Indian religions, according to Columbia University.
   "Most [U.S.] civic and private organizations in the first half of the 20th century"—such as dancing schools, churches, women's groups, and military groups—"all hosted Halloween parties for children," Bannatyne said.
   "It was partly an attempt to keep children busy on Halloween, so as to cut down on some of the mischief that happened at night."


Bobbing for Apples






   A U.S. girl bobs for Halloween apples sometime in the early 1900s.
   Due to Halloween's rural origins—its precursor, Samhain, was marked 2,000 years ago in Celtic Europe—the harvest-time holiday has often been associated with apples, nuts, and cabbages, Bannatyne said.
   Today Halloween is a "rogue holiday," not attached to any person, ethnicity, or event, according to Bannatyne. Because of that, it's often a "cultural bellwether" for what happens in U.S. society.
   For instance, on Halloween 2001, right after the September 11 terrorist attacks, more families than usual went trick-or-treating—for example as firemen—to show their "lack of intimidation," she said.

TOP 5 CLASSIC HORROR ACTORS!





Classic Horror Actors


    As a small boy growing up , my family had no problem letting me watch horror movies. As a result, I quickly became desensitized to the genre that scared my friends for many years.   So I grew to enjoy and appreciate classic horror movies. Take a look back at the top five classic horror actors in history.











5. Lon Chaney, Jr.

   Quite honestly, I never really thought of Lon Chaney, Jr. as a "horror" actor. I did not find him scary at all and he was talented enough to act in many different genres. Still, the impact he made as an actor in many different classic horror movies cannot be ignored. The son of "The Man of a Thousand Faces," Lon Chaney, Jr. is best remembered for his role in the classic horror movie, "The Wolf Man."












4. Peter Cushing
   Classic horror movies experienced a decline in the 1950s. The genre lost the respect of critics and moviegoers in the decade because most horror movies were poorly made, low budget efforts. But Hammer Film Productions in England brought gothic classic horror movies back to the forefront. One of their best actors was Peter Cushing. The small, diminutive Cushing had the range to play both the hero and the wily, evil genius.









3. Christopher Lee
   The top actor who starred in Hammer's classic horror movies was Christopher Lee. In most of the films, Lee starred alongside Peter Cushing. While Lee played a variety of roles, he is most famous as an actor for portraying Count Dracula is many Hammer classic horror movies. Christopher Lee also stars as the narrator in one of my favorite documentaries of all-time, "In Search of Dracula."











2. Boris Karloff
   With all due respect to numbers three to five, the top two classic horror movie actors clearly stand above the rest. After a number of stirring, critically acclaimed silent horror movies, the genre truly exploded in 1931 with "Dracula" and "Frankenstein." After legendary actor Bela Lugosi turned down the role of the monster in "Frankenstein," Boris Karloff stepped in. Karloff went on to star in numerous classic horror movies.








1. Bela Lugosi

   No actor is identified with a role more so than Bela Lugosi with Count Dracula. After portraying the vampire on stage for many years, the Hungarian actor starred in the classic horror movie "Dracula." His legendary performance was made more impressive by the fact that he did not speak English. Despite this, Lugosi went on to play Count Dracula in many more films and even appeared as the villain in many other classic horror movies with other themes.

THE CALAVERAS COUNTY FROG JUMP FROM CALIFORNIA!

The book that started it all


   "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is an 1865 short story by Mark Twain, his first great success as a writer, bringing him national attention. The story has also been published as "Jim Smiley and His Jumping Frog" (its original title) and "The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County". In it, the narrator retells a story he heard from a bartender, Simon Wheeler, at the Angels Hotel in Angels Camp, California, about the gambler Jim Smiley. Twain describes him: "If he even seen a straddle bug start to go anywheres, he would bet you how long it would take him to get to—to wherever he going to, and if you took him up, he would foller that straddle bug to Mexico but what he would find out where he was bound for and how long he was on the road."


Samuel Clemons aka "Mark Twain"


   "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is also the title story of an 1867 collection of short stories by Mark Twain. Twain's first book, it collected 27 stories that were previously published in magazines and newspapers.
  Twain first wrote the title short story at the request of his friend Artemus Ward, for inclusion in an upcoming book. Twain worked on two versions but neither was satisfactory to him—neither got around to describing the jumping frog contest. Ward pressed him again, but by the time Twain devised a version he was willing to submit, that book was already nearing publication, so Ward sent it instead to The Saturday Press, where it appeared in the November 18, 1865 edition as "Jim Smiley and His





Jumping Frog".  Twain's colorful story was immensely popular, and was soon printed in many different magazines and newspapers.  Twain developed the idea further, and Bret Harte published this version in The Californian on December 16; this time entitled "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County", and the man named Smiley was changed to Greeley.





   About the Frog Jump and Its History

   In 1928, the Angels Camp Boosters Club (which is still very active in promoting fun events in Calaveras County) organized a celebration in honor of the first paving of Main Street in Angels Camp and chose to use Mark Twain’s famous story as the focus for their event. The first Calaveras Jumping Frog Jubilee drew over 15,000 people to Angels Camp. Visitors came from all over the countryside on foot, in wagons, and on horseback.Today, thousands of frog jump contestants from all over the world give the Celebrated Calaveras Frog Jump unique international acclaim. Plan to attend the





Calaveras County Fair and Jumping Frog Jubilee is held annually,  the third week in May at “Frogtown”.  Breathtaking rodeos, live concerts, exhilarating midway rides, country crafts, professional and amateur art and exhibits, lots of food, a beautiful setting, and much more make this a fun weekend for the entire family. For more information, take a look at the official frog jump site at www.frogtown.org