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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 05/04/13

Saturday, May 4, 2013

QINGMING FESTIVAL!





  The Qingming Festival is a traditional Chinese fest on the 104th day after the winter solstice (or the 15th day from the Spring Equinox), usually occurring around April 5th of the Gregorian calendar.  Astronomically, it is also a solar term.  The Qingming festival falls on the first day of the fifth solar term, named Qingming.  Its name denotes a time for people to go outside and enjoy the greenery of springtime (Taqing, "treading on the greenery") and tend to the graves of departed loved ones.
   Qingming has been regularly observed as a statutory public holiday in Taiwan and in the Chinese jurisdictions of Hong Kong and Macau.  Its observance was reinstated as a public holiday in mainland China in 2008, after having been previous suppressed by the ruling Communist Party in 1949.
   The holiday is known by a number of names in the English language:





  • All Souls Day (not to be confused with the Roman Catholic holiday, All Souls, Day, of the same name)
  • Clear Bright Festival
  • Ancestors Day
  • Festival for Tending Graves
  • Grave Sweeping Day
  • Chinese Memorial Day
  • Tomb Sweeping Day
  • Spring Remembrance
   Tomb Sweeping Day and Clear Bright Festival are the most common English translations of  the Qingming Festival.  Tomb Sweeping Day is used in several English language newspapers published in Taiwan.





Origin

   Qingming Festival is when Chinese people visit the graves or burial grounds of their ancestors.  Traditionally, people brought a whole rooster with them to the graves visited, but the occasion hs become less formal over time.  The festival originated from Hanshi Day, (literally, a day with cold food only), a memorial day for Jie Zitui or Jie Zhitui.  Jie Zitui died in 636 B.C., in the Spring and Atumn Period.  He was one of the many followers of Duke Wen of Jin before he became a duke.  Once, during Wen's nineteen years of exile, they had no food and Jie prepared some meat soup for Wen.  Wen enjoyed it a lot and wondered where Jie had obtained the soup.  It turned out Jie had cut a piece of meat from his own thigh to make the soup.  Wen was so moved he promised to reward him one day.  However, Jie was no the type of person who sought rewards.  Instead, he just wanted to help Wen to return to Jin to become kind.  Once Wen became duke, Jie resigned and stayed away from him.  Duke Wen rewarded the people who helped him in the decade, but for some reason he forgot to reward Jie, who by then had moved into the forest with his mother.  Duke Wen went to the forest, but could not find Jie.  Heeding suggestions form his officials, Duke Wen ordered men to set the forest on fire to force out Jie.  However, Jie died in the fire.  Feeling remorseful, Duke Wen ordered three days without fire to honor Jie's memory.  The county where Jie died is still called Jiexiu ("the place Jie rests forever").






   Qingming has a tradition stretching back more than 2,500 years.  Its origin is credited to the Tang Emperor Xuanzong in 732.  Wealthy citizen in China were reportedly holding too many extravagant and ostentatiously expensive ceremonies in honor of their ancestors.  Emperor Xuanzong, seeking to curb this practice, declared that respects could be formally paid at ancestors' graves only on Qingming.  The observance of Qingming found a firm place in Chinese culture and continued uninterrupted for over two millennia.  In 1949 the Communist Party of China repealed the holiday, Observance of Qingming remained suppressed until 2008, when the Party reinstated the holiday, in Hong Kong and Macau this practice has been uninterrupted for two millenia.






Celebrating Qingming

   The Qingming Festival is an opportunity for celebrants to remember and honor their ancestors at grave sites.  Young and old pray before the ancestors, sweep the tombs and offer food, tea, wine, chopsticks, joss paper accessories, and /or libations to the ancestors.  The rites have a long tradition in Asia, especially among farmers.  Some people carry willow branches with them on Qingming, or put willow branches on their gates and /or front doors.  They believe that willow branches help ward off the evil spirit wanders on Qingming.
   On Qingming people go on family  outings, start the spring plowing, sing, dance.  Qingming is also the time when young couples start courting.  Another popular thing to do is to fly kites in the shapes of animals or characters from Chinese operas.  Another common practice is to carry flowers instead of burning paper, incense or firecrackers.






   The holiday is often marked by people paying respects to those who died in events considered sensitive in China.  The April Fifth Movement and the Tiananmen Incident were major events on Qingming that took place in the history of the People's Republic of China.  When Premier Zhou Enlai died in 1976, thousands visited him during the festival to pay their respects.  Many also pay respects to victims of the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989 and the graves of Zhao Ziyang and Yang Jia in areas where the right of free expression is generally recognized, as in Hong Kong.  In most areas of China such observances are suppressed and all public mention of such subjects is taboo.  In Taiwan, this nations holiday is observed on April 5th, because the ruling Kuomintang moved it to that date in commemoration of the death of Chiang Kai-shek on April 5th.  The holiday is nevertheless observed in the traditional manner with families gathering to honor their own ancestors, visit and maintain their family shrines, and share traditional meals.






   Despite having no holiday status, the overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asian nations, such as those in Singapore and Malaysia, take this festival seriously and observe its traditions faithfully.  Some Qingming rituals and ancestral veneration decorum observed by the oversea Chinese in Malaysia and Singapore can be dated back to Ming and Qing dynasties, the oversea communities were not affected by the Cultural Revolution in Mainland China.  Qingming in Malaysia is an elaborate family function or a clan feast (usually organized by the respective clan associaiton) to commemorate and honor recently deceased relatives at their grave sites and distant ancestor from China at home altars, clan temples or makeshift altars in Buddhist or Taoist temples.  For the oversea Chinese community, the Qingming festival is very much a family celebration and at the same time, a family obligation.  They see this festival as a time of reflection and to honor and give thanks to their forefathers.  Overseas Chines normally visit the graves of their recently deceased relatives on the nearest weekend to the actual date.  According to the ancient custom, grave site veneration is only feasible ten days before and after the Qinming Festival.  If the visit is not on the actual date, normally veneration before Qingming is encouraged.  The Qingming Festival in Malaysia and Singapore normally starts early in the morning by paying respect to distant ancestors from China at home altars.  This is followed by visiting the graves of close relatives in the country.  Some follow the concept of filial piety to the extent of visiting the graves of their ancestors in mainland China.  Traditionally, the family will burn spirit money and paper replicas of material goods such as cars, homes and phones and paper servants.  In Chinese culture, it is believed that people still need all of those things in the afterlife.  Then family members start to take turns to kowtow three to nine times (depending on the family adherence to traditional values) before the tomb of the ancestors.  The Kowtowing ritual in front of the grave is performed in the order of patriarchal seniority with the family.  After the ancestor worship at the grave site, the whole family or the whole clan feast on the food and drink they brought for the worship either at the site or in nearby gardens in the memorial park, signifying family reunion with the ancestors.

COOKIES N' CREAM MUDDY BUDDIES!




   This recipe comes from  mandysrecipebox.blogspot.com .  Make some for your friends and family.  Maybe enjoy some while watching a movie, instead of popcorn.










But this cookies and cream version of them... wow!  They were a huge hit!  The tiny crushed oreos to coat the outside of the chocolate made them taste amazing!  These are an easy and fun snack that the whole family will love.  And if you haven't tried muddy buddies before, then join me in my addiction!  I might even be eating some as I am typing this. hehe  Look at them.  They are just screaming out, 'Eat me!'










Ingredients:

  • 5 ounces white chocolate chips
  • 5 ounces milk chocolate chips
  • 5 cups Chex Cereal
  • 1 tsp shortening
  • Oreo cookies (8 for crushing and some for putting pieces throughout)
  • 1 cup powdered sugar



1. Divide the chex cereal into two bowl.  2 1/2 cups in each.  
2.  In a food processor crush 8 oreos until fine.  You can also crush in a gallon size bag with rolling pin.  
3.  In two gallon size bags, add 1/2 cup powdered sugar into each bag with 1/2 of the crushed oreos into each bag. (It was about 1/2 cup of crushed oreos.)  Set aside.
4.  Melt the white chocolate and milk chocolate in separate microwave safe bowls.   Melt 30 seconds at a time with 1/2 tsp shortening in each stirring after each 30 seconds until melted.  
5.  Once melted, stir in the chocolate into the separate bowls with Chex cereal until the Chex are coated well with the chocolate.
6.  Add the white chocolate and milk chocolate separately to the gallon sized bags with powdered sugar and crushed oreos and shake until they are coated.  Then add some extra crushed pieces to the mixture at the end.  Enjoy!

TOP 10 HAUNTED HOTELS!!


    If any place on earth is likely to be haunted, it’s a hotel. Below are ten of the world’s spookiest.


10
HotelChelsea/New York









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   A bohemian landmark the Hotel Chelsea was built between 1883 and 1885. Although it was the home of countless artists, authors, poets, and musicians, it is perhaps best known as the place where Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious stabbed girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death—Vicious himself died of a heroin overdose before the case could be brought to trial. Poet Dylan Thomas was staying at the Chelsea when he fell into his fatal coma; he died later in the hospital. But it’s possible Sid Vicious and Dylan Thomas never left the Hotel Chelsea after all; their ghosts have been spotted wandering its halls, along with playwright Eugene O’Neill and novelist Thomas Wolfe. Other guests have reported all manner of paranormal phenomena, from cold air to phantom footsteps to lights that switch on and off at will. The Hotel Chelsea is currently closed to new residents while undergoing renovations.


9
Talbot Hotel/Oundle, England








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   Fotheringay Castle was built circa 1100. It had a colorful history, being the birthplace of Richard III (whose remains were found last year beneath a parking lot), as well as the place where Mary Queen of Scots was tried and beheaded. By the 1600s, the castle had fallen into ruin and was razed, but not before parts of it were salvaged. Most notable was the castle’s oak staircase, which found its way into the nearby Talbot Hotel of Oundle, Northamptonshire. Legend has it that Mary walked down those very stairs on the way to her execution, leaving the mark of a crown on the wood from a ring she was wearing. Even though she has been dead for over four hundred years, Mary has not slept easy. Her ghost has been seen walking down the staircase, furniture has been moved around, and a portrait of Mary has been known to leap from the wall.


8
Hotel Castello Della Castelluccia/Rome, Italy









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   One of the most world’s most ancient cities, more blood has spilled on the soil of Rome than nearly anywhere else on earth. The Castello della Castelluccia, a renovated 11th century castle described by some guests as something out of a fairytale, has experienced its fair share of that history, changing hands many times and serving as the home to many aristocratic families, including this Orsinis, the Mutis, the Odelskanis, and operatic tenor Francesco Marconi. But this legacy has left its shadows; it is said to be haunted by three ghosts, possibly including the mad Emperor Nero who wanders through the gardens, and guests have reported seeing spectral horses passing by in the night.


7
Queen Mary/California









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   Built by the Cunard Line, The Queen Mary was the premier ocean liner for transatlantic travel, carrying celebrities and dignitaries. During World War II, it was painted gray and used as a troopship, but after the war was over, it was returned to its former grandeur. The Queen Mary was retired from service in 1967 and permanently docked in Long Beach, California, where it became a floating hotel. Dozens of people died on the ship over the years, including at least two men crushed by a door in the engine room. Spectral women in 1930s style bathing suits are often spotted around the swimming pool, telephones ring without benefit of callers, and the forlorn cries of children are heard in the night. Unlike many hotels, which downplay alleged paranormal activity, the Queen Mary embraces it’s spectral residents, offering daily ghost tours.


6
Akasaka Weekly Mansion/Tokyo, Japan








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   The Japanese have always been serious about their ghosts, and Tokyo has been the home of tales regarding the Noppera-b?, a terrifying spirit who appears normal until a person approaches. When it turns to acknowledge you, it exposes a white face completely blank of features. One of the most haunted places in Tokyo is rumored to be the Akasaka Weekly Mansion, an extended stay apartment where guests have reported apparitions, ghostly mists, and feeling disembodied hands touch them while sleeping.



5
Fairmont Banff Springs Hotels/Banff, Canada






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   Located high in the Canadian Rockies, the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel calls to mind a beautiful medieval castle in the wilderness. The Fairmont management adamantly denies any ghostly activity, but stories abound. One spirit frequently witnessed is that of a bride allegedly killed in a tragic accident right before walking down the aisle. The other, far more whimsical tale involves an elderly bellhop named Sam McAuley. Sam so adored the hotel that after he passed, he continued to work there. Guests report a white-haired bellhop helping them, only to vanish before they have a chance to tip him.
4
Russell Hotel/Sydney, Australia

















   Australia has a rough and tumble history, with origins as a British penal colony. The Russell Hotel shares those dark origins; it served as a hospital during deadly outbreaks of smallpox and bubonic plague, and later became a rooming house and hostel for sailors. It would seem that at least one of the seamen refuses to leave. Guests of Room 8 report waking to find a dark presence looming over their bed, peering down at them. Others claim to have seen the ghosts of prostitutes wandering the hall or doors opening and closing. Some claim that recent renovations on the old sandstone building have only served to rile up the old spirits, and activity is reportedly up.


3
Grand Hyatt Hotel/Taipei, Taiwan









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     It is rumored that the Grand Hyatt was erected over land that had once served as a Japanese execution ground and prison camp during World War II. The earth was so poisoned by death and despair that paranormal experiences abounded in the modern hotel, and locals shun the place like the plague. Even action star Jackie Chan reported a creepy experience, storming out of his suite in the middle of the night after encountering a ghost. Desperate, management turned to feng shui experts, who installed wind chimes, amulets, and Buddhist scrolls in the lobby designed to frighten off spirits.


2
Ballygally Castle Hotel/Larne, Northern Ireland










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     Built in 1625, Ballygally Castle might have a less than intimidating name, but it possesses quite a formidable history. It belonged to the Shaw family for many years, until finally becoming the property of Cyril Lord, a carpeting magnate who modernized and expanded the property. It was sold again, finally becoming a hotel. One of its former residents was James Shaw, husband of Lady Isobel. Poor Isobel is said to have crossed her husband somehow—some speculate that she’d been an adulteress and still others that she’d been unable to produce a male heir. Shaw had his wife imprisoned in the turret room where, starving to death, she flung herself out the window to her dorm. Lady Isobel has since proven a very active presence in the castle, appearing frequently to guests and knocking on guests’ doors at odd hours. James himself might also be present; it is rumored that he was poisoned in the castle. Another spirit, one Madame Nixon, is seen in a swirling, elegant dress. The mischievous laughter of children is also heard tinkling in the hallways.
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Le Pavillon Hotel/New Orleans






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   Built in 1907, the hotel’s website describes is as “A place where guests can instantly conjure the days of genteel luxury, romantic evenings and glittering nights.” Guests might also have a brush with the dead; Le Pavillon is reportedly haunted by at least five different ghosts. The most famous of these is Adda, a tearful teenage spirit killed by a runaway carriage who has been known to bump into people in the lobby, claiming to be lost, then vanishing. Adda might predate the construction of the hotel itself, witnesses claim she’s dressed in the style of the mid 1800s. A gray haired old woman in a black dress has been spotted, as have a spectral couple holding hands. Some say they can smell the man’s cigar smoke and smell the lady’s perfume. Most amusing of all is the hotel’s resident hippie—a young man with colorful garb, bell bottoms, and no shoes, who is frequently seen running around and disappearing into the walls. The hippie ghost is a prankster, often charged with hiding objects and yanking blankets off unsuspecting guests.