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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: 05/21/15

Thursday, May 21, 2015

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.

HOMEMADE FREEZER JAM!

 This recipe comes from www.theidearoom.net . Make a batch for freinds and family, and enjoy it on a PB and J sandwich. I just love homemade jams and jellies, they are 100 times better than store bought stuff.
   Not me! My sister made all these beautiful jars of freezer jam this past week. She was kind enough to share her pictures of them with us. Now…this girl can take amazing pictures. Seeing her photography is what inspired me to learn to improve my own.











Anyways, I love freezer jam! If you have never made any, you need to…NOW! It is seriously so easy! I totally prefer freezer jam to cooked jams and especially store bought jams. The only exception for me is apricot jam. Apricot jam is so much better cooked.
My sister has inspired me to make some more freezer jam as I did not make any last year. So next week, this is what I will spend one of my afternoons (during naptime) accomplishing. I can’t wait!!


Here is What You’ll Need:

4 lbs. of Fresh Berries or fruit (strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, plums, peaches)
1.5 cups of Sugar (amount will vary according to fruit and pectin used. There are some pectins that can be used to make low-sugar or no sugar versions of jam. Read your directions in the pectin package closely).
1 Pkg. Ball Freezer Jam Pectin
lemon juice (see recipe that comes with Pectin; some need it some don’t)
Freezer-safe canning jars or small tupperware containers.
Wash, stem & slice fruit, then place in a shallow pan.
Use masher to crush berries {consistency will depend on how chunky you like your jam}.
In separate bowl, mix together pectin and sugar.
Add mashed fruit to your mixture and stir for 3 minutes.
Scoop jam into small freezer-safe jars or tupperware containers. Let the jam set for 30 minutes, then store in your freezer or refrigerator. Store in your freezer for up to 1 year, or in refrigerator for up to 1 month.
Recipe makes approximately six 8 oz. jars or twelve 4 oz. jars.
Try mixing a couple of different fruits together for a yummy, unique flavor! A jar of jam makes a great gift for friends, neighbors and especially sisters…hint, hint!











Here is a link to another freezer jam recipe using honey and agar flakes.

ARAQUIO FESTIVAL FROM THE PHILIPPINES!!


some of the moors costumes


    Araquio festival is a celebration traditionally held every May in Nueva Ecija. The festival dates back to the Spanish colonial period and is celebrated with a theatrical/religious presentation similar to Spanish zarzuelas, dramatizing the spread of Christianity in the country and the war between Christians and Muslims.




Some of the Costumes

History and Customs

    The name Araquio is said to have come from "Heraclio", the name of a bishop during the time of Constantine the Great. The first Araquio presentation took place in the town of PeƱaranda, Nueva Ecija over 120 years ago. Before modern musical instruments were available, the bands used instruments made from indigenous materials like bamboo. According to Francisco Vergara Padilla, director of the Araquio group in the barangay of St. Tomas in PeƱaranda, during his grandfather's time they used basins and utensils as substitutes.










    Araquio is usually presented in May, during the feast of the Cross. The date of the feast varies from one town to another. This festival starts with a mass and ends with the elaborate Flores de Mayo celebration. Each performing group is given a day or two to perform in the town plaza, making it a weeklong presentation. Local wealthy families usually make it their spiritual duty to sponsor the festival, sometimes giving no less than fifty thousand pesos.

Performances

    Festival performers sing, act and dance while a brass band plays. The choice of songs and choreography varies, but the script has remained the same since the tradition started. It tells of the feud between Muslims and Christians that started over territory. In the play, Christians use the power of the cross, symbolizing their faith, to defeat the Muslims, who later retaliate by stealing the cross. After many battles, the cross is recovered, and the Muslims are Christened.










  Normally, there are 16 performers in each Araquio group. Nine of these play Christians led by Reyna (Queen) Elena and Haring (King) Constantine. The Reyna Elena has two servants, Laida and Blanca. The rest are soldiers named AlbertoArsenio, Rosauro, Fernando and Leonato. The Muslim group, on the other hand, is composed of seven people, led by Ordalisa or Erlisa and the Emperor. Their soldiers are Emir, Dublar, Marmolin, Engras and Sagmar. The male Muslims wear red costumes with feathered headdresses, while the male Christians wear either blue pants and white top or black pants and blue top. The female costumes are similar for both Muslims and Christians, except that the Christian women wear a sash or "banda" while the Muslim women wear feathered headdresses similar to their male counterparts.
    The players stand on an elevated stage, either wood or concrete, during their performance. The presentation also allows for crowd participation. The band plays on and the performers continue their choreography but pause their dialogue to give way to the dancing audience.


THE BANSHEES OF IRISH FOLKLORE!





    In Irish folklore, the Banshees are known as the ancestral spirits of the Fairy world. Their history extends way back into the dim and mysterious past.
    Banshees are among the oldest Fairy folk of Ireland, associated as strongly as shamrocks and potatoes. Banshees, also known as Bean-Sidhe, were appointed to forewarn members of Irish families of impending death. Her prescence alone brings no harm or evil, but to hear a Banshee in the act of keening is to have witnessed the announcement of the death of a loved one. The Banshee's wail pierces the night and its notes rise and fall like waves over the countryside.
    It is said that Banshees never appear to the one who is to die but to their loved ones. In times gone by she was seen washing human heads, limbs or bloody clothing until the water was dyed with blood.  Over the centuries this image changed. The Banshee now paces the land, wringing her hands and crying. Sometimes she is known as the Lady of Death or the Woman of Peace, for despite her wails she is graced with serenity.
    A Banshee won't cry from just anyone. According to legend, each Banshee mourns for members of one family. Some say only the five oldest Irish families have their own Banshees: the O'Neills, O'Briens, O'Gradys, O'Connors and Kavanaghs.
The Banshee is a solitary Fairy creature who loves the mortal family she is connected to with a fierce, unearthly care and will pace the hills in sorrow when she knows a death is looming.
    She will follow her family's members right across the world-her keening can be heard wherever true Irish are settled, because just like them she never forgets her blood ties. Unseen, she will attend their funerals and her wails mingle with those of the mourners.
Famous tailes of Banshee sightlings are plentiful. One dating back to 114 AD tells of a Banshee attached to the kingly house of O'Brien who haunted the rock of Craglea above Killaloe. Legend has it that Aibhill the Banshee appeared to the aged King Brian Boru before the Battle of Clontard, Which was fought in the same year.
    A recounting from the 18th century concerns a group of children who on an evening walk saw a little old woman sit on a rock beside the road. She began to wail and clap her hands and the children ran away in fear, only to later discover that the old man who lived in the house behind the rock died at that very moment.
    A little girl in the mid-19th century, standing at the window in her house in Cork, saw a figure o the bridge ahead. She heard the Banshee's wails and the figure disappeared but the next morning her grandfather fell as he was walking and hit his head, never to wake up. The same little girl was an old lady by 1900 and one day when she was very ill her daughter heard wailing round and under her bed. The mother didn't see to hear, but sure enough it protended her death.
    A party on a yacht on a Italian lake told its owner they witness a woman with a shock or red hair and a hellish look in her eyes. The owner, Count Nelsini, formally known a O'Neill, became anxious that the Banshee was announcing the death of his wife or daughter, but within two hours he was seized with an angina attack and died.
Descriptions of the Banshee vary but she appears in one of three guises; young woman, stately matron or raddled old hag.
  • A Banshee as a beautiful young girl appears with red-gold hair and a green kirtle and scarlet mantle, traditional dress of Ireland.
  • As matron she is said to be tall and striking, contrasting sharply with the dark of night. She is pale and thin, her eyes red from centuries of crying, her silver-grey hair streaming all the way to the ground as her cobweb-like grey-white cloak clings to her body.
  • In the hag guise she usually wears grey, hooded cloaks or the grave robe of the unshriven dead.  She may appear as a washer-woman or be shrouded in a dark, mist-like cloak.
  • The Banshee can also appear in other forms, such as a stoat, crow or weasel-animals associated in Ireland with witchcraft.
    One of the most notorious tales of a Banshee comes from the memoirs of Lady Fanshaw. Along with her husband, in 1642 she visited a friend in an ancient baronial castle surrounded by a moat. At midnight she was woken suddenly by a ghastly, supernatural scream. Leaping upright in bed, there was a young, handsome woman hovering outside the window in the moonlight. The woman was pale with dishevelled, loose red hair and wearing a dress in the style of the ancient Irish. The apparition stayed for some time and then disappeared with two loud shrieks.
    When morning came, Lady Fanshaw, not without some trepidation, told her host what she had seen. Her friend looked at her gravely and explained that she had seen the family Banshee, the ghost of a woman of inferior rank who married one of his ancestors, but he drowned her in the moat to atone for the shame he had brought on his family. She had come that night, as she always did, to announce a death in the family-one of his relations passed away in her sleep.
    Always appearing as a woman, there is no shortage of legends of Banshee sightings. Stretching back for more than a millennium, the Banshee, continues ringing a death knell for the witness's loved ones.