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DECK THE HOLIDAY'S: January 2012

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

DIY VALENTINE ORNAMENT WREATH!






This diy comes from www.mommyisacoocoo.blogspot.com .  Something to do with those extra ornament left over from Christmas.  Enjoy!

 

How to make a Valentine Ornament Wreath

Did you go out and buy a bunch of ornaments at 50% off after Christmas? I hope so because there is no need to wait until next Christmas to have some ornament loveliness in your home!


~ My Valentine Ornament Wreath ~




Here is what you need:

  1. a glass of wine (if you are anal and will worry about bulb placement)
  2. a plastifoam wreath (DON'T buy floral foam) shaped like a heart
  3. glue sticks and a glue gun
  4. spray paint (to color the foam wreath). I used red. Use whatever color you like best.
  5. about a million ornaments (different {Valentine} colors and sizes work best).
  6. spray on glitter (usually $5.99 at craft stores or $1.00 if you buy body glitter left over from Halloween
  7. a small piece of ribbon to hang your wreath

Spray paint your foam wreath. You can use whatever color you like but keep in mind some paint will show between your bulbs.




~ my large bulbs ~




~ my smaller bulbs ~


* small bulbs are essential to fill in the gaps



Now, it is pretty similar to the Christmas Ornament Wreath Tutorial. Place your bulbs on the inside of the heart wreath. (Don't use your favorite bulbs on this part a lot of these bulbs will be covered up.) After you have placed your bulbs, use your glue gun to secure them in place. You will glue each bulb to the wreath AND, to the next bulb in place.





Repeat this process for the outside of the wreath. Use the same size bulbs all the way around the outside of the wreath. Use sturdier (not vintage-they break really easily) bulbs on the outside. (Again, don't use your favorite bulbs here).




Now you are ready to start placing your favorite bulbs (I find it is best to do this in the evening while you have {at least} a glass of wine. If you are anal {me} and tend to over think things {also me} you will have a hard time figuring out where the bulbs should go). Don't over think it! Place a few bulbs (not worrying about small gaps) and then glue them in place. You can fill in gaps with smaller bulbs at the end. When you finish placing all your bulbs weave your ribbon through, take two Tylenol and go to bed.



Finally, spray your wreath glitter. This will really make it shine!

*Store your wreath at room temperature! Otherwise your glue will expand/contract and the bulbs will fall off and (possibly) break.


~ Happy Valentines Day! ~








NATIONAL FOOD HOLIDAYS IN FEBRUARY!!!










   This may be a time for chocolates and romantic steak dinners, bu this month is also filled with several national food holidays. Check out all of the great food holidays to be enjoyed during the month of February, plus great suggestions on how to celebrate them.




  • National Baked Alaska Day, February 1st- Who doesn't love cake and ice cream? But, you can make it even better by adding a thick layer of meringue and popping the whole thing in the oven. Be creative and choose gourmet flavors of ice cream and cake.
  • Heavenly Hash Day, February 2nd-Heavenly hash is a wonderful combination of chocolate ice cream and almonds. Be creative and make some heavenly hash ice cream sandwiches using double chocolate cookies.
  • National Carrot Cake Day, February 3rd-Take a break from cooking and baking and just grab some carrot cake cupcakes made at a local bakery.
  • National Stuffed Mushroom Day, February 4th-A great way to celebrate this national food holiday is to make mushrooms stuffed with your favorite ingredients, such as cheese and bacon.



  • National Chocolate Fondue Day, February 5th-This great food holiday is to celebrate with your significant other. Just make a simple chocolate fondue and serve it with some fruits for dipping.
  • Food Checkout Day, February 6th-This food holiday is easy to celebrate, just go pick up something from the grocery store.
  • National Fettuccini Alfredo Day, February 7th-A delicious pasta dish is just perfect for a cold winter's evening. To celebrate this food holiday prepare a simple Alfredo sauce and combine it with chicken or shrimp and fettuccini noodles.
  • Molasses Bar Day, February 8th-Molasses is such a tasty ingredient to work with. You can either make these bars or you can make gingerbread or even serve it on fresh made biscuits.
  • National Bagels and Lox Day, February 9th-This is a great food holiday for a winter morning when you need a hearty breakfast.



  • Cream Cheese Brownie Day, February 10th-If you want to take this food holiday over the top, make a brownie cheesecake.
  • Peppermint Patty Day, February 11th-This is an easy food holiday to celebrate. Just grab some York Peppermint Patties and pass them around.
  • National Plum Pudding Day, February 12th-Plum pudding is actually a cake. But, it's the perfect carb filled delight to serve on a cold winter evening.
  • National Tortellini Day, February 13th-A good way to celebrate this holiday is to use Tortellini in creative ways. Add it to a soup, serve it with different sauces, or add different fillings.
  • National Creme Filled Chocolates Day, February 14th-This is a great way to celebrate Valentine's Day.



  • National Gumdrop Day, February 15th-Go to your local candy store and buy some handmade gumdrops.
  • National Almond Day, February 16th-There are so many great ways to celebrate this national food holiday. You can add almonds to brownies, make chocolate covered almonds, or chop them up and add them on top of some ice cream.
  • National Indian Pudding Day, February 17th-You can either enjoy this food holiday by making your own Indian pudding or look for a restaurant that serves authentic Native American food.
  • Crab Stuffed Flounder Day, February 18th-This food holiday is actually healthy. Just be careful of the ingredients you use in your crab stuffing.
  • National Chocolate Mint Day, February 19th-This is another easy holiday to celebrate. Just buy some Andes Mints.



  • National Margarita Day, February 20th-This another national food holiday that will warm your soul.
  • National Sticky Bun Day, February 21st- Can you think of a better way to start off a cold winter morning with?
  • National Cherry Pie Day, February 22nd-Celebrate this national food holiday by serving up some cherry pie topped with a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream.
  • National Banana Bread Day, February 23rd-Celebrate this national food holiday by taking a homemade banana bread to work and sharing it with some co-workers.
  • National Tortilla Chip Day, February 24th-Spice things up on this food holiday by serving a large plate of nachos.



  • National Clam Chowder Day, February 25th- This is a great holiday to celebrate on a cold winter afternoon.
  • National Pistachio Day, February 28th-Eat them roasted or serve them in a pistachio pudding.
  • National Strawberry Day, February 27th-This is the month of romance. Celebrate this food holiday by dipping some in melted chocolate.
  • National Chocolate Souffle Day, February 28th-Chocolate souffle is unbelievably sinful. What better way to take your mind off those cold winter days with?
  • Surf and Turf Day, February29th-Celebrate this food holiday with a large New York steak and some lobster.

WEIRD FEBRUARY HOLIDAYS!!!








   February's not just about Super Bowl Sunday, Valentines Day and Mardi Gras. Nope, this month has some pretty interesting days to celebrate to say the least.






  • Serpent Day, February 1st-Go out and pet a snake or if you don't like them. Pet some snake skinned cowboy boots.
  • Purification Day, February 2nd-Go out and wash real well today!
  • Cordova Ice Worm Day, February 3rd-This day is for worms found in icebergs. Alaska actually has an annual Ice Worm Festival that takes place on the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
  • Create a Vacuum Day, February 4th-Go out and clean all of that pet hair and dirt out of your carpets.





  • Disaster Day, February 5th-Might be a good day to stay inside and play scrabble.
  • Lame Duck Day, February 6th-
  • Charles Dickens Day Day, February 7th-One of the best early authors of his time, he wrote "A Christmas Carol", and has had many of his books turned into movies.
  • Man Day, February 7th-
  • Fly a Kite Day, February 8th-Hope the wind is in your favor on this day.
  • Read in the bathtub Day, February 9th-Get a favorite book, a glass of your favorite drink, a nice warm bath with bubbles and some nice heavy metal music to relax to.



  • Umbrella Day, February 10th-Maybe some rain will come your way.
  • White T-Shirt Day, February 11th-Go to your dresser and pick out a fresh one to wear.
  • Don't Cry over spilled Milk Day, February 11th-Laugh at spilled milk in the face today!
  • Get a Different Name Day, February 13th-Change your name to Ochocinco...... like that's gonna happen.



  • National Condom Day, February 14th-Go out and have some safe sex with your wife or other partner.
  • Quirky Alone Day, February 14th-This is my kind of day. We need to at least spend one day a month by ourselves doing what we want. It helps with our sanity.
  • Ferris Wheel Day, February 14th-Go out for a spin or two or three or four or...
  • Do a Grouch a Favor Day, February 16th-Go to a retirement home and make someone happy.
  • Champion Crab Races Day, February 17th-Ready! Set! Run sideways!!!



  • National Battery Day, February 18th-Take your old batteries in and recycle them don't just throw them in the trash.
  • Hoodie Hoo Day, February 20th-At high noon climb up in a tree. Stand like an owl. And yell Hoooddie Hooo!!!
  • Lover Your Pet Day, February 20th-Who doesn't love their pets?? Maybe go to a shelter and give someone a new home.
  • Card Reading Day, February 21st-You're holding the Jack of Spades! Right?



  • Be Humble Day, February 22nd-Many a man is served this from his wife. What's that honey?... Yes Dear!
  • National Dog Biscuit Appreciation Day, February 23rd-Go out and buy a box and share them with the neighbor dogs. Maybe that'll keep them from barking every time you walk past their houses.
  • Pistol Patent Day, February 25th-We honor Samuel Colt on this day.
  • Tell a Fairy Tale Day, February 26th-Once upon a time.....Oh, I'll save this story for another day.
  • For Pete's Sake Day, February 26th-For Pete's Sake! Can you please get out of the bathroom! I've got to go bad!!!



  • Polar Bear Day, February 27th-If you have a zoo in your town, drive on over and throw them a couple fish.
  • Public Sleeping Day, February 28th-Take your sleeping bag with you to the park and find a comfortable bench on which to perch your body on.
  • Gone ta Pott Day, February 28th-Wait, I'll be right back. I've got to use the Pot.
  • National Tooth Fairy Day, February 28th-Oh boy! Oh boy! I could use a shiny quarter. But do I have any extra teeth to spare!!

BIHU FESTIVAL FROM EAST INDIA!









   This harvest festival is celebrated thrice a year. Impressive and very own dance forms and magical tunes of folk music create a soothing and charming environment for the natives and tourists. It’s an occasion when everyone congregates and dances with the tunes of Bihugeet. There are no religion barriers.

HISTORY OF BIHU

   The state of Assam celebrates the most important festival, Bihu, with a lot of delight and joviality. The carnival which is celebrated with passion and vehemence marks the change of season. The history of the significant and noteworthy celebration dates back to 3500 B.C. At that point, it was one month long celebration. However, today it is celebrated thrice a year and each time for a week. The first Bihu is celebrated in April. 
    It overlaps with the festivals like Chait, Baisakhi and Sankranti.
   People of Assam propitiate and thanks the Almighty for bountiful harvest. Astounding Assamese dance forms accompanied with Bihugeet (folk songs) mark the essence of the pleasurable and congenial occasion.
   The dance forms which are the souls of the traditional festival were only restricted and constrained to the men previously but now lots of women come out of their homes to dance and celebrate the festival with their male companions. The idea and patterns of celebration differ at various places.




   To increase the effectiveness and enjoyment, dance competitions and beauty contests are organized during the Bihu week. Bull fights and Bird fights are part of the traditions of Bihu from many years.


About Bihu

   Bihu, the national festival of the traditional Assam, is definitely not marked as a religious festival. Three such fascinating festivals, observed at various times of the year, are the part and parcel of the traditional Bihu. Bohaag Bihu is celebrated in Baisakh or in the middle of April, Maagh Bihu is celebrated in the middle of January, where as the Kaati Bihu is celebrated in the month of Karthik or October. The foremost fiesta of Assam has a very old and ethnic history. Each Bihu marks a different distinguished and typical phase of the farming calendar. When the seeding time arrives, the whole Assam celebrates the auspicious Bohaag Bihu. It marks the New Year. The Kaati Bihu marks the end of sowing and transplantation of paddies. And last but not the least; the Maagh Bihu is another carnival which is observed at the end of the harvesting period.
   The festival of fun and bliss, the Bohaag Bihu is popularly known as Rangoli Bihu. Maagh Bihu is renowned as Bhogaali Bihu and is known as a festival of food. Kaati Bihu, marked as a festival of the poor, is also called as Kongaali Bihu.





   The arrival of the wonderful spring is enjoyed blissfully with Bohaag Bihu. The occasion is observed with the traditional dance form and folk songs. Bihu folk songs are popularly known as the Bihugeets. Bohaag Bihu continues for few Days. Young and energetic people form groups and walk around the village. They are dressed up in colorful and bright clothes. The pretty and beautiful girls dance to celebrate the occasion.  This kind of assemblage is known as Mukoli Bihus. The enchanting songs and music are popular among all the sections of the society. The special and spectacular carnival is full of romanticism and love.
   The language of Bihu always refreshes the mind and soul. However, the language of Bihu has kept on changing. The songs of Bihu are composed in couplets and each of them invariably depicts dissimilar emotions and at the same time the songs are accompanied with characteristic and unique dance forms. This is the charm of this fantastic festival. The elegance and style of these songs are noteworthy. The language is quite simple and straightforward. Intellectual scholars believe and opine that the language of Bihu is definitely not influenced by the ancient Indian language, Sanksrit.
Bihu songs also have a lot of influences on the old and impressive Assamese literature. The impact of the language of Bihu songs on the rich Assamese literature is notable.
Mukoli Bihu, the predominantly popular festival, is not anymore observed with the warmth. However, a number of professional dance groups still perform Bihu songs on the stage of Bihu fairs. Bihu dances are the additional enticements.





   Bihu Kunwori, the traditional contest, is still organized widely. Juvenile and young women include their names in the dance competition and the best dancer is honored and gets the title of Bihu Kunwori.
   The popularity of the Bihu songs has now crossed the boundaries of states and nation. Every year new songs are out in the market. It shows the popularity and acceptance of the special and melodious music of Bihu.


Significance of Bihu

   The prominence and recognition of Bohaag Bihu among the believers of Assamese cultures and ethnicity, spreading across the boundaries, are immense. It has the uncanny power to break the shackle and bring all the cultural people together on the propitious fiesta. The premise is open for all. Bihus are attached with the souls of the greeneries and soaring hills of Assam. Three Bihus attract innumerable people throughout the year and unite them.
   The tribal community, Dimasa Kachari, used to live their life in the awe inspiring valleys of Assam previously. The word Bihu, was derived from the mother tongue of the tribes, Dimasa Kachari.



Traditional bull fighting



   Assam, the land has to offer an impressive blend of cultures and mores, especially the ethnic traditions of various tribes have a definite impact on the chain of carnivals of Assam. Cast, religion, creed or belief, nothing is more important than the fun and frolic of Bihu. The promising and inspiring occasion is celebrated by all the residents of Assam. Assam is endowed with greeneries and welcomes the visitors with the tunes of Bihu amidst the fascinating prolonged valleys. People around the breathtaking landscapes and compelling gorges come alive with the musical tunes of Bihu songs thrice every year.
   It's a grand celebration of farming and paddies. Each and every Bihu signifies a special and singular meaning. Rangoli Bihu marks the inauguration of sowing of seeds where as the Kati Bihu marks the conclusion of sowing and transplantation. The arrival of the harvest period is observed when the inhabitants of Assam celebrate it with Maagh Bihu.







Three festivals are linked with three different seasons, spring (Bohaag), winter (Maagh Bihu) and autumn (Kati).
   Even though Bihu is solely and exclusively a regional (Assam, India) festival but many people who live in other countries also celebrate it with lot of zeal and pleasure. As the festival is not anyway attached with the spirituality or religion, everyone of every religion and field come out of their homes to celebrate the carnival. This is the essence of Bihu. The seasonal changes are marked perfectly by three Bihus in a year. It is quite obvious that the festival symbolizes the solidarity and togetherness.


ESSENCE OF BIHU PERFORMANCE


   Bihu dance is performed along with the unique and striking Assamese folk music. Assamese customs and ethnicity are visible on the dance forms. Drummers who play drums or dhol, are the most important and significant musicians. The dhol is played with a stick and a palm. Drummers perform differently with variety of rhythms and musical tunes at various segments of the performances. These metrical and musical compositions, called seus, are conventionally codified.
   Drummers enter into the dancing premise in a queue and before entering into the performance arena they play a short and vigorous rhythm. The mohor xingor pepa is played generally in the beginning by a single player and without any doubt it sets the mood of the dance and carnival.






   All the men dancers then come out to perform the special dance. Taal (a type of clash cymbal), Gogona (a reed and bamboo instrument), Toka (a bamboo clapper), xutuli (a clay whistle) and Bamboo flutes are played apart from the ethnic Dhol (drum).
The lyrics of the Bihugeet welcome the New Year and narrate the daily activities of farmers.
   Bihu dances are performed both my men and women. However, the dances of women offer a lot of vibrant variations. There are many stages (freehand, twisting etc) of female dance forms which really attract and entice dance lovers. The dance forms fascinate mainly because of their rapid and hasty change of dispositions, tempo, movements, swiftness and improvisations. Able dancers and musicians are given very short span of time to showcase their talent and intelligence.

TYPES OF BIHU

Types of Bihu
The most important and momentous festival of Assam is definitely Bihu. The whole Assam celebrates the charming occasions with smiles, happiness and delight. Three Bihus are celebrated right through the year. The following descriptions will help you to understand the essence and importance of the different Bihus.





Rongali Bihu:
Most of the dwellers of Assam, irrespective of their religion and race, celebrate the occasion with their own touch of colors and traditions. The most popular of all the Bihus, Rongali Bihu, marks the commencement of the Assamese New Year and welcomes the spring with both arms wide open.
The occasion is known with innumerable names to various races (Baisagu for Bodo Kacharis, Baikhu for Rabhas, Ali- Ai- Ligang for Misings, Bobhaggio Bisu for Deoris).
The seven days long festival observed cheerfully and with lot of fun all over Assam. The first day is known as Goru Bihu or Cow Bihu. Generally cows are washed and worshipped with lot of devotions. This is followed by Manuh (Human) Bihu, falls generally on 15th April, the New Year. This is the time when city indwellers and village habitants clean themselves up and wear new attires. It's time to get ready for the energetic and sparkling celebrations of the New Year.






Goru Bihu:
The occasion marks the last day of the year and cattle are reverenced. The underlying principles behind worshipping the cows are their nature and importance. They produce milk, help to plough fields and used to transport men. They are the best friends and assets of the farmers.
The cattle are rinsed, tarnished and cleaned with ground turmeric, different pastes and adhesives. Gourd and brinjals are offered to the cows. Assamese sing the traditional and tuneful Bihu songs while cows take foods.







Manuh Bihu:
Manuh Bihu, the next day of Goru Bihu, is celebrated on the New Year day. Bihuwan, the traditional Assamese clothes, were gifted to the elder people of the family as a token of appreciation and respect. Children sing and dance wearing new and colorful attires. It's time when people go and greet their near and dear ones. Husoris, the Bihugeets and Carols are sung mainly by the elder people of a particular village. They move to different households while they sing hymn. Various cultural events are planned and staged on the premise of different Bihu pandals.







Kati or Kongali Bihu:
The style of observing Kati Bihu is bit different. It's not all about smiling and spending the festive season, restriction and solemnity are must on this occasion. The Bihu is dedicated to the holy deity, Lakshmi who is the distributor and dispenser of the assets to the mortals. The aspiration of rich harvesting is the key. Kati Bihu marks the completion and end of sowing and transplantation. Puja offerings are made to the Tulsi plant in the evening. The enchanting Diyas enlighten the inner souls. Inhabitants of Assam offer the puja and wish to have quality and improved crops. This Bihu is celebrated mostly in villages where farmers offer lights in their respective fields. These lights are known as “Akash Banti” or "Sky Lamp". Tulsi (Basil) trees are planted on the premise of every household and habitants worship the plant with Diya or an earthen lamp.






Magh Bihu or Bhogali Bihu
   The homes of Assam are decorated to welcome the third Bihu festival of the year. Generally the festival falls on 14th January and is observed on the sankranti of the month. Having foods and enjoying the festive times are the prime objectives of the grand Bihu. Bhogali, the word is derived from the word Bhog, i.e. food. The occasion marks the end of the harvesting season. The mouth watering and delicious delicacies are the charm of this fastidious Bihu. Uruku, the night of the first day, is the time when the grand feast is celebrated with Bhog. Habitants form Bhelaghars or Mejis with bamboo and pieces of woods on their own farmlands or on the adjoining premises.    Everyone of the community congregates at a place and takes the pleasure in the luscious and appetizing local foods. Sweets and greetings are exchanged with smiles. The whole night is spent with a blissful mood. Musical instruments like Dhols are played while people enjoy the Bihu songs. People spend the beautiful night together around the Meji. Children engage themselves in playing games. Young and energetic guys wander around the firewood and have fun.
   On the next morning everyone fresh themselves up after taking bath and assemble in front of the Meji to burn it. Pithas and betel nuts are thrown in the burning Maji. It is a way of worshipping the Almighty and ending the harvesting year at the same time.
Later on, the half burnt firewood is thrown to the fruit trees for the desired results. Different types of sports like Buffalo fight, Egg fight, Cock fight and Nightingale fight are quite common games which are played all through the day.

Monday, January 30, 2012

DIY GLAZED GLITTER EFFECT!






   This comes from www.iheart2stamp.com .  A lovely idea to make something more dementional, not just letters but almost anything else.  Good luck!


That’s what I love about this industry…you are able to learn something new {almost} everyday. Sometimes it’s can be something simple, sometimes it’s something really cool and other times you smack yourself on the forehead and say, “Why didn’t I think of that before!?” Well, the other day I was at Scrapper’s Boutique, my local scrapbook store where I work and teach, and the owner showed me this cool technique that she had done on chipboard with glitter and Diamond Glaze/Crystal Effects. It was one of those “Wow this is cool AND why didn’t I think of that?” moments, so I thought that I would share.
I’m actually going to start with the finish product/project and work my way to the details. This is the card that I made with the letter S having the Glazed Glitter technique {that’s just the name I came up with, call it what you will} applied…





By the way, the paper that I used might just be my new favorite. It’s the Quite Contrary line from My Mind’s Eye. I LOVE LOVE LOVE it! I got picked mine up from Emma’s Paperie.
Here’s a detail shot of the S tag on the card…





This technique is really quite simple, but I thought that I would show the step outs on how it is done. It’s so much easier to show things in pictures instead of trying to “show” them just in words. I wish I had the time to make more tutorials. Maybe this is a start!





Supplies needed: chipboard or thick cardstock die cut, Diamond Glaze/Crystal Effects, fine glitter, adhesive to apply glitter {the MS glitter glue that came with the glitter is shown}.





Apply adhesive to your chipboard. NOTE/TIP: I used a foam brush to ensure that I got a thin, even layer over the entire piece. Generously sprinkle glitter and shake off excess…






Apply Diamond Glaze/Crystal Effects over the top of the glitter…





Allow to dry thoroughly and then attach to project.





Here are a couple more detail shots of the S. Pictures really don’t do it justice! It’s so smooth, shiny and glittery all at once. I really wish that I would have learned this before Valentine’s day so I could have done it on hearts on Valentine projects. I’m pretty sure that I will be doing this on just about everything that needs a little bling!





So what do you think? Pretty cool, no? Let me know if you use this on any of your projects, as I would love to see what you come up with, too.

BUTTERCREAM SUGAR COOKIES THAT LOOK LIKE THE TOPS OF CUPCAKES!






   This comes from www.iambaker.net .  They look like little cupcakes. Bake a few, make a dozen, the more the merrier.  Enjoy these sweet little cookies!


Cookies Decorated like Cupcakes



It’s time for a guessing game folks. Cookies OR Cupcakes? I am Baker pumped out some fun creations that may throw you off just a hair. She decorated cookies that look exactly like cupcakes. She piped frosting in a variety of swirls and topped them with fruit and sprinkles. To make these, she used her favorite sugar cookie recipe and perfect crusting buttercream recipe. I love the creativity that is radiating out of each of these.



CHINESE NEW YEAR!







2012 - The year of the Dragon
(Chinese New Year is on 23rd Jan. 2012)
Expect this to be a very energetic year, filled with optimism, power and entrepreneurship. However, the year is of water dragon, which means that even the most powerful will give a patient hearing to the weaker, and will try to see through their point of view. Better alliances and decision will take place.


   Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade. The Chinese calendar is based on a combination of lunar and solar movements. The lunar cycle is about 29.5 days. In order to "catch up" with the solar calendar the Chinese insert an extra month once every few years (seven years out of a 19-yearcycle). This is the same as adding an extra day on leap year. This is why, according to the solar calendar, the Chinese New Year falls on a different date each year. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day are celebrated as a family affair, a time of reunion and thanksgiving. The celebration was traditionally highlighted with a religious ceremony given in honor of Heaven and Earth, the gods of the household and the family ancestors. The sacrifice to the ancestors, the most vital of all the rituals, united the living members with those who had passed away. Departed relatives are remembered with great respect because they were responsible for laying the foundations for the fortune and glory of the family.  
   Year 2012 is the Year of the Dragon by the Chinese calendar.







The History of Chinese New Year

   The Chinese New Year has a great history. In our past, people lived in an agricultural society and worked all year long. They only took a break after the harvest and before the planting of seeds. This happens to coincide with the beginning of the lunar New Year.
   The Chinese New Year is very similar to the Western one, rich in traditions, folklores and rituals. It has been said that it is a combination of the Western Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. This is hardly an exaggeration! 
   The origin of the Chinese New Year itself is centuries old - in fact, too old to actually be traced. It is popularly recognized as the Spring Festival and celebrations last 15 days. 
   Preparations tend to begin a month before the date of the Chinese New Year (similar to a Western Christmas). During this time people start buying presents, decoration materials, food and clothing. A huge clean-up gets underway days before the New Year, when Chinese houses are cleaned from top to bottom. This ritual is supposed to sweep away all traces of bad luck. Doors and windowpanes are often given a new coat of paint, usually red, then decorated with paper cuts and couplets with themes such as happiness, wealth and longevity printed on them. 
   The eve of the New Year is perhaps the most exciting part of the holiday, due to the anticipation. Here, traditions and rituals are very carefully observed in everything from food to clothing. Dinner is usually a feast of seafood and dumplings, signifying different good wishes. Delicacies include prawns, for liveliness and happiness, dried oysters ( ho xi), for all things good, fish dishes or Yau-Yu to bring good luck and prosperity, Fai-chai (Angel Hair), an edible hair-like seaweed to bring prosperity, and dumplings boiled in water (Jiaozi) signifying a long-lasting good wish for a family. It is customary to wear something red as this colour is meant to ward off evil spirits. But black and white are frowned upon, as these are associated with mourning. After dinner, families sit up for the night playing cards, board games or watching television programmes dedicated to the occasion. At midnight, fireworks light up the sky. 
   On the day itself, an ancient custom called Hong Bao, meaning Red Packet, takes place. This involves married couples giving children and unmarried adults money in red envelopes. Then the family begins to say greetings from door to door, first to their relatives and then to their neighbours. Like the Western saying "let bygones be bygones," at Chinese New Year, grudges are very easily cast aside. 






   Tributes are made to ancestors by burning incense and the symbolic offering of foods. As firecrackers burst in the air, evil spirits are scared away by the sound of the explosions. 
   The end of the New Year is marked by the Festival of Lanterns, which is a celebration with singing, dancing and lantern shows. 
   At the Festival, all traditions are honored. The predominant colors are red and gold. "Good Wish" banners are hung from the ceilings and walls. The "God of Fortune" is there to give Hong Baos. Lion dancers perform on stage continuously. Visitors take home plants and flowers symbolizing good luck. An array of New Years specialty food is available in the Food Market. Visitors purchase new clothing, shoes and pottery at the Market Fair. Bargaining for the best deal is commonplace!


Traditions of Chinese New Year

   Even though the climax of the Chinese New Year, Nian, lasts only two or three days including the New Year's Eve, the New Year season extends from the mid-twelfth month of the previous year to the middle of the first month of the new year. A month from the New Year, it is a good time for business. People will pour out their money to buy presents, decoration material, food and clothing. Transportation department, railroad in particular, is nervously waiting for the onslaught of swarms of travelers who take their days off around the New Year to rush back home for a family renunion from all parts of the country.
   Days before the New Year, every family is busy giving its house a thorough cleaning, hoping to sweep away all the ill-fortune there may have been in the family to make way for the wishful in-coming good luck. People also give their doors and window-panes a new paint, usually in red color. They decorate the doors and windows with paper-cuts and couplets with the very popular theme of "happiness", "wealth", "logevity" and "satisfactory marriage with more children". Paintings of the same theme are put up in the house on top of the newly mounted wall paper. In the old days, various kinds of food are tributed at the alta of ancestors. 






   The Eve of the New Year is very carefully observed. Supper is a feast, with all members coming together. One of the most popular course is jiaozi, dumplings boiled in water. "Jiaozi" in Chinese literally mean "sleep together and have sons", a long-lost good wish for a family. After dinner, it is time for the whole family to sit up for the night while having fun playing cards or board games or watching TV programs dedicated to the ocassion. Every light is supposed to be kept on the whole night. At midnight, the whole sky will be lit up by fireworks and firecrackers make everywhere seem like a war zone. People's excitement reach its zenith.
   Very early the next morning, children greet their parents and receive their presents in terms of cash wrapped up in red paper packages from them. Then, the family start out to say greetings from door to door, first their relatives and then their neighbors. It is a great time for reconciliation. Old grudges are very easily cast away during the greetings. The air is permeated with warmth and friendliness. During and several days following the New Year's day, people are visiting each other, with a great deal of exchange of gifs. The New Year atmosphere is brought to an anti-climax fifteen days away where the Festival of Lanterns sets in. It is an occasion of lantern shows and folk dances everywhere. One typical food is the Tang Yuan, another kind of dumplings made of sweet rice rolled into balls and stuffed with either sweet or spicy fillings.
   The Lantern Festival marks the end of the New Year season and afterwards life becomes daily routines once again. This description is based upon the recollection of my own experience. Customs of observing the New Year vary from place to place, considering that China is a big country not only geographically, but also demographically and ethnically. Yet, the spirit underlying the diverse celebrations of the Chinese New Year is the same: a sincere wish of peace and happiness for the family members and friends.






The History and Origin of Chinese New Year


   The Chinese New Year is now popularly known as the Spring Festival because it starts from the Beginning of Spring (the first of the twenty-four terms in coordination with the changes of Nature). Its origin is too old to be traced. Several explanations are hanging around. All agree, however, that the word Nian, which in modern Chinese solely means "year", was originally the name of a monster beast that started to prey on people the night before the beginning of a new year (Do not lose track here: we are talking about the new year in terms of the Chinese calendar).
   One legend goes that the beast Nian had a very big mouth that would swallow a great many people with one bite. People were very scared. One day, an old man came to their rescue, offering to subdue Nian. To Nian he said, "I hear say that you are very capable, but can you swallow the other beasts of prey on earth instead of people who are by no means of your worthy opponents?" So, swallow it did many of the beasts of prey on earth that also harassed people and their domestic animals from time to time.
   After that, the old man disappeared riding the beast Nian. He turned out to be an immortal god. Now that Nian is gone and other beasts of prey are also scared into forests, people begin to enjoy their peaceful life. Before the old man left, he had told people to put up red paper decorations on their windows and doors at each year's end to scare away Nian in case it sneaked back again, because red is the color the beast feared the most.





   From then on, the tradition of observing the conquest of Nian is carried on from generation to generation. The term "Guo Nian", which may mean "Survive the Nian" becomes today "Celebrate the (New) Year" as the word "guo" in Chinese having both the meaning of "pass-over" and "observe". The custom of putting up red paper and firing fire-crackers to scare away Nian should it have a chance to run loose is still around. However, people today have long forgotten why they are doing all this, except that they feel the color and the sound add to the excitement of the celebration.  


Chinese Zodiacs






Rat
1924, 1936, 1948, 1960, 1972, 1984, 1996, 2008

You are ambitious yet honest, prone to spend freely. Seldom make lasting friendships. Most compatible with Dragons and Monkeys. Least compatible with the horses.






Ox
1925, 1937, 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009

Bright, patient and inspiring to others, you can be happy by yourself, yet make an outstanding parent. Marry a Snake or a Rooster. The Sheep will bring you trouble.




Tiger
1926, 1938, 1950, 1962, 1974, 1986, 1998, 2010

Tiger people are aggressive, courageous, candid and sensitive. Look to the Horse and the Dog for your happiness. But beware of the Monkey.




Rabbit
1927, 1939, 1951, 1963, 1975, 1987, 1999, 2011

Luckiest of all signs, you are also talented and articulate. Affectionate, yet shy, you seek peace throughout your life. So marry a Sheep or a Boar. Your opposite is the Rooster.




Dragon
1928, 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, 2012

You are eccentric and your life is complex. You have a very passionate nature and abundant health. Marry a Monkey or Rat late in life. Avoid the Dog.





Snake
1929, 1941, 1953, 1965, 1977, 1989, 2001, 2013

You are wise and intense with a tendency towards physical beauty, vain and high tempered. The Boar is your enemy. The Rooster and Ox are your best signs.




Horse
1930, 1942, 1954, 1966, 1978, 1990, 2002, 2014

Popular and attractive to the opposite sex, you are often ostentatious and impatient. You need people. Marry a Tiger or a Dog early, but never a Rat. 





Sheep
1931, 1943, 1955, 1967, 1979, 1991, 2003, 2015

Elegant and creative, you are timid and prefer anonymity. You are most compatible with the Boars and the Rabbits, but never the Ox.






Monkey

1932, 1944, 1956, 1968, 1980, 1992, 2004, 2016

You are very intelligent and are able to influence people. An enthusiastic achiever, you are easily discouraged and confused. Avoid the Tigers. Seek a Dragon or Rat.




Rooster
1933, 1945, 1957, 1969, 1981, 1993, 2005, 2017

A pioneer in spirit, you are devoted to work and quest after knowledge. You are selfish and eccentric. Rabbits are trouble for you. Snakes and Ox are fine.




Dog
1934, 1946, 1958, 1970, 1982, 1994, 2006, 2018

Loyal and honest, you work well with others. You are generous yet stubborn, and often selfish. Look to the Horse or Tiger. And watch out for Dragons.







Pig

1935, 1947, 1959, 1971, 1983, 1995, 2007, 2019
Nobel and chivalrous. Your friends will be life long, yet you are prone to marital strife. You should avoid other Boars. Marry a Rabbit or a Sheep.


Chinese New Year Symbols






Duilian
   If you are a Chinese or have visited China, you must be familiar with the "Duilian"? Duilian are generally two long, vertical red strips placed parallel to one another on each side of a door, with poetic and traditional Chinese sayings written on them. The Duilian sayings wish good fortune and represent the wishes and expectations that Chinese people have from the new year. Traditionally, Duilians contains good luck phrases like Wan Shi Ru Yi (May everything be as you wish) or “Da Zhan Hong Tu” (May you achieve your great plan) or “Sheng Yi Xing Long” (May your business be prosperous).
  Though the Duilian seems to be a simple holiday decoration, it is actually one of the most important and revered Chinese New Year symbols. People in China commonly believe that duilians bring good fortune throughout the year. Many of them write their own duilian every year. 




Fish
   The fish is considered to be a lucky Chinese New Year symbol and is the most popular dish served during the occassion. A whole fish is served on Chinese New Year’s eve for the reunion dinner. Usually the fish is steamed. It is a good omen to leave the bones and head and tail intact. This symbolizes abundance and a good beginning and end in the new year.







The Yule Log
   The Yule Log is an important part of the Chinese New Year celebrations and a lucky symbol of the festival. It is actually a log piece decorated beautifully with soft, red ribbons and glitter added to it for that extra zing. Thus adorned, the log is dragged to the fireplace. Traditionally, the Yule Log should burn for one whole night, smolder for twelve days (signifying the twelve months) and then be put out ceremonially in a regal manner. Burning the Yule Log is an indispensable custom for the Chinese New Year. It symbolizes the light coming back to conquer darkness.




The Water Narcissus Flower

   Flowers are an important part of the Chinese New Year decorations. The two flowers most associated with the New Year are the plum blossom and the water narcissus. The water narcissus is considered to be very auspicious by the Chinese and also people around the world. This beautiful white flower which blossoms during the time of New Year symbolizes good luck and prosperity. The blossoming of the Water Narcissus exactly on the New Year day is believed to indicate good fortune for the ensuing twelve months. The Chinese people decorate their homes with this flower and wait in anticipation of its blossoming, which they believe shall bring them good luck for the entire year and bless them with prosperity.



Plum Blossoms
   Another decorative item for the Chinese New Year celebrations, the plum blossom is another major symbol for the festival. The plum blossoms burst forth at the end of winter on seemingly lifeless branches. They stand for courage and hope. In Chinese art, plum blossoms are associated with the entire winter season and not just the New Year.






The RED Colour
   The red colour is an auspicious one in China and stands for life and prosperity. Thus it is used in celebrations in China. During festivals, most of the decorations around Chinese homes is usually in red color. The "Duilian" - one of the prominent decorative items and another major symbol for the occassion is generally of red colur. Also, while presenting someone with flowers, red is the colour that everyone goes for.





Tray of Togetherness
   The chuen-hop, or "tray of togetherness" is a tray full of dried fruits, sweets, and candies. Many Chinese families keep this tray to welcome guests and relatives who drop by. Traditionally, the tray is made up of eight compartments, each of which is filled with special food items. Each of thee food items has a special significance to the New Year season. According to a very old Chinese belief, such a tray was kept by families in the times bygone which they used to offer to all guests and well wishers who visited during the New Year. Even today, this tradition is kept alive in many Chinese homes. It symbolizes the unity and harmony within the members of a family.