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Published: December 24th 2008
My students at Taizhou Teachers College and I wish everyone a wonderful Christmas Holiday, 2008
I am celebrating my third Christmas at Taizhou Teachers College, in Jiangsu Province, China. It has been an eventful time. The students and staff at TTC have made every effort to show me their special affection during this time of the year, making sure that I will not feel lonely. They know the importance of this holiday, and how much I miss spending these days with my family and friends in America. All send you their greetings and best wishes for a happy Christmas.
ANOTHER CHRISTMAS HAS ARRIVED AND THE NEW YEAR 2009 IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER. FEW EVENTS IN ONE'S LIFE , OTHER THAN A BIRTHDAY, REMIND HOW QUICKLY TIME AND THE YEARS PASS. I HAVE EXPERIENCED THREE YEARS IN MY SECOND HOME, TAIZHOU TEACHERS COLLEGE IN TAIZHOU, CHINA, (THE YEAR OF THE PIG, THE YEAR OF THE RAT, AND SOON TO BE THE YEAR OF THE OX). AS ONE'S AGE ADVANCES IT IS TRUE, THAT TIME SEEMS TO BE MORE FLEETING; BUT I AM GRATEFUL TO SAY, THAT THESE PAST 2 YEARS WITH MY STUDENTS, STAFF AND MANY CARING FRIENDS AT TAIZHOU TEACHERS COLLEGE HAVE BEEN FILLED WITH DEEP SATISFACTION AND GREAT JOY.
I CAN ONLY HOPE, THAT THE PAST 108 ENTRIES AND ALMOST 4,500 PHOTOS IN MY TRAVELBLOG HAVE ENTERTAINED MANY OF YOU THESE PAST YEARS, AND HAVE LET YOU EXPERIENCE SOME OF MY PLEASING AND ENTERTAINING MOMENTS IN THIS AMAZING COUNTRY CALLED CHINA. PERHAPS YOU WILL CONTINUE TO FOLLOW AND SHARE, WHAT IS STILL WAITING FOR ME IN THE COMING TWO YEARS, AS I CONTINUE TO EXPLORE MORE CITIES AND PROVINCES OF THE P.R.C.
I AM GRATEFUL FOR ALL OF YOUR LETTERS: YOUR GREETINGS AND EXPRESSONS OF AFFECTION,
Christmas is a time for giving.
I had the joy of giving each of my 300 students some small gifts and enjoyed singing some Christmas songs. At the end, one student, in every one of my classes, had the opportunity to win the Grand Prize. The smiles of the winners can be seen in some of these first photos.
YOUR COMMENTS, YOUR SUGGESTIONS, AND YOUR THOUGHTS, WHICH CONTINUE TO MAKE ME PART OF YOUR LIFE. MAY THIS HOLIDAY SEASON, 2008, BRING YOU, YOUR FAMILIES AND YOUR FRIENDS THE DEEP LOVE, GREAT SATISFACTION, THE JOY AND SUCCESS EACH OF YOU DESERVES. DURING THESE DAYS, MY SPECIAL PRAYERS AND KINDEST WISHES ARE WITH YOU. NOT A DAY PASSES, WHEN I DON'T REMEMBER HOW BLESSED I AM TO HAVE SUCH A LOVING FAMILY AND SUCH CARING FRIENDS, AND FOR THAT I MUST ALWAYS SAY "THANK YOU".
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A BLESSED NEW YEAR,
It is my 3rd Christmas Holiday Season in China, and the decorations in the city of Taizhou, as in every city around China, make it clear that Christmas is a holiday-time that is here stay in the "new" China. With the enthusiastic support of the enterprising and capable Chinese merchants, and the additional buying power of China's growing middle class, all of these holiday weeks are more enthusiastically celebrated by the Chinese families with every passing year.
Christmas in China nearly coincides with the most important Chinese holiday, the"Spring Festival". The "Spring Festival" itself is auspiciously preceeded by another festival, that offers sacrifices to
She was a happy young lady, when her number was called, and I was able to present her with this Christmas gift.
the Kitchen God. It is known as the "Preliminary Year" day (Xiao Nian), that bears similarities to activities, that lead up to our western New Year celebrations.
The "Monarch of the Kitchen" or the "Kitchen God" is a god, who takes charge of the fortunes of all Chinese families.
It is said, that on the 23rd day of the twelfth lunar month, the "Kitchen God" will report to the "Jade Emperor", the supreme deity of Taoism, about the good and evil of each Chinese family. The "Jade Emperor" will then decide, whether they should be rewarded or punished.
When the time arrives for each family to send the "Kitchen God" off on his journey, people will put candies, water, soybeans and fodder in front of his statue. It is a statue still seen in many Chinese homes. The water, soybeans and fodder are prepared for the horse, with which the "Kitchen God" goes to heaven.
When giving him the offerings, people will melt "Guandong" candy (a candy that originated in North East China) and apply it to the "Kitchen God's" mouth. With his mouth being glued, he will not be able to speak ill of others
I am happy being with my students...
... and they seem happy having me as their teacher. Taizhou Teachers College is like a small family, and every person connected with our school has only shown me great kindness and appreciation.
before the "Jade Emperor" (Yuhuang Dadi). I am told, the ceremony of offering sacrifices to the "Kitchen God" is only held by men. ??
On the Chinese New Year's Eve, the "Kitchen God" will come to the earth with other gods to celebrate the "Spring Festival", so there must be a ceremony of "Welcoming the Kitchen God".
The twenty-fourth day of the last lunar month is designated as the "house cleaning day".
During this time, Chinese people always begin to clean their houses, also called dusting. It is a thorough cleaning of the house, which aims to get rid of the bad luck and take on a new look. Every family will do the cleaning carefully and completely to make the house bright and clean.
It is a time of the year, when housewives will firstly cover the beds and furniture, and hood themselves. Then they will brush the walls with brooms. Later they will clean the furniture and the floors. And so they are now prepared for the coming of China's most important festival, the "Spring Festival", the "New Year of the Lunar Calendar".
Every year, when winter is about to end and spring
Being able to see the smiling faces of my students made this a happy day for me as well.
I wish I could have given a set of these dolls to each of my students. The world financial crisis made this impossible.
is coming, every Chinese family around the world will celebrate this most important first festival time in the year. The "Spring Festival" is the beginning of the lunar year, usually called "Guo Nian".
The "Spring Festival" will be celebrated in China in just a few more weeks. This year, according to the Western calendar, it will fall on the 25th of January. The year will usher in "The Year of the OX"!!!!
For the Chinese, the "Spring Festival" is also the most important family festival, spanning a history of many centuries and many dynasties. It can be called the grandest and most exciting festival for the Chinese. Gifts, decorations, food, family, friends, travel, parties, all are part of the "Spring Festival", and so the spirit of this Chinese Spring Festival and the Christmas Season of the West are beginning to merge.
For the Chinese, the "Spring Festival" is the beginning of the lunar year, usually called "Guo Nian" and has a history spanning far beyond 2,000 years.
Varied ancient Chinese New Year's traditions became more formalized during the Tang Dynasty (618 AD - 907 AD), a time of economic prosperity and political stability. This was also
The students of my 2007-2 class surprised me with a new "Erhue"
The students of the wonderful 07-2 Class wanted to surprise me with a special gift on this day, and they succeeded. They heard, that I am taking lessons on the traditional Chinese two string instrument called, the "Erhue". I now have my very own "Erhue", presented by to me by this wonderful group of students. Thank you to each of my friends in class 07-2!
a time, when there was a greater interaction between Chinese and foreign cultures. New Year customs slowly departed from the superstitions and evil prevention, and changed into entertaining and ceremonial celebrations. For example, fire-crackers on New Year were no longer a means of keeping away ghosts and preventing evil, but were ways of joy and fun.
During China's last two dynasties, the Ming Dynasty (1368 AD - 1644 AD) and Qing Dynasty (1616 AD - 1911 AD), the ceremonial and social function of this holiday only increased.
On New Year, people visited each other and exchanged elaborate cards, especially the higher officials. The common people also began to exchange gifts and pay New Year visits to one another.
The day together was celebrated with such entertainment as, the lion dance, dragon dance, drama playing, story telling, "high stilts" games, and boat racing, and there were increased visits to the local temples.
The recreation and entertainment at different places around China possessed their own characteristics. This is still true in today's celebrations.
For over 2,000 years the celebrations of the Lunar New Year have prevailed in China, and are a part of everyone's life and help
A newspaper-clipping: A holiday-visit to the school for deaf children in Taizhou.
Earlier this month, I went to visit a school for deaf children in the old part of Taizhou, to bring them some small presents. By coincidence, a Taizhou newspaper photographer happened to be there and took this photo. (Sorry about the quality, since it is a photo of the picture in the newspaper).
It appeared in the Taizhou newspaper earlier this past week. I am sad to say, that the students, who accompanied me are not in this photo, though it is they who deserve more credit They spend time with these children almost every week and they are the ones who need to be honored. I must thank them for bringing me there.
shape the soul of every Chinese all over the world. Whith the arrival of the lunar year, people who are away from home hurry back home to be with their families. Public transportation around China is then at its peak and over-crowded. Tickets for busses, trains, and planes are at a premium and often difficult to obtain.
The celebrations come to a close with the "Lantern Festival", a festival I will explain in the next TravelBlog.
And so, the Chinese Holiday Season is launched with the beginning of the "Kitchen God Day", when all the families are busy with overall cleaning, shopping for the festival, sticking paper-cuts on windows and doors, hanging New Years's posters, cooking rice-cakes and making all kinds of traditional foods, all in preparation for getting rid of the old and welcoming the new.
The night before the New Year in China is also called New Year's Eve, which is an essentially important time for family gatherings. Family members will sit around the table, enjoy a delicious and traditional dinner, and engage in chat or play. Most of them stay up all night until next dawn waiting for New Year (Shou Sui).
The feeling of Christmas on the Foreign Language Office Floor of TTC.
This beautiful Christmas Tree appeared one morning in front of my office on the 4th Floor of the F.L. Dept. Under the leadership of Foreign Language Dean, Ms. Fan, the teachers and staff of the F.L. Dept. offer me comfort and great Christmas spirit every year during this holiday time. I am grateful for all of their efforts and their friendship, and wish to express to each of them "Happy Holiday Wishes and a sincere Thank You!"
tradition, of not to sleep on the last night before the New Year, dates back to an interesting story among the common folks:
They believed that a ferocious and savage beast called "Nian" lived in deep mountains and thick forests. It would eat everything, from bugs to humans, and would change its diet everyday.
The people had a deep fear of "Nian". Over time, they understood the regularity of this animal, noting that every 365 days it went to a human community to eat them. "Nian" usually appeared after sunset and would go back to the mountain or forest when the roosters crowed at dawn.
Knowing the exact date of "Nian's" coming, folks feared this night and thought of ways of getting through this night:
When the night came, every family made dinner early, extinguished fire and cleaned the ovens. They locked the door to all chicken-pens and bull-pens, sealed front and back doors of the house and had their dinner in the house. Since people did not know what would happen to them after this dinner, the food was usually plentiful and extremely sumptuous.
The family members not only dined together to show harmony
Part 1: Christmas Greetings from my students.
This year I surprised all of my students with a St. Nick hat. Each student was eager to wear it just for you and for the photos. I promised them, that they would see their photo on this blog.
and a sense of reunion, but they also had to pay respect to ancestors for their blessing to help them get through this terrible night. After dinner, no one dared to sleep, but all huddled together and talked and chatted to gain courage. The monster, "Nian", is an interesting legend for this tradition of staying up on that night.
Even now, people light candles and oil lamps to stay up all night, symbolizing that the light shines on all evil, plagues, and diseases and drives them away in hope of good luck and fortune in the new year.
At the stroke of midnight, people will eat "Jiaozi" or Chinese dumplings. These are shaped like silver and gold ingots, and plates of them being taken to the table implies the good wish of "making big fortunes in the new year".
Chinese children especially like the Spring Festival, because they can get money on New Year's Eve called "Ya Sui money", money given to children by the elders with good wishes. The money is put in red paper bags and distributed by the elders after the traditional dinner or after the clock strikes twelve midnight. It is said, that
Part 1: Christmas Greetings from my students.
And so in part 1 of the photo series below, you will see the face of each of my over 300 students, all thinking of you this holiday season.
"Ya Sui" money keeps evil away from the children and ensures them a peaceful and healthy New Year.
On the first day of the "Lunar New Year", people begin to visit relatives and friends, expressing good will to each other, offering respect and love, and deepening friendships. People will utter special wishes for happiness and good health.
During the Spring Festival, people also have the custom to "Tie Chunlian", sticking New Year couplets on their house-doors. They are stuck on both sides of doors and windows to show people's wish for fortune and luck in the coming year. These New Year couplets have become a special form of folk art in China.
The sticking of "Door Gods" is also a popular custom, and has survived the centuries of traditions. It is said, that with two "Door Gods" stuck on the house entrance, all sorts of demons and ghosts will be awed and will turn away, and so for common people the "Door Gods" are tokens of righteousness and force.
The "Door Gods" always have angry staring eyes and savage faces with various traditional weapons in hand, always ready to fight with the ghosts that dare to
Part 1: Christmas Greetings from my students.
They have learned two holiday songs for you, and though you cannot hear their voices, I have posted the words of the melodies for you below each photo.
challenge them. The gods usually appear in pairs, since Chinese entrances to a house have doors that have two pieces.
Firecrackers and fireworks permeate the days and nights ( I do mean 24 hours a day!!!) of the Chinese Lunar New Year to the delight of the children, not to mention the adults. Legend has it, that setting off crackers can drive away goblins and expel demons.
In the hearts of all descendents around the world of the Chinese nation, the "Spring Festival" is always the most important and most meaningful.
Other Eastern cultures such as Vietnam, North Korea, South Korea, and Japan celebrate the "Lunar New Year" in similar ways.
Due to the rapid development of the Chinese society and the advancements of the times, people's views about life have changed greatly, and the culture of Chinese festivals is quickly changing with the time, also. Recently, a number of western festivals have been introduced into China. These foreign festivals, such as Valentine's Day, April Fools' Day, Mothers' Day, and Christmas/New Years Day are becoming more and more popular among the Chinese people, especially the younger Chinese. The very "capitalistic" Chinese merchants have taken advantage of
Part 1: Christmas Greetings from my students.
"Rudolp The Red-Nosed Reindeer" and "Silver Bells" could be heard throughout the teaching building of Taizhou Teachers College this past week. They sang in wonderful harmony and contagious enthusiam.
these holidays with special decorations and displays, luring every coin from the pockets of a prospective holiday celebrant.
I hope you have enjoyed this look into heart of the Chinese people, as they celebrate their own century-old and traditional festivities during this end of the year season, and appreciate their importance.
ALL OF MY STUDENTS, THE STAFF OF TAIZHOU TEACHERS COLLEGE, AND MY FRIENDS HERE IN CHINA WISH YOU A HAPPY HOLIDAY TIME!! THEY SHARE WITH YOU THE DESIRE FOR A WORLD FILLED WITH UNDERSTANDING, HAPPINESS AND PEACE. WITH THE ELECTION OF OBAMA AS THE NEW PRESIDENT OF THE USA, THEY ENVISION A NEW ERA OF RESPECT AROUND THE WORLD FOR AMERICA AND WISH OUR COUNTRY SUCCESS. ALL EXPRESS GREATER HOPES IN AMERICA'S POSITIVE AND PROGRESSIVE LEADERSHIP, AND ALL HAVE THE WISH AND DESIRE OF GROWING EVER CLOSER AS A "WORLD-FAMILY OF NATIONS", WHERE POVERTY, HUNGER, SICKNESS, AND WAR BECOME ONLY MEMORIES OF THE PAST.
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