Tag Archives: China

Welcome, Year of the Dragon!

Photo courtesy of China News

While most of us are still working on the New Year’s resolutions we made just weeks ago, it’s already time to say Happy New Year again as we celebrate Chinese New Year.

The Chinese calendar follows no fixed date and the new year is determined by the moon. This year, Chinese New Year begins on Jan. 22 with Lunar New Year’s Eve.

The new year, number 4710 on the Chinese calendar – officially begins Jan. 23 and marks the beginning of the Year of the Dragon.

According to legend, Buddha asked all the animals to say goodbye to him when it was his time to leave the earth.

But only 12 animals showed up for the farewell so to honor them Buddha assigned an animal to each of the years in a 12-year cycle.

The legend states that the rat was the first to arrive and so got the first year in the cycle.

The cat failed to show up at all and that is why there is no year of the cat.

Some people believe that you share personality traits with the animal assigned to the year you were born. If you are born in the year of the dragon, you are thought to be brave, enterprising, and quick-tempered.

For educational activities on Chinese New Year and Chinese culture, check out Apples4theteacher.com.

For a KidCulture reading list about Chinese New Year, click here.

Learn more about how families celebrate Chinese New Year around the world with this KidCulture article, Global Family Fun: Celebrate Chinese New Year.

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Superstitions Around the World

At Halloween, it’s fun to explore the things we don’t understand and examine the steps we take to control the things that just can’t be controlled. For example:

When you spill salt, do you throw a pinch over your left shoulder for good luck?

Do you believe black cats are unlucky?

Do you think that if you break a mirror, you’ll have bad luck for seven years?

Do you avoid the number 13?

These are all superstitions with which most Americans are familiar.

Even if we don’t believe in them, we pass this information on to our children because it’s part of our collective cultural heritage. We feel they should be aware of these beliefs.

But what other superstitions do people believe around the world? How are they different? Here’s a brief look at superstitions around the world to help you understand other cultures.

The Spooky Numbers 4 and 17

In Japan, it’s the number 4, not 13, that makes hearts race. In Italy, it’s the number 17. In these cultures, many hotels and hospitals avoid using these numbers to prevent their guests and patients from unnecessary pessimism. Of course, these buildings still have fourth and seventeenth floors, they just aren’t listed as such.

The Broken Dish

In the Netherlands, a broken dish is believed to bring bad luck in much the same way a broken mirror does.

More About Cats

In the Netherlands, private matters should not be discussed when a cat is in the room. People believe that cats are untrustworthy and spread gossip.

Tuesday

Tuesdays hold a special place in superstition. Tuesday the 13th is considered a particularly bad-luck day in many cultures in much the same way that Friday the 13th is bad luck to many Americans. In India, you cannot get a hair cut on Tuesdays because it’s believed to bring bad luck.

Bad Dreams

In Romania, if you dream about dark water or that you are carrying a newborn baby in your arms, you can expect bad luck. In China, dreaming about teeth or snow means that your parents have died.

More About Mirrors

If you thought breaking a mirror was bad, then you definitely do not want to place a mirror anywhere near the foot of your bed. If you do, Italians believe it permits the devil to watch you sleep. And if you wake up in the night and catch a glimpse of your reflection in that mirror, it means that evil owns you.

Watch Out For the Evil Eye

Many cultures believe in the evil eye which brings big-time bad luck. In Guatemala, parents can protect their children from the evil eye by dressing the kids in red; even a red bracelet will help.

Don’t Get Swept Away

In Venezuela, some people believe that if someone pushes a broom over your feet while they are sweeping, they also sweep away your chances of ever getting married. In many parts of Africa, you are never supposed to sweep your house at night. It is believed that you will sweep your good luck away.

Respect the Moon

In China, if you point to the moon with your finger the tips of your ears will fall off.

Whether or not you’re superstitious, it’s good to be aware – and respectful – of other people’s beliefs. When you visit people in their homes or travel to different countries, you need to respect these beliefs in order to be a considerate guest.

 

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Pasta and Marco Polo

Marco PoloAs children, we learned the theory that Marco Polo, the famous Italian explorer who spent 17 years in China before returning to his native land, introduced pasta to Italy.

But the truth is Italians – and all lovers of Italian food – might actually have Arabs to thank for helping to make pasta an Italian culinary staple.

Although the Chinese have been cooking pasta for more than 4,000 years, Italians are more likely to have learned pasta-making techniques from Arabs who settled in the Mediterranean area in the 9th century, more than 300 years before Marco Polo left for his adventure.

Although they may not have invented pasta, no other culture has been as enthusiastic about it. Italians consumer between nearly 77 pounds of pasta per person on average in a single year!

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Cherry Blossom Festival Unites Japan, USA

DC cherry blossomsOn March 27, 1912, American First Lady Helen Herron Taft and Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador to the United States, planted the first two Japanese cherry blossom trees near Washington, DC’s Tidal Basin.

Mrs. Taft was an excellent advocate for bringing the Japanese cherry trees to Washington. For three years, she lived with her husband and children in the Philippines while her husband served as the Governor-General of the Philippine islands. She was considered remarkable at the time because she welcomed the opportunity to learn about the language and culture of the Philippines and to befriend the Filipino people.

In addition, Mrs. Taft enjoyed traveling to Japan and China and she brought a respect and appreciation for other cultures to the White House when her husband was elected in 1908.

Ninety-nine years after the two ladies planted the first cherry blossom trees, visitors to Washington still enjoy them, as well as the 3,000 others that subsequently joined them.

This year’s National Cherry Blossom Festival is being conducted while the original givers of this beautiful gift – the people of Japan – are struggling with unbelievable challenges and tragedies.

More than two weeks after an earthquake and a tsunami changed life for people of Japan and set off a nuclear crisis in their country, many Americans are using the National Cherry Blossom Festival to reinvigorate American donations to help the people of Japan.

For more information about the history of the cherry trees in Washington, DC, check out the National Park Service’s website.

More information about the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 26-April 10, click here.

The American Red Cross is one of the best options for donating funds to help the people of Japan.

 

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What Kids Should Know About Libya

Libya has been in the news recently as the United States and other nations enforce a “no fly zone” to help protect Libyan citizens who do not agree with their current government.

Without going too deeply into the situation in Libya, which may be overwhelming for children, it is an opportunity to teach kids about Libya and its place in the world.

Libya – whose official name is Libyan Arab Jamahiriya – is located in North Africa. It is the fourth-largest country in Africa and the 17th largest in the world.

The country is mostly covered by the Libyan Desert, which is one of the driest, hottest places on earth.

Some parts of the desert have not had rain for more than 13 years. The highest temerpature that has been recorded in the desert is 136 degrees Fahrenheit!

The majority of people live in cities and are primarily concentrated close to the coastline with the Mediterranean Sea.

Islam is the major religion in Libya. While most people practice Sunni Islam, there are also Coptic Orthodox Christians and Roman Catholics.

Arabic is the primary language spoken in Libya but there are many people from other countries living in Libya, including people from Bangladesh, China, the Philippines, Egypt, and Italy. Italian and English is sometimes spoken in the larger cities.

Libya is a very young country – half of the people there are 15 years old or younger.

Fortunately, every child in Libya has access to a free education through secondary (high) school.

In fact, Libya has the highest literacy rate in Africa. More than 82 percent of the people can read and write.

Family is very important to Libyans and they are accustomed to living close to each other. There are more than 140 tribes or clans and people strongly associate with their tribe.

Libyan food is very similar to the rest of North Africa. Staples of a Libyan diet include: couscous, olives, soups, dates, grains, and milk. Following the meal, most people consume several glasses of black tea.

Libya is a beautiful, historic country facing many challenges but hopefully the Libyan people will soon be living in peace.

Libyan Desert

Photo courtesy Wikipedia

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Food, Family, and Chinese New Year

There are few better – or cheaper – ways to introduce your child to other cultures than through food.

With so many great ethnic restaurants, it’s easy for parents to get children accustomed to foods from different countries from an early age.

However, parents may be unsure of what to order that’s kid-friendly.

In honor of Chinese New Year, which runs February 3-15, over the next few days KidCulture will provide some suggestions to help parents choose food in Korean, Japanese, and Chinese restaurants.

In each of these countries, people celebrate Chinese New Year by sharing good food with their families and friends – and that’s a custom worth adopting.

So stay tuned for some fresh, fun, food ideas to help you introduce your child to other cultures.

 

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Books About Chinese New Year

Here are some suggestions for children’s books about Chinese New Year. Enjoy!

Sam and the Lucky Money by Karen Chinn, Cornelius Van Wright, and Ying-Hwa Hu

My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz

Happy Chinese New Year, Kai-lan! By Lauryn Silverhardt, Jason Fruchter, and Aka Chikasawa

Dragon Dance: A Chinese New Year Lift-the-Flap Book by Joan Holub and Benrei Huang

The Runaway Wok: A Chinese New Year Tale by Ying Chang Compestine and Sebastia Serra

 

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Ginger Beef & Noodle Soup

Ginger Beef and Noodle SoupGinger is the great food discovery of my 30s.

Until then, I’d never really appreciated this amazing little root, which combines great flavor and healthy properties. Chinese herbalists have been using ginger in food and medicine for more than 2,500 years, so it’s no wonder that it plays such an important role in Chinese food.

Ginger is especially helpful in warding off and minimizing colds and the flu – all the more reason to give this soup a chance!

This recipe, which is based on the well-known Chinese dish, is fast and easy to prepare. Enjoy!

Ginger Beef & Noodle Soup

10 oz. lean beef tenderloin, cut into ¼ in. strips

2 c. water or beef broth

1 c. shitake mushrooms, thinly sliced

¼ c. rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp. soy sauce

3 large cloves garlic, minced

2 tsp. sesame oil

1 tbsp. ginger, minced

¼ c. sliced green onion

¼ c. canola oil

Directions:

In a large bowl, add beef strips, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, sesame oil, and ginger.  Stir until the meat is covered, set aside to marinate.

In a saucepan, heat canola oil over high heat.  When oil ceases to crackle, add shitake mushrooms.  Cook on high for 2-3 minutes.

Add the beef and marinade to the saucepan.  Cook until meat is browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes at high heat. Add water or beef broth. Bring to a boil. Add noodles. Cook for 7-10 minutes or until noodles are desired consistency.

Remove from heat. Garnish with green onion and serve.

 

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Mom to Kid: Go Fly a Kite

I have always loved flying kites. Maybe it’s because I was born in the spring, typically the best kite-flying time of year, or maybe I’m just a little flighty (get it?), but over the years I have flown a lot of kites.

Thanks to some close but not too-close hurricanes in our area over the past couple of weeks, we’ve enjoyed some unusually windy days that have been perfect for kite flying. After a fun afternoon testing out my son’s new Star Wars kite, I got to wondering about how popular kites are in other parts of the world.

As always, I turned to the Internet, which offered some immediate answers.

There’s a wikispaces devoted to a student project on kites that incorporates children from China, the United States, Pakistan, India, Australia, South Korea, and Slovenia.

This site has so many pictures of kites – and kite fliers – from around the world that you’re sure to see something you’ve never seen before!

I even found out that the United States has an entire museum dedicated to kites in Washington state.

And finally, here’s how to make your own kite (if you don’t have a cool Star Wars one already).

But no matter how much research you do, nothing takes the place of actually flying one yourself, preferably with someone who actually knows how to make the kite airborne!

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So Tell Me About Peaches

Last night in the grocery store I was half-listening to the TV they had set up at the checkout. I was rushing to arrange everything on the belt just the way my mother had taught me (cold stuff together, heavy stuff together, chemicals for cleaning together, etc.) when I heard the fascinating fact that peaches originated in China.

As a devotee of New Jersey’s peach crop (it was the only food I can recall missing when I lived in Burkina Faso for two years), this was news to me. But it’s true (I confirmed it on Wikipedia).

The peach fact reminded me of a new show I caught on the Cooking Channel called Food(ography) hosted by Mo Rocca. I will say it here and now: I love Mo Rocca. And I love him even more after watching this show in which he talks about food in the context of culture.

The episode I caught was called “Noodlerama” and it talked about pasta and how different cultures have adapted it. The show airs Sundays at 9 p.m. and the only criticism I have of it – and this is minor and probably part of the charm of the show – is that I have a hard time believing Mo Rocca. Something in his sardonic delivery just makes me wonder if he’s making the whole thing up.

But if you – like me – enjoy getting a history lesson along with a tour of food and culture delivered in a way that will make you laugh out loud, then this might be the show for you.

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