Body and Soul

Asian Festivals and Traditions

Home | Yule Etc. | Yule Celebrate Your Way... | January | Wheel of the Year | Health | In the News | Mother Earth | Father Sky | Science and Spirit: Beginnings | World Religions | Science & Spirit | * S * H * I * N * Y * | Index

Asian Religious Traditions: A Rich History
Ancient Lore, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism

Chinese New Year

Gung Hey Fat Choy
"Wishing You Prosperity and Wealth"

2013: The Year of the Water Snake

February 10, 2013 through January 30, 2014

January 22, 2004 will be the first day of the Year of the Monkey, in Year 4701 by Chinese calendar calculations. Those born under the sign of the Monkey are usually erratic geniuses. They are remarkably inventive and original, and can solve the most difficult problems with a lot of ease. They want to do things rigth away, and if they do not start fast they will become discouraged. Even if they are good at making decisions, they will tend to look down on others for advice. They also have a deep desire for knowledge and have excellent memories.

The Chinese New Year begins annually with the second new moon after the winter solstice, during the period between January 21st through February 19th. Celebrations in China last officially for three days, in some places they continue until the next Full Moon. This is regarded as one of the most important Asian holidays. Migrations of Asians have spread the celebration of the Asian New Year throughout the world, through much of Asia and wherever there are significant concentrations of Chinese population. Holidays can be three to five days long, or even longer. The 3rd day is also the Birthday of Che Kung.

It is believed that the course of these few days will determine the path of the coming year. Ancestral spirits are honored, people stop their quarrelling, children vow to behave, new clothes are purchased, houses are cleaned, old debts are paid and families make special efforts to gather together.  There is usually a big family meal and sacrifices are offered to the Gods. Presents of cash are given in red envelopes (the color red is considered lucky).

Deceased relatives are also remembered during this time. Families build altars with photographs, flowers, incense, money and food. and houses are decorated with strips of red paper to attract good luck.

In China, a Dragon Parade and Lantern Festival take place on the final night of the celebration. People typically visit the gravesites of deceased loved ones.

In Vietnam, 'Tet Nguyen Dan' literally means the first morning of the first day of the new period. Vietnamese call the midnight hour of New Years' Eve 'Le Tru Tich', when the spirits of the old year are rushed out and the new spirits are welcomed. The streets are chaotic with celebrants banging gongs and sounding off all sorts of noisemakers to scare away evil spirits.

Other Resources:  Chinese Lunar Calendar and Zodiac, Chinese Calendar

New Year 2005: The Year of the Rooster   February 9th, 2005. The Chinese will count it the year 4703, the Year of the Rooster, or Cock..

Celebrate the birthday of the lotus on July 22nd by reading the flower of the month article featuring the lotus or water-lily, the flower of July. Learn about the spiritual interpretations of the flower, associations with gods and goddesses, myths about its origins, natural facts, medicinal uses and a recipe for pond lily popcorn.
The sixth moon of the Chinese lunar calendar is called the Lotus moon. In Peking, the birthday of the lotus is celebrated on the 24th day of the sixth month, according to Burkhardt. People flock to see the pink lotuses blooming in the lakes around the Winter Palace with the same enthusiasm the Japanese bring to cherry-blossom viewing. The sight of the lotus blooming in ponds and moats signifies that prayers to the Dragon-Prince have been answered and there will be sufficient moisture for an abundant harvest.
On two Chinese lunar holidays that would usually fall in the month of July, the Chinese celebrate with lotus flowers. During the festival of Tanabata, the weaver woman, on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, children carry lotus flowers. And lotus lanterns are lit for the Ghost Festival on the first day of the seventh lunar month.
Thoreau wrote an entry on June 25, 1852, that implies it was the custom for young men to bring water lilies to church on Sundays while they were in bloom.
The oldest representation of the lotus was made centuries before anyone ever wrote about it: a statue unearthed at Mohenjo-Daro showing a wide-hipped goddess, lifting her breasts with her hands and wearing lotus blossoms in her hair.
The Hindu goddess Lakshmi is also called Padma, Kamia and Kamalasana, all names for the lotus. She emerged from a lotus which sprang from Vishnu's forehead. Vishnu himself is pictured holding a conch, a wheel, a mace and a lotus in his four hands.
The earliest written reference to the goddess in a supplement of the Rig-Veda describes her as born of the lotus, standing on the lotus, garlanded with lotuses. She is the hue of the lotus, lotus-eyed, lotus-thighed. She is often depicted flanked by white elephants who pour water from their trunks over her and the lotus she holds. Supposedly elephants love to eat the steam of lotuses.
In India, the Lotus also represents birth. Vishnu puts forth from his body a single giant navel on which Brahma, the lotus-born Creator is seated. This lotus has 1,000 golden petals from which mountains rise and waters flow.

Buddhism borrowed the lotus pedestal from Brahma. The Buddha is often depicted sitting on a lotus or holding a lotus. Yoga students and meditators sit in lotus position.
Legend says that when the Buddha was born, he walked seven steps in ten directions and with each step a lotus flower appeared. Look closely at the soles of his feet when you see a statue of Buddha you may see the imprint of the lotus.
Buddhist periods are initiated by the appearance of a lotus, which indicates the location of the sacred tree of the Buddha. If there are no blossoms, no Buddha will appear. At the beginning of the current era, the Bhadrakalpa, there were 1,000 blossoms, signifying the birth of 1,000 Buddhas.
In China, the envelopes given to the family at a funeral are impressed with the outline of a lotus. And in rural areas, people still burn incense to the Spirit of the Lotus. In Chinese Buddhism, the goddess Tara is also called Lotus. And Kwan Yin, the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy, is often depicted holding a lotus which she gazes at with downcast eyes, or reclining on an expanse of lotuses.
-- Edited excerpts from The Lotus: Flower of July at School of the Seasons (c) Waverley Fitzgerald. See his site for the complete article with links and photos.

November 23 - Shinjosai Festival: A rice harvest festival in honor of Konohana-Hime, the granddaughter of the sun goddess Amaterasu.
December 2 - Hari Kugo Festival: In Tokyo, this women's "Festival of the Broken Needles" honors all Japanese goddesses and patrons of crafts and craftswomen.

The I Ching (Classic of Changes or Book of Changes), also known as the Yi Jing, Yijing, or I Ging, is one of the Five Classics, the fundamental books of Confucianism. It is over 3000 years old (the symbols used in divination are over 5000 years old), making it both one of the oldest surviving books in the world, and one of the oldest forms of divination. It is by far the most popular spiritual resource and oracle in Asia, and has a growing following in Europe and the Americas based on its uncanny ability to provide detailed insights to those who study it carefully. For more information, read Facade's Introduction to I Ching Readings.

Buddhist Relics
An usual world exhibition is offering a rare look at the physical remains said to be of Shakyamuni Buddha and other great Buddhist teachers. The Heart Shrine Relics, so named because they will be placed permanently in the heart area of a 500-foot statue to be constructed in Kushinagar, a town in northern India where Buddha died, include fossilized blood, bone fragments and ringsel -- tiny pearl-like beads said to be formed when a spiritually pure master is cremated. Most of the 1,000 relics, which were donated by museums, monasteries and individuals -- with a few  salvaged from statues destroyed when China invaded Tibet half a century ago -- are kept in small gold urns with glass tops and displayed in glass cases.
Victoria Ewart, global manager of the Heart Shrine Relic Tour, describes the spiritual significance of the relics, which will remain on tour through 2008. "The relics are produced because the master has spiritual realizations," Ewart explains  "So, when the body is cremated, then these ringsel -- relics -- are found among the ashes. And they're deliberately left there because the master wishes to leave an object of veneration." -- Religion and Ethics Newsweekly

On Believing
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. -- Buddha, "The "Enlightened One"

China Garden

Buddha: A Hero's Journey to Nirvana

Joseph Campbell, in his epochal book 'The Hero with a Thousand Faces,' emphasizes that the essential trait of a hero in the making is his restlessness. Not at ease with his immediate environment and circumstances, a constant unease gnaws at his heart, prompting him to question the very nature of his existence. This inner strife is the first inkling that a greater destiny lies ahead of the potential hero.

Campbell divides the evolution of the hero into five distinct phases:

1. The Call to Adventure
2. Crossing of the Threshold (Entering the Unknown)
3. Trials and Tribulations of the Journey
4. Attainment of Enlightenment
5. Return of the Hero

The Buddha's journey to spiritual awakening or 'Nirvana,' as it is popularly called, perfectly mirrors the above mentioned progressive development of a hero.

Chinese Temple

Hinduism has been described as a religion of fasts, feasts, and festivals. Here's a date-wise list of Hindu festivals and religious occasions for the year. For those of you who fast regularly, a list of days to fast during Amavasya, Poornima, Sashti, Chathurthi, Ekadesi, Shivratri, has been added. Auspicious occasions or Mahurat timings for 2003 have also been listed.

Time, Epochs & Millennia
A look at the Hindu view of time, the four great epochs or 'yugas', and the cursed Kali Yug we're living in. It is predicted that at the end of the Kali Yug, Lord Shiva shall destroy the universe and all the physical body would undergo a great transformation. After such dissolution, Lord Brahma would recreate the universe and mankind will become the 'Beings of Truth' once again.

Eye on the Future
2nd Sight Magazine

Body & Soul Section
Sound Mind, Body, Spirit

Cat Tales
Prose, Poetry & Amusement

Body and Soul
Yahoo! Groups Forum
New art and artists in the galleries.