Archive for the ‘Festivals & Events’ Category

Shichi-Go-San 2012 in Japan

Shichi-Go-San 2012 in Japan
15 November 2012, Thursday

Shichi-Go-San means Seven-Five-Three in Japanese is a day to celebrate Japanese kids who have reached the age of 7, 5, or 3.  This celebration is not a national holiday but it’s a popular family event that all Japanese participate in.  Boys of age three and five, and girls of age three and seven get to be stars of this annual event.  The numbers 3, 5, and 7 are considered lucky numbers and children younger than the age of 3 are prohibited from growing out their hair.  Boys after the age of five are allowed to wear hakama (traditional Japanese clothing) while girls after age 7 are allowed to use an obi (a big sash) for their kimono.  Shichi-Go-San is an event that celebrates kids older than 3 being able to grow out their hair, boys older than 5 can wear hakama, and girls older than 7 can decorate their kimono with an obi.

This traditional dates back to the Heian period (794-1185) and might have started in Kyoto where only children of the nobles celebrate this passage into another stage of childhood.  During the Edo period (1603-1868) this practice has been widely adopted by commoners.  On this day boys and girls will wear elaborate Japanese traditional outfits and go to the local Shinto temple to pray for health, happiness and longevity.  The most popular Shinto Shine in Tokyo is the Meiji Jingu.  After the visit to the temple, children receive chitose ame (thousand year old candy) from their parents.  Chitose ame has a stick shape and will come in bags decorated with images of turtles and cranes- the animals that represent long life in the Japanese culture.  This celebration is very cute and you’ll see lots of children in cute Japanese clothes at Shinto temples everywhere and lots of opportunities to take pictures of them dressing in traditional Japanese outfits.

 

Vesak Day 2013 in Singapore

Vesak Vibes in Chinatown, Singapore

Chinatown decorated for Vesak Day

Vesak Day or Wesak Day
24  May 2013, Friday

Vesak Day, also known as Wesak Day, or more commonly known as “Buddha’s birthday”, celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of Gautama Buddha.  This holiday is widely celebrated in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, India, and many parts of Asia.  In Singapore, the holiday is started in the morning with Buddhists and devotees gathering at temples for a morning ceremony.  During this ceremony, a Buddhist flag will be raised  and monks will recite the sutras.  Followers will visit temples to pray and to give offerings of flowers, incense, and much more.  These offerings symbolize that life will end since flowers will wilt and incense will turn to dust.  Other rituals that will be observed are:  releasing caged birds, bathing a Buddha statue, candlelight processions, having vegetarian meals, and doing good deeds.  Acts of good deeds are known as “dana” and it’s believed that doing good deeds on this particular day brings more rewards.  Buddhists will come to visit the needy and give donations, and young Buddhists often organize blood drives at local hospitals.  The bathing of a Buddha statue is to commemorate his birth and some believed it’s also to remind followers to purify their minds from greed and hatred.   At night there will be solemn candlelight processions through the streets.  Some of the popular temples to celebrate this holiday are:  Thai Buddhist Temple at Jalan Bukit Merah,  Buddhist Lodge at River Valley Road, Lian Shan Shuang Lin Temple at Jalan Toa Payohand, and The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple in Chinatown.

Bathing of Baby Buddha

Bathing of Baby Buddha on Vesak Day

 

There are many different sectors of Buddhism in Singapore and each celebrates Vesak in unique ways.  The largest sector is the Mahayana which is made up of Chinese Singaporeans.  Temples for this sector will perform the two-hour “three-step, one-bow” ritual.  Buddhists will be on their knees as they step up and will bow at every third step as a way to ask for peace, blessings, and forgiveness.  Another sector is the Theravada which has mostly Sri Lankan Singaporeans and Burmese Singaporeans and they will have the ritual of cooking rice in milk.  This ceremony is to remember Buddha’s last meal before his enlightenment fast.  You can see this practice at Sri Lankaramaya Temple at St Michael’s Road or  Burmese Buddhist Temple at Geylang.

 

 

Tuen Ng Festival / Dragon Boat Festival / Dumpling Festival 2013

 

Tuen Ng Festival / Dragon Boat Festival / Dumpling Festival
12 June 2013, Wednesday

Dragon Boat Festival, also called Tuen Ng Festival or Dumpling Festival, commemorates the death of the poet Qu Yuan who drowned himself about 2,000 years ago as an act of protest against the corrupt government.  According to legend, after Qu Yuan committed suicide, villagers got on their boats, beat drums, and threw rice dumplings into the river to scare fish away so they won’t eat Qu Yuan’s body.  Nowadays, people will eat dumplings and go swim or dip their hands in the river during this festival to pay respect to Qu Yuan. The main attraction of this festival are dragon boat races all over Hong Kong.  Dragon boats are around 11.6 m long with carved dragon heads and tails and its crew has 22 paddlers. Read more »