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TEACH ABROAD

Leon's Blogs
Festivals
of the Far East

China

Japan

Korea

Mongolia

Vietnam
2015
is not over yet!

2016
is coming Feb. 8th!

Date &
Festival
Country

Descriptions/Details

January 1

New
Year's
Day

HOW DO YOU SAY, "HAPPY NEW YEAR" in other languages?

Xin nian kuai le

pronunciation:  shin ni-ehn kwai leu

In China, it is called, "Xin Nian".
They celebrate with fireworks and partying.  Some of the Lunar New Year Traditions are also incorporated into the Solar New Year.
Akemashite omedetô

pronunciation:  ah-keh-mah-shee-teh  oh-meh-deh-toh

In Japan, it is called, "Shogatsu".
At exactly midnight Dec.31st/Jan.1st, Buddhist temples all around the country ring 108 times, to cleanse the souls of the 108 transgressions.
Sae hae bok manhi baduseyo

pronunciation:  seh-heh boke mahnie pah-doo-say-oh

In Korea, it is called, "SaeHae".
At exactly midnight, the bell (Jong Gak) in central Seoul is rung several times.  It is believed that if lovers hear the bell, they will be in love forever.
Shine jiliin bayariin mend hurgeye

pronunciation:  shin-eh  jilleen  by-yareen mind hur-geh-yeh

In Mongolian, it is called, "Shine Jil".

Also, this is the time that ӨВӨЛИЙН ӨВГӨН "Uvliin Uvgun" or "Grandpa Winter" (the Mongolian version of the Russian "Ded Moroz" or "Grand-dad Frost") comes to give gifts to the children.

Chúc Mừng Nǎm Mới

pronunciation:  chuck mung nahm moy

In Vietnam, it is called, "Chuc Mung".

It is celebrated just like China.

2nd Monday of January

Coming-of-age
Day

"Seijin No Hi"

Seijin No Hi is a national holiday in Japan to celebrate all those who become an adult that year.  Age 20 is considered the age of adulthood, when one is allowed to drink, smoke, and vote.

The date varies on the Gregorian Calendar

Chinese
Lunar
New
Year

The first day of

the first month of

Chinese Lunar Calendar

Will occur on

Feb. 8, 2016

by the solar

Gregorian Calendar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHINA:  (Chun1 Jie2)  Literally: "Spring Festival" 
WHY IS IT CALLED "Spring Festival"?

This is somewhat of a mystery.  I have gotten various answers.  None of them make sense.  Here is the most popular answer I have received:

     "Perhaps many millennia ago, perhaps before leap year was discovered, the first day of the Chinese Calendar was closer to spring time."
MY OPINION:
The so-called "Spring Festival" occurs almost exactly in the middle, between the winter solstice (Dec.21) and the spring equinox (March 21).  Therefore, it is my opinion that Spring Festival herald's the coming of Spring.
CHINESE LEGEND
In the part of China, which is called, "Manchuria", there used to be a huge monster (looking much like a dragon, but which I think was a living dinosaur).  In the PRE-SPRING to early spring, it would come down out of the mountains and terrorize the people.  It would destroy villages and even eat people.  After a while, the people discovered that the monster was afraid of loud noises, bright lights, and the color red, which explains why Chinese do fireworks and cover their doors with red paper at the New Year.

TRADITIONAL FOOD:
Jiao Zi (meat and/or vegetables wrapped in noodles);  Some people call them "dumplings".

KOREA (Seol Nal)  Literally: ?????
WHAT DOES "Seol Nal" MEAN?

According to some people (and some websites), the word "Seol" (
) is an abbreviation of:  "Sae-hae-eui Cheot Nal" (새해의 첫날), which means:  New Year's First Day.  HOWEVER, I DISAGREE !!!
MY OPINION:
My educated guess is that "Seol" means "washing," because "Seol-geo-ji" means "washing the dishes"; So, perhaps "Seol Nal" means "washing day".  It would make perfect sense, because both the Chinese and Koreans wash EVERYTHING either on or in preparation for Chinese New Year's Day.
TRADITIONS:
Traditions are similar to those of China, but the color red doesn't seem to be important in Korea
TRADITIONAL FOOD:
Ddeok (an edible dough made of ground rice and warm water), and
Ddeok guk (a soup made of the same).

VIETNAM (Tết Nguyên Đán)  Literally: Feast of the First Morning
This is the biggest holiday/festival in Vietnam!  It's like Christmas!  People take three days off, give gifts, and party with lots of food and drink.  The full name of the festival is above, but most people just call it "Tet" for short.

Feb 3/4

Setsubun

JAPAN (Setsubun)  Literally: "Division of the Seasons"
DO JAPANESE CELEBRATE CHINESE LUNAR NEW YEAR?
Not really.  Setsubun is a time to cleanse one's soul before Spring comes.  Setsubun is celebrated on February 3rd or 4th {one day before the first day of Spring (according to the Japanese Lunar Calendar)}. 
TRADITIONS:
One removes all negative energy by throwing beans.  Interestingly, Japanese also take a citron bath at winter solstice to cleanse themselves physically (and spiritually).
TRADITIONAL FOOD:
Soba Noodles
The first day of the first month of the Mongolian Lunar Calendar

Tsagaan
Sar

Translation:
"White Moon"

Occurs on
Feb. 9, 2016

by
Gregorian Calendar

Tsagaan Sar

 

 

The name of the

holiday is quite

deceptive.  It 

leads one to

believe that

there would be a

full moon.  On

the contrary, the

new year starts

with the FIRST day of the waxing moon of the new year!

 

MONGOLIA (Tsagaan Sar)  Literally Means: "White Moon"

Mongolians use their own Lunar Calendar which differs from the Chinese Lunar Calendar.

  Similarities Differences
Chinese
Lunar Calendar
Apparently, all the calendars are based upon 12 months of 30 days = 360 days each year
So, they add a leap year with 13 months periodically.
They have different dates and different leap years (at different times).
The Mongolian New Year is one day after the Tibetan New Year, because Tibetans use the "new moon" as their new year's day, and Mongolians use the first visible crescent moon as their new year's day.
Mongolian
Lunar Calendar
Tibetan
Lunar Calendar

The Dates of Chinese, Tibetan, and Mongolian Lunar New Years:

Year Chinese New Year
(Also Korea and Vietnam)
(on the new moon)
Tibetan New Year
(on the new moon)
Mongolia New Year
(on first day of visible moon)
2008 Feb. 7 Feb. 7 Feb. 8
2009 Jan. 26 Feb. 25 (leap year?) Feb. 26
2010 Feb. 14 (leap year?) Feb. 14 Feb. 15
2011 Feb. 3 Mar. 5 (leap year?) Mar. 6
2012 Jan. 23 Feb. 22 Feb. 23
2013 Feb. 10 (leap year?) Feb. 11 Feb. 12
2014 Jan. 31 Mar. 2 (leap year?) Jan. 31 or Feb. 1?
2015 Feb. 19 (leap year?) Feb. 19 Feb. 20
2016 Feb. 8 Feb. 8 Feb. 9
2017 Jan. 28 Jan. 28 Jan. 29
Source: Chinese New Year Wikipedia Mongol calendar came from Tibetan calendar

TRADITIONS/FOOD
Mongolians take three days off for Tsagaan Sar ("White Moon").  Tsagaan Sar is the biggest holiday of the year.  People eat buuz (sounds like "boze"), which are meat dumplings; And, they drink vodka.  They also eat aruul (sounds like "arole") which is milk candy.  It tastes sweet and sour.

BITUUN
The day before Tsagaan Sar is called, "Bituun".  I looked up Bituun in the Mongolian-English lexicon and it just says, "New Year's Eve".  However, there is a word Bituu~, which means "sealed", "hidden", "blocked".  So, Bituun is literally the "Day of the Hidden Moon".  Mongolian New Year begins with the first of the waxing crescent moon.  The day before (the Day of the Hidden Moon) or "Bituun" is a day of cleaning, cooking and preparing for the feast of New Year's Day.

TSAGAAN SAR TRADITIONS
Mongolians make prior arrangements to visit the homes of certain family members on one day, and other family members on the next, and so on.  People should eat white food, such as buuz, aruul, rice, bread, basically anything white.  The adults will drink vodka and/or distilled fermented milk.  Children drink milk or juice (or nowadays fizzy soda drinks).
  I hope that they brush their teeth before they go to bed!

Traditionally, the first person in the family to see the moon on Tsagaan Sar day (New Year's Day) is supposed to have good luck in the new year.  (Is this the origin of the Korean tradition below?)

The 15th day of the 1st month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar

First Full Moon

Occurs on
Feb. 22, 2015
by
Gregorian Calendar

"Dae Boreum Nal"  ("Great Full-Moon Day" in Korea)

This is the first full moon of the new year.  I don't much about Chinese traditions on this day, but in Korea the following traditions occur:
1.  Burning of something (I forget what) and the ashes are spread out all over the fields (Korea was mainly an agrarian society in the past); The farmers in Korea still practice that custom.
2.  On the evening, around dusk, the family will climb the nearby mountain (foothill) and the first person to see the full moon is said to have good luck.  (70% or more of Korea is mountainous, so... well you know...).

NOTE:  This is interesting.  The Mongolians (whom the Koreans claim to ancestors of) celebrate the first appearance of the waxing crescent moon, and the Koreans celebrate the first full moon.  Perhaps the Koreans changed the holiday.  But, the interesting thing is that they both revere the moon so much!

February 14

Valentine's
Day
Valentine's Day

All Countries have become aware of the Western "Valentine's Day".  Some countries get into the act more than others.

March 1 "Demonstration Day"

This marks the day when the Korean people (as a whole) marched to demonstrate against the occupation of their country by the Japanese (and consequently the initiation of war, which ended with the Japanese leaving).

March 8

International
Women's
Day

International Women's Day

CHINA:  Very important day, but not a day off.
KOREA:  Recognized but not really celebrated
JAPAN:  Probably same as Korea
MONGOLIA:  Very important day!  It's a day off!
***VIETNAM:  in Vietnam, Women's Day is October 20th.  (not a day off)***

March 14

White Day

"White Day"

To my knowledge, White Day is only celebrated in Japan & Korea.

The idea is that on Feb. 14, a woman is to give the object of her affection some chocolate; And, on March 14, a man is to give the object of his affection candy.

I have no idea why it is called "White Day".

March 20/21

Vernal Equinox
Day

"Shunbun no hi"  [National Holiday]

This is a day for the admiration of nature and the love of living things.  Most countries promote Earth Day, but only Japan (that I know of) has made it a national public holiday.

April 1

April Fool's Day

ALL All Countries seem to at least be aware of the day.  Some have adopted "April Fools' Day" as their own.  [Beware!]  I haven't had the chance to experience April Fool's day as a teacher in Mongolia yet, because April 1st has been on the weekend.  Maybe 2013 will be different.  I can't wait!
Arbor Day

AKA:
Tree-planting
Day

Arbor Day / "Tree-planting Day"

CHINA:  "Arbor Day" March 12 (National Holiday in Taiwan)

JAPAN:  "Greenery Day" May 4 (National Holiday)

KOREA:  "Arbor Day" April 5 (Not a day off)

MONGOLIA:  "Tree-planting Day" Second Saturday of May and October

VIETNAM:  none (not needed, I guess)

April 14

Black Day

"Black Day"

In Japan and Korea, men who received no chocolate (on Feb. 14) and the women who received no candy (on March 14), celebrate this day by eating noodles.  In Korea, it is traditional to eat Jja Jang Myeong on this day.  Jja Jang Myeon is a dish consisting of noodles and black sauce.

For more information on Korean Food, see my Korean Food page.

10th day of 3rd month of Lunar Calendar

Hung Vuong King's Day

Occurs on April 16, 2016
by
Gregorian calendar

Vietnamese legend tells of a dragon lord named Lạc Long Quân and a mountain fairy named Âu Cơ who had 100 sons. As the parents belonged to different realms, they parted ways, each taking 50 of the 100 sons to their respective homes.
The eldest son came to power in 2879 BC and became known as Hùng Vương, ruling an area covering what is now North Vietnam and part of southern China. He founded the Hồng Bàng Dynasty, which lasted until 258 BC.
Each successor of the original Hung Vuong took the title of Hung Vuong.  There were 18 Hung Vuongs in all.  (Source: Wikipedia)

Personally, I find this VERY interesting, because Korean history teaches something very similar.  According to "apocryphal" Korean history, from 3898 BC - 2333 BC There were eighteen Han-ungs, each ruling in succession of the other. (Han-ung was a title, not a name). The last Han-ung gave birth to the first Dan-gun.  Interestingly, Dan-gun Day is the 3rd day of the 10th month.  (Opposite of Hung Vuong King's Day).

8th day of 4th
month by Chinese Lunar Calendar

Buddha's
Siddhattha Gotama's
Birthday

Buddha's Birthday

CHINA:  May 14, 2016 (Not a national holiday)

JAPAN:  April 8 (every year)

KOREA:  May 14, 2016 (National Holiday)

MONGOLIA: Same as Tibet (usually a month later)

VIETNAM: probably same as China

May 1

"May Day"

Int'l Labor
Day

International Labor Day (May Day)

CHINA:  In China, everyone is considered a laborer, so everyone gets the day off.  It is the biggest shopping day of the year, so merchants won't take the day off.

JAPAN:  Japan's Labor Day is celebrated November 23rd, coinciding with the imperial harvest festival.

KOREA:  In Korea, "white-collar" professionals don't get the day off.  Only menial laborers get the day off.

MONGOLIA:  none

VIETNAM :  National Holiday

May 5, 8, 15

5th = children's day (day off)

8th = parents' day (not a day off, unless it is on Sunday)

15th = teachers' day (not a day off, unless it is on Sunday)

The 5th day of the 5th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar

Double 5's
Day

(June 9, 2016)

  China :  "Dragon Boat Festival".  (not a day off)

Traditional foods are: hard-boiled eggs and "zhong4 zi" (sticky rice wrapped in bamboo leaves).  Little trinkets are made and given as gifts, each having five colors.

  Korea :  "Dan-o", which I think means "double five". (not a day off)

Traditional food is "o-gok bab" (five grain meal).  Traditionally women wash their hair with a particularly sweet smelling herbal shampoo, and men wore roots on the belt.  Nobody does those things these days.

Vietnam:  "Tết Đoan ngọ".  It's not a very big holiday. (not a day off)

ORIGINS
I suspect that the number 5 is representative of the Chinese Dragon, which had the appearance of five animals: head of a camel, antlers of a deer, body of a snake, leg and talons of an eagle, and scales of a fish.  The Chinese dragon also had 5 claws and 5 colors.

Children's
Day
CHINA:  June 1 (not a day off)

JAPAN:  May 5 (National Holiday)

KOREA:  May 5 (National Holiday)

MONGOLIA:  June 1 (National Holiday) "Mother's & Children's Day"

VIETNAM:  June 1 (not a day off)

July 11-13

Naadam
Festival

"Eriin Gurvan Naadam"  (Three Manly Games)

Started by Genghis Khan, the 'Three Manly Games' include: horse racing, archery, and wrestling.  Every year a national competition is held in Ulaanbaatar of the three manly games.  Only men compete in wrestling, but women participate in the archery competitions, and children participate in the horse racing.

The 7th day of the 7th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar

Double 7's
Day

Occurs on August 9, 2016
by
Gregorian calendar

 

CHINA:  "Qi3 Qiao3 Jie2" (Beg for Skills Day)  [not a day off]

KOREA:  "Chil Seok" (7's Evening) or (Evening of Sevens)  [not a day off]

ORIGINS:
A story is told in both countries about how the daughter of this one god and the son of another god were forbidden to meet and play with each other, because they were supposed to study.  But, they disregarded their parents' commands and secretly met and played in amorous bliss, until they were caught red-handed.  Their parents were so angry that an eternal curse was place upon the two lovers, that they should be frozen in the sky and never be allowed to meet each other again for all eternity.  But there was a raven that took pity on the two lovers and each year on the 7th day of the 7th month the raven comes to "bridge the gap" between the two lovers.
There are two constellations in the sky, one representing the daughter and one representing the son.  Each year at this time, they can be seen in the sky, almost touching.

TRADITIONS:
Traditionally, on that day, women "studied" to be good homemakers, and "begged" or "prayed" for good skills in order to attract a good marriage partner.  But, nowadays, it is just another day, nothing special.  

Foundation
Day

OR

Independence
Day

OR

National Day


(Lady Liberty)
CHINA:  October 1 "National Day"

JAPAN:  February 11 "National Foundation Day"
                May 3  "Constitution Day"

KOREA:  March 1  "Declaration of Independence Day"
                 August 15  "Independence Day"
                 October 3 "Foundation Day"  (See Legend of Dan Gun)

MONGOLIA:  November 26 "Republic Day" [Constitution Day]

VIETNAM:  April 30 "Liberation/Reunification Day"
                     September 2 "National Day" or "Independence Day"

The 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar

Harvest
Moon

Occurs on Sept. 15,
2016
by
Gregorian Calendar

CHINA:  "Zhong1Qiu1Jie2 "  (Mid-Autumn Festival)  [1 DAY OFF]

TRADITIONS:
1.  A special feast with family and relatives, the main food being "Moon Cakes" (cakes made into the shape of the full moon and filled with sweet red beans).
2.  Giving food to the ancestors (at their grave sites).
3.  Burning money (so that their deceased loved-ones can have money in the after-life).  Nowadays, one can see people all over the countryside burning imitation money at this time of year.

KOREA:  "Chu Seok" (Harvest Evening) [3 DAYS OFF]

TRADITIONS:
1.  A huge exodus back to one's hometown, or wherever the senior patriarch lives.
2.  A huge feast, the traditional food being the same as on Seol Nal. (However the kind of ddeok eaten on this day differs.  Don't ask me which one... there are tons of kinds of ddeok).
3.  Giving food to one's ancestors (at the grave sites).  [but this is rarely done these days, especially if one is a Christian, as it is believed that the ancestors don't need the food in their after-life].  {If I can put in my two cents (and I can, because this is my website), I think Koreans should continue the practice (Christian or not), simply to preserve tradition.}.

VIETNAM:  "Tết Trung thu"  (Festival of Mid-Autumn)  [0 DAYS OFF?]
Apparently, it is not an "official" or "public" holiday.  However, it is a very special day.
TRADITIONS:
1.  Lantern-making
The Vietnamese legend of Cuội and his wife, who accidentally urinated on a sacred banyan tree. Soon after desecrating the tree, she sat on one of the tree branches and the sacred tree began to grow and continued until it finally reached the moon, leaving Cuội's wife stranded there. Every year, during the Mid-Autumn Festival, children make and/or light lanterns to show the "moon lady" her way back to Earth.
2.  Moon Cakes
In Vietnam, moon cakes are typically square rather than round, like the Chinese moon cakes.  Many of the moon cakes will have pictures of a carp on them.  The story is that there was once a little carp who wanted to become a dragon.  After working very, very hard towards this goal, the little carp did become a dragon.  Parents tell this story to their children to inspired them to work hard.
3.  Lion Dances  [Vietnamese version of Trick-or-Treating].
Lion dance groups perform on the streets, going to houses asking for permission to perform for them. If the host consents, the "lion" will come in and start dancing as a blessing of luck and fortune for the home. In return, the host gives luck money to show their gratitude.
Sept. 22/23

Autumnal Equinox
Day

"Shūbun no hi"  [National Holiday]

While Japan does not celebrate the Chinese mid-autumn festival, this festival happens around the same time, and has a similar purpose: namely to thank the ancestors for a bountiful harvest.

Teacher's
Day

[Int'l Teacher's Day is Oct. 5th].

CHINA:  September 10th

JAPAN:  ?--Same as Int'l Teacher's Day--October 5--?

KOREA:  May 15th

MONGOLIA:  WAS: First weekend in February;
                        As of 2014, same as Int'l Teacher's Day, October 5th

VIETNAM:  November 20th

Teachers' Day is not a day off (except in Mongolia, when it occurs on a weekend); I mean how are the teachers supposed to get their gifts if they don't go to work?

October 3

Korean
Foundation
Day

"Gae Cheon Jeol" (literally "Open Sky Day")

Koreans prefer to call it "Foundation Day", but I prefer to call it "Open Sky Day".

It is the day that the legendary Dan Gun descended from the Hahn country (Han-eul), and from the original Hahn people (Han-saram) and founded the New Hahn nation (Han nara).

Traditionally, people climbed to the top of the nearest, highest mountain, early in the morning at gave offerings and prayed to Dan Gun, the founding father of the Korean people.  Some people still do this, but it is more out of tradition, than real belief in the continued existence and benefaction of Dan Gun.  One place where this is STILL practiced is on Mani San (Mt. Ma-ri) on the isle of GangHwa, which is off the coast of Incheon Metropolitan District.  I have witnessed the ritual, and it is fascinating.  I would recommend it to anyone.

For more information on the origins of the Korean people, see my Korean Origins page.

The 9th day of the 9th month of the Chinese Lunar Calendar

Double 9's Day

Occurs on October 9, in 2016 by Gregorian calendar.

"Zhong4 Gyang2 Jie2"  (Double Nines Day)

A day for mountain climbing and collecting followers (or for city-folk-going to flower shows).

Koreans tell me that it used to be a special day in Korea long ago, but it's not celebrated these days at all.

I wonder if the Vietnamese celebrate it.  I don't remember anything special.

November 3

Culture Day

This originally was an emperor's birthday but it was changed to celebrate peace, freedom, and culture.  It is a national holiday in Japan.
November 14, 2012

November 23, 2013

November 3, 2014

???? 2015

Genghis Khan's
Birthday

 

2012
UB Post's Bayambadorj reported on January 23, 2012 that the government of Mongolia has decided upon which day to celebrate Chinggis Khan's (Ghengis Khan's) birthday.  No where in recorded history is the exact day or date, although historians agree that it was in the year 1162 in the first month of the winter season.  So, the government finally decided it shall be November 14th.
  The fist national holiday celebrating Chinggis Khan's birth is to be celebrated on November 14, 2012.

2013
Apparently, the Mongolian gov't likes to change the dates of their holidays and not tell anybody.  As of 2013, the NEW National Holiday celebrating Chinggis Khan's birth was November 23.

2014
And, the Mongolian gov't did it AGAIN!  They changed the date of the holiday to November 3rd without telling me!  I went to go shopping at Narantul and it was closed!!!!!  I wish the Mongolian gov't would make up their mind!

2015
Okay, this just in (from the most unlikely source):  Apparently, the date is based upon the Mongolian Lunar Calendar, and that's why it keeps changing.  Funny, how NO ONE IN THE MEDIA cared to mention that little tidbit of information!  Would have been USEFUL!!!!

December 22

Winter Solstice

All countries or peoples of the Northern Hemisphere had traditions regarding the commemoration of the Winter Solstice ("Death of the Sun") and the consequent re-birth of the Sun three days later on December 25th.

Learn MORE about Winter Solstice Traditions around the world.

December 25

Christmas

All countries recognize this very popular western holiday and have incorporated the idea of Santa Claus into their own culture.  HOWEVER, ONLY KOREA has made it a national holiday.

Korea, as 30% of the population is Christian (and I guess they figured that they needed to give equal time to both the Christians and the Buddhists (as Buddha's birthday is also a national holiday in Korea).

Mongolia considers January 1st their Christmas.  From being a Russian satellite country for many years, they have the idea that Grandfather Winter (uviin uvuu) comes on January 1st with gifts for children.

Learn more about Christmas traditions around the world.

December 31

New Year's
Eve

ALL COUNTRIES celebrate this holiday, but it's not a day off in most countries.

In Korea, people almost always have a "mak nyeon hoe" (year-end party), also called a "mang nyeon hoe" (year-forgetting party), the goal of which is to get drunk and forget about the past and look forward to a bright future.

In China, all debts are to be settled at this time and one is supposed to look forward to a new year, debt-free, and hopefully a prosperous one.  Or is this about Chinese New Year?  Actually, Western New Year doesn't seem to be a big deal in China.

Learn how to say "Happy New Year!" in many languages.

 

 

Cool Links

Online converter from Chinese Lunar Calendar to Gregorian Solar Calendar

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[Korean Food Translated into English]

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