Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Lunar New Year Traditions

Looking Towards Spring

The Chinese New Year or 'Spring Festival' is China's most important festivals and holiday time. According to the Chinese Lunar Calendar, this year – the year of the Pig - starts on Tuesday, February 5, 2019.

Each year is assigned to one of 12 specific animals, commonly referred to as the Chinese Zodiac.  The traits (signs) of each animal indicate the strengths and weaknesses of those born under the year of their sign.

The pig, for example, is considered to be diligent, compassionate, and generous. With strong focus, they will achieve goals and rarely seek help from others. Because they do not suspect trickery, so they are easily fooled.

Within the Pig sign, there are many variations: wood pig, fire pig, water, and more.


Although it takes place in winter, it is called the Spring Festival because this is when people start looking forward to the coming spring.
The streets of Chinatowns and Chinese neighborhoods around the world are decorated with red lanterns, red banners, and other “lucky red” items.  Fireworks, parades, and dragon dances are also on public display during the 15 days of celebrations.

On the eve of the New Year is also when the most important meal of the year is served. The ‘Reunion Dinner’ brings families together to share deliciously prepared “lucky” dishes, such as noodles which represents a long life. It is believed to be bad luck will come to those who cut the noodles.

Another favorite is Jiaozi. When the dumplings are round they are meant to signify family unity. When shaped like crescent moons they are a symbol of wealth and prosperity because that particular shape resembles the shape of ancient Chinese money.

Along with sharing meals and visiting family friends and relatives, participants also exchange red gifts (clothing, jewelry, etc.) and/or red envelopes of money.

Chinese New Year Recipes

Monday, December 10, 2018

Rivers of Mercury and Immortality

Folk Belief: Immortality

Throughout ancient Chinese Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di’s massive tomb, thousands of lifelike clay statues of soldiers stand guard. They even once held real weapons to protect their leader in the afterlife. When the statues were first made in 208 BC, they would have been painted to look even more realistic.

Aside from the clay army, Qin's grave was filled with toxic pools of liquid mercury. During his time, the Chinese practiced alchemy, and mercury was thought to be the key to immortality. However, the huge amount of this poisonous substance has made it nearly impossible for modern archaeologists to properly excavate the site. Many sections still haven’t been explored.

In Mexico, Teotihuacan’s Pyramid of the Plumed Serpent was built to house the body of their emperor when he died. In 2016, archaeologists discovered that there was a pool of liquid mercury underneath the grave site. Some historians speculate that this may have some religious significance. Whether or not these ancient peoples intended it for that purpose, liquid mercury has become a very effective way to ensure that their dead leaders can rest in peace without being disturbed.

Rivers of Mercury

Ancient writings say the emperor created an entire underground kingdom and palace, complete with a ceiling mimicking the night sky, set with pearls as stars. Pits full of terracotta concubines have never been discovered, though experts predict they exist somewhere in the complex.

And Qin Shi Huang's tomb is also thought to be encircled with rivers of liquid mercury, which the ancient Chinese believed could bestow immortality.

Some archaeologists believe this may be the cause of his death. He was taking mercury pills because he wanted to live forever. Unfortunately, it killed him by the age of 39.

That moat of mercury also presents another reason why archaeologists are loath to explore the tomb just yet — doing so would likely be very dangerous, according to soil samples around the tomb, which indicate extremely high levels of mercury contamination.

In the end, scientists and historians must always weigh their desire to know more with the damage such inquiry would cause.

Archaeology, ultimately, is a destructive science,they report. Materials have to be destroyed in order to learn about them.

 Opulent Burial

When he died, Qin Shi Huang was buried in the most opulent tomb complex ever constructed in China, a sprawling, city-size collection of underground caverns containing everything the emperor would need for the afterlife. The ancient Chinese, along with many cultures including ancient Egyptians, believed that items and even people buried with a person could be taken with him to the afterlife.

But instead of burying his armies, concubines, administrators and servants with him, Qin came up with an alternative: clay reproductions.


Beliefs About Illness
Top Immortals

Monday, October 29, 2018

Global Beadwork

About Beads

They are often small, decorative objects formed in a variety of shapes and sizes. Materials include stone, bone, shell, glass, plastic, wood and pearls with small holes for threading or stringing. 

Curators at the Museum of International Folk Art call glass beads "the ultimate migrants.  Where they start out is seldom where they end up. " 

Considering how as they travel around the world, lending themselves to regional interpretation (and use), they continue to be a source of knowledge, cultural expression, and highly prized items of adornment.

Beadwork Adorns the World is a special museum exhibit that runs through February 3,2019 in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

The focus is about what happens to the beads when they do arrive at their final destination- Africa, Borneo, Burma, Mexico, etc.

What do people do with them? How do they make them into items of clothing, jewelry, and more. The results often reveal important information about the makers and users. 

Want to know more? Click here

Thursday, October 4, 2018

5th Mystery Writers in Mausoleum

Special Thanks To Talented Writers/Readers:

John Lynch, Linda Saldana, David Gonzalez, 
Linda Lau, and Rachel Mansfield. 

Santa Rosa Memorial Park hosted the fifth Mystery Writers in the Mausoleum evening Thursday, October 25. The free event took place in the park's 102+year-old Odd Fellows mausoleum that is still without electricity.
The juried selection of local mystery and suspense writers and playwrights made the evening spectacular. From flash fiction to short stories to plays to folk legends to dramatic theatrical readings, it was a spell-binding event.

“This is a great way to showcase some of the area’s local talent,” said Tim Maloney, General Manager, Santa Rosa Memorial Park. The mausoleum, he added, was be the perfect setting for spine tingling suspense.

This event is sponsored by FolkHeart Press, a Sonoma County boutique publisher of folklore-related material. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Mausoleum after Dark

We Are Seeking Submissions For


7 pm-8:30 pm Thursday, October 25, 2018

Themes include: Suspense, Who-Dun-It, Supernatural (vampires, goblins, ghosts, etc.)
Sonoma County writers are invited to submit short stories (including flash and micro-fiction), folktales (including ghost stories), or creative non-fiction for our annual reading. Designed for all ages, this October event, sponsored by FolkHeart Press and hosted by Santa Rosa Memorial Park  is held in the park’s Alaskan Marble Odd Fellows  Mausoleum located at 1900 Franklin Avenue, Santa Rosa, CA.

  • Work  should take up to but NO MORE than 8 minutes to read aloud .
  • Email submission as word document or pdf by September 28, 2018 to Folk@FolkHeartPress.com .
  • Selected writers will be notified by October 5, 2018.
  • If selected, please be prepared to provide author jpeg photo and brief bio (including website or Facebook link) for promotional purposes.
Lighting will be provided by kerosene lamp and/or LED lanterns.

Santa Rosa Memorial Park hosted the first Mystery Writers in the Mausoleum in 2013. The event, sponsored by FolkHeart Press, takes place  in the park’s then 105-year old mausoleum. Prior collaborations with Redwood Writers, Sisters in Crime NorCal, and other Sonoma County literary groups, this event has gained a loyal and well versed following.

Bright luminaries line the entrance and lighting inside the Alaskan marbled room creates a “mystic yet mysterious” feel. 

The readers are diverse in their story telling, ranging from reading of novel, short stories, original dirges and  dramatic readings of such classic works as Frankenstein and Tell Tale Heart.

As Santa Rosa Memorial Park's General Manager Timothy Mahoney noted,  this was a great way to showcase some of Sonoma County’s literary talent, and give a real Halloween spook to our fellow Sonoma County residents.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Buddha's Hand Food Lore

Here's to Buddha's Hand

For any fruit to be named “The Buddha’s Hand,” I would imagine that it must live up to its name! Although this citric fruit is composed mostly of rind (little if any juice), it has multiple uses that make it very practical and yet beautiful and intricate at the same time.

With origins that trace back to Northeastern China, the Buddha’s Hand is a yellow citrus fruit that grows from a smaller bonsai type tree. In China today it symbolizes happiness and long life, because its name, “fo-shou”, has those meanings when written with other characters. In Japan it is called bushukan which i means “fingered fruit”. There it is a popular New Year gift that bestows good fortune on a household.

Historically, this fruit evolved from the original cinturon that was originally grown in the lower Himalayas. It was only until the late 19th century that the fruit was exposed to places such as California.

When fully grown the shape of the fruit looks as though it has elongated fingers. The Buddha’s Hand has an extremely thick rind, rarely containing any juice or seeds in contrast to most citrus fruits. One of its main qualities is its beautiful scent. Used to decorate tables, its scent can be smelled from one room to the next and has been used to perfume clothing.

One of the most important uses for the Buddha’s Hand is for religious purposes. The fruit is often given as an offering in Buddhist temples. It’s important to give the Buddha the fruit when its fingers (elongated branches of the rind) are closed together in the center. It is believed in Japanese tradition that the Buddha appreciates when the fruit is in this form because it resembles the act of prayer.

Buddha’s Hand Recipes

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Medieval Mead

Celebratory Drink 

Mead has lost its popularity over the years to the sweet taste of wine.  When people think of mead they often think of medieval men and women drinking down a rough alcoholic beverage. We picture vikings, knights and kings toasting to success and victory.  What many people don't know is that mead is actually very sweet and easy to make.

Mead dates back so far that it is hard to pin point the exact origin of the ancient drink.  Historians believe that it was made accidentally discovered by the people of early civilizations in Ancient India and is the very first known alcoholic beverage.  Mead is a very basic drink containing only fermented honey and water.  It is the only alcoholic beverage that can be created naturally without the help of man.  It is possible that man's first experience with intoxication came from honey in an old tree trunk that was diluted by rain water and fermented by wild yeasts.

Not only is mead considered to be the nectar of the gods, but it is also the drink of love and fertility.  The phrase “honeymoon” comes from the consumption of mead at wedding celebrations of the Norse (Scandinavians).  They would drink mead at wedding celebrations and if the beverage ran out before the last full cycle of the moon the host would have bad luck from then on.

Although we picture the rich and poor consuming mead in Medieval Europe, it was actually a drink only for the wealthy.  Mead is made easily after the honey is harvested, but honey during the medieval period was rare and hard to yield.  This is the main reason why mead has grown out of popularity.  It is much easier and cheaper to plant rows and rows of grapes for wine, than to plant hundreds of beehives.

During the Renaissance, mead was often saved for special occasions as it was a celebratory drink.  Today it’s available at almost all  Renaissance Faire’s.  

Related Information

List of 2018 RenaisanceFaires  http://www.therenlist.com/fairs