Monday, December 15, 2014

Eskimo Tears

A Winter Inuit Myth

retold by  S. E. Schlosser

Once long ago, Man went hunting along the water's edge for seals. To Man's delight, many seals were crowded together along the seashore. He would certainly bring home a great feast for Woman and Son. He crept cautiously towards the seals. The seals grew restless. Man slowed down. Suddenly, the seals began to slip into the water. Man was frantic. His feast was getting away. 

Then Man saw a single seal towards the back of the group. It was not moving as quickly as the others. Ah! Here was his prize. He imagined the pride on Woman's face, the joy in Son's eyes. Their bellies would be filled for many days from such a seal. 

Man crept towards the last seal. It did not see him, or so Man thought. Suddenly, it sprang away and slipped into the water. Man rose to his feet. He was filled with a strange emotion. He felt water begin to drip from his eyes. He touched his eyes and tasted the drops. Yes, they tasted like salty water. Strange choking sounds were coming from his mouth and chest. 

Son heard the cries of Man and called Woman. They ran to the seashore to find out what was wrong with Man. Woman and Son were alarmed to see water flowing out of Man's eyes. 

Man told them about the shore filled with seals. He told how he had hunted them, and how every seal had escaped his knife. As he spoke, water began to flow from the eyes of Woman and Son, and they cried with Man. In this way, people first learned to weep.
Later, Man and Son hunted a seal together. They killed it and used its skin to make snares for more seals.   

Story courtesy of American Folklore . Want to read about legendary Inuit creatures?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Advent Wreath

Holiday Flames

The Advent Wreath is a circle of entwined evergreen branches that symbolize eternity. It holds five different candles and throughout the season of Advent (the month prior to Christmas) one candle is lit each week representing  different aspect of the spiritual preparation for the coming of Christianity's saviour, Jesus Christ believed to be the son of God.

According to the Catholic Encyclopedia, the celebration of Advent began sometime after the 4th century. This was a time of preparation of Epiphany and not for the anticipation of Christmas. Epiphany is the celebration of the manifestation of Christ by remembering the visit of the wise men, and in some traditions the Baptism of Jesus. In the 6th century, St. Gregory the Great was the first person to associate the season of Advent with the Second coming of Christ. By the Middle Ages, the church extended the celebration of Advent to include the coming of Christ through his birth in Bethlehem, his future coming, and his presence among the people. Today's Advent services and customs are related to all three of these “advents” of Christ.
What do the candles mean?
Placed on the wreath are four candles: three purple candles, one pink candle and one white candle. As a whole, these candles represent the coming of the light of Christ into the World.
  • The first purple candle is lit on the first Sunday. This candle is called the “Prophecy Candle” and is for remembrance of the prophets, particularly Isaiah, who foretold the birth of Christ. This Candle represents hope or expectation in anticipation of the coming Messiah.  
  • The following Sunday another purple candle is lit. This candle represents love. Some traditions call this candle the “Bethlehem Candle,” which symbolizes Christ’s manger.
  • On the third Sunday the pink candle is lit. This pink candle represents joy and is called the “Shepherds Candle.”
  • On the fourth Sunday, the fourth and last of the purple candles is lit. This candle is called the “Angel’s Candle” and represents peace.
  • On Christmas Eve, the white candle, which is the center of the Advent wreath, is lit. This candle is called the “Christ Candle” and represents the life of Christ that has come into the world. The color white represents purity. It is made to symbolize that those who receive Christ as Savior are washed of their sins and made whiter than snow. 
To learn more about the Advent Wreath, click here.  If you are interested in other Christmas traditions, check out our Yule Log blog.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Chinese Folk Music

The story of Chinese folk music goes back thousands of years – some say seven thousand years. 
Here are some interesting facts:

  •  Both form and artistic conception are considered to be of the utmost importance.
  • Chinese folk music is keenly based on the pentatonic scale.
  • There are a range of Chinese folk instruments and their use depends upon such factors as the geographic area and the occasion itself. For example, a traditional Han wedding or funeral might include the suona (a type of Oboe) and percussive gathering known as a chuigushou. This ensemble can potentially include a mouth organ (sheng), a shawm (suona), a flute (dizi), and a variety of percussion instruments (such as a yunlo gong).
  •   Xi’an drum music, in the Xi’an region, combines wind instruments with percussive instruments.
  •   Jiangnan Sizhu is a type of silk and bamboo music that you can still find today in small Shanghai coffee shops.
  •  Guangdong music (also known as Cantonese music) combines Cantonese opera music (also known as Yueju) with music created from the 1920s to the present day. It’s not entirely uncommon to find this type of music combined with Western sounds and influences.
  •  Perhaps the most famous Chinese folk song Western audiences are familiar with is “Mo Li Hua.” The history of the song dates back to the 18th century. There are an assortment of differing versions, depending on what part of the country you hear the song in. Many people remember it from the 2004 and 2008 Summer Olympics.
 Listen to this Chinese folk song. 

Want to know more about folk music?