Monday, November 23, 2015

Cambodian Water Festival

The Cambodian Water Festival


The Bon Om Touk (Cambodian Water Festival) as it is natively known is an annual national festival that takes place in November. For centuries it has been both a cultural and national tradition and occurs throughout the country. The largest celebrations – often three days long - are held in Phonm Penh. 

Accounts show that it was first celebrated as a military test to gauge the prowess of the naval warfare of the time. After the wars, the festival became a commemoration and celebration of the naval prowess of the then Cambodian navy.

According to culture, it is a celebration in honor to the gods for the reversal of the flow of Tonle Sap River. Carried out after the end of the rainy season, it is a celebration to mark the end of one season and the beginning of another. It includes various activities such as boat racing along the Sisowath Quay of Phonm Penh, dance, food and drink and is a major tourist attraction that brings together more than a million people annually.

The celebration includes three ceremonies:

Sampeah Preah Khae offers salutation to the moon; an object that holds enormous religious significance in Cambodia. After the salutations people move indoors for yet another ceremony.

Ak Ambok. This ceremony was named after a native dish of rice and encompasses the meal part of the Cambodian Water Festival. The dish itself has a special way of preparation. First it is fried in its husk then it is pounded. After that the husks are removed and the rice is mixed with banana, coconut and coconut water. Often enough of this dish is made to last throughout the entire celebration.

Bandaet Pratip is usually the most appealing to tourists. Decorated boats illuminated with neon lights in various colors, patterns, shapes and sizes float onto the water at night. Each of the boats signifies a state institution or a ministry of the government.

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Monday, November 16, 2015

Winter Festivals

Folk Traditions

Light Up The Darkness

In the world of folklore almost every society has festivals and community gatherings that light up the winter’s darkness. 

Here are some examples of contemporary celebrations:

Thailand’s Festival of Lights. This Yi Peng is held in early November and celebrates the end of the rainy season. People gather together to release floating lanterns into the sky and lit boats into waterways. These lights are intended to bring good luck in the coming year. Activities include parades, musical performances, fireworks and food.

Budapest Christmas Fair. This month-long festival begins at the end of November and runs through December. It is filled with concerts, show and Christmas-related events. Folk artists sell their wares and traditional Hungarian foods, such as goulash, can be sampled.

Shetland Viking Festival. In Shetland, Scotland people set their town on fire at the end of January. Up Helly Aa celebrates an old Yule tradition in a modern way. A torch processional - some say there are over 1000 torches - to a Viking longship starts the festivities.

Sapporo Snow Festival.  In February Sapporo, Japan is alive with artistically created snow sculptures. It is one of the country’s largest festivals. 

Regardless of the location, it seems that all of the festivals offer an opportunity for people to enjoy their community.B

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Monday, November 9, 2015


The Seven Sisters 

A source of many star myths, the Pleiades’ star constellation is visible overhead from just about anywhere between the North and South Poles. Located in Taurus the Bull constellation, it is a V-shaped constellation just to the right of the Orion Belt.

In the Eastern sky, the Pleiades (a cluster of seven stars) rises before the Aldebaran – a star that follows the Pleiades - and sets in the Western sky before the Aldebaran. In the Northern Hemisphere, the Pleiades have been associated with the winter. In fact, November has often been referred to as the month of the Seven Sisters since they are visible from dusk to dawn.

There are many legends associated with this constellation. 

Here are a few:

  • Early use of the constellation as a calendar. In Ancient Greece, the sighting of this cluster meant it was time to cast out and sail. Elsewhere along the Mediterranean Sea the early morning appearance indicated it was time to navigate a seafaring vessel.
  • Druid rituals that helped to spawn Halloween coincided with the midnight sightings of the stars. For Mexican culture, the constellation is also known as the seed stars because the stars' disappearance in the spring signifies the planting season.
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Monday, November 2, 2015

Fertility Folklore

 Conception Myths 

The world of folklore includes mythology about our origins as a species as well as members of specific communities. These creation myths explain the how and why of our world, beginning with birth. Birth is one of the more prominent life passages and so myths, stories and legends about how to bring new life in the world abound.

Here are three myths from around the world about conceiving a child that we found very interesting:

China: Stepping on a God’s footprint.

In China, the mythical god of agriculture is Houji. Considered to be one of the sons of the Emperor Ku, he was conceived by the emperor’s wife, Jiang Yuan, who was infertile.

One day, while out for a stroll she came upon the giant footprint of the sky god Shangdi. After stepping on the footprint she had a strange sensation and discovered later that she was pregnant.

Ancient Greece: Being Showered By Gold  

Zeus loved love and fertility. Upon hearing that King Akrisios of Argos locked his daughter Danae in a tower to prevent her from ever getting pregnant because it had been prophesized that her son Perseus would murder the king, he made gold rain fall from the sky. The rain entered the tower and Danae becomes pregnant.

The prophecy is fulfilled.

Norway: Eating a Flower

A queen, wanting to conceive, seeks the help of a wise woman. The crone instructs her to eat one of two flowers—a red one or a white one. The queen eats both and gives birth instead to a snake. Only later on in life does the snake get married and turn into a handsome prince.

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