Holi

Holi!!!  I have been looking forward to doing this holiday since I started the blog.  I really didn't know a great deal about the holiday except the fun tradition of throwing dry colored powder- the color runs are stealing this idea and running with it- bad pun totally intended.  Anyway it was all the fun I was hoping it would be.  But before we get to our fun color war, let me tell you a little about the holiday.

Holi is a colorful festival that comes at the end February or early March.  The ancient origin of the festival is celebrating the end of winter and coming Spring and also the triumph of good over bad.  (If you've read my other posts on Hindu holidays you may notice a theme of Hindu holidays and celebrating good!)

Holi usually starts with a Holika bonfire on the night before Holi.  People will gather, sing, celebrate, and dance.   Then the next day more fun continues with the carnival of colors and everyone chases each other with dry colorful powder and sometimes with water guns and balloons.  There will often be groups playing music and in some regions the men sing provocative songs to the women and the women pretend to ward them off with sticks.

I found the mythical significance of Holi on the site holifestival.org.  Here is the run down pulled right from the site:

Mythological Significance

"Foremost is the legend of Prahlad and Hiranyakshyap. The legend says there once lived a devil and powerful king, Hiranyakshyap who considered himself a god and wanted everybody to worship him. To his great ire, his son, Prahlad began to worship, Lord Vishnu. To get rid of his son, Hiranyakshyap asked his sister, Holika to enter a blazing fire with Prahlad in her lap, as she had a boon to enter fire unscathed. Legend has it that Prahlad was saved for his extreme devotion for the lord while Holika paid a price for her sinister desire. The tradition of burning Holika or the 'Holika dahan' comes mainly from this legend. 

Holi also celebrates the legend of Radha and Krishna which describes the extreme delight, Krishna took in applying colour on Radha and other gopis. This prank of Krishna later, became a trend and a part of the Holi festivities. 
Mythology also states that Holi is the celebration of death of Ogress Pootana who tried to kill infant, Krishna by feeding poisonous milk to it.
Another legend of Holi which is extremely popular in Southern India is that of Lord Shiva and Kaamadeva. According to the legend, people in south celebrate the sacrifice of Lord of Passion Kaamadeva who risked his life to revoke Lord Shiva from meditation and save the world.

Also, popular is the legend of Ogress Dhundhi who used to trouble children in the kingdom of Raghu and was ultimately chased away by the pranks of the children on the day of Holi. Showing their belief in the legend, children till date play pranks and hurl abuses at the time of Holika Dahan. "

I found an article with lots of fun pictures of Holi here.

For the food, I made this recipe of sweet saffron rice, skipping the cardamon.  Two of my three enjoyed it, but sadly no one helped make the dish, so no pictures, but never fear I have extra photos of our powder paint fun!

I found the powder paint on Amazon.  Link for it here.  I then invited some of the kids friends over and divided the paint into cups, then let the kiddos go crazy.  It was awesome and they were begging for more paint at the end.  I definitely think we will do this again just for fun this summer, and then hose everyone down after.

 Cups ready to go before the fun.

Cups ready to go before the fun.

 Just trying it out at first.

Just trying it out at first.

 And go....

And go....

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 No blonde hair was harmed during this paint fight!

No blonde hair was harmed during this paint fight!

 Despite my best efforts I did not escape the color.

Despite my best efforts I did not escape the color.


I have Purim all researched but sadly we got behind in our baking and crafting.  So it shall be posted soon, but late- or for the positive spin like 360 days early!!!



Setsubun-sai

Kicking off February with Setsubun-sai, listed on the Interfaith Calendar as a Shinto holiday.  While researching the holiday it seems to be celebrated very widely in Japan but is not a national holiday.  While researching this holiday I came across sites saying it is a New Years Eve tradition but also found that the holiday is celebrated before the first day of Spring or planting season.  The reason this holiday caught my eye was the tradition of people throwing roasted soy beans as a symbol of getting out the evil spirits and inviting in good fortune.  This ritual is known as mamemaki.  The toasted soybeans called fuku mame are said to entrap evil spirits of the previous year, so throwing them out of the house or at an oni (devil) will help cast out the bad and usher in the good for the coming year.  When throwing the roasted soybeans it is tradition to shout "oni-wa-soto" (which means "get out demons") and "fuku-wa-uchi" ("come in happiness".)

So of course the plan was roasted soybeans for this holiday- but without running to the Asian speciality store I was not lucky enough to find them in our local grocery store.  So we substituted our microwave friendly frozen edamame.  A tradition of eating a bean for each year of life plus one extra is supposed to bring good luck in the year ahead.  Another food tradition for this holiday is eating fortune sushi rolls called eho-maki.  So in addition to our edamame we made our own eho-maki.  Eho-maki traditinally has seven fillings rolled in.  These are shiitake mushrooms and kanpyo, cucumber, rolled omelet, eels, sweet fish powder, and freeze-dried tofu.  These ingredients represent good health, happiness, and prosperity, and the rolling means good fortune.  We didn't have all the ingredients on hand, nor do my children care for them all so we tweaked ours to our taste.

The sushi rice recipe that I always use can be found here.  I usually use a little less sugar then the recipe calls for.  

Ingredients:

  1. prepared sushi rice
  2. roasted seaweed for rolling sushi in
  3. whatever filling you wish for your sushi (we used crab, salmon, cucumber, and avocado)

Method:

  1. lay out a seaweed and place rice on top
  2. flatten out rice but leave a two finger space on one side so that the sushi can be sealed when its time to roll.
  3. add ingredients
  4. roll
  5. enjoy!  We used a little soy sauce for dipping.
 All the ingredients for our sushi rolls

All the ingredients for our sushi rolls

 Measuring some space to leave uncovered by rice.

Measuring some space to leave uncovered by rice.

 Sushi just before rolling

Sushi just before rolling

 Dipping the freshly made roll into a little soy sauce.

Dipping the freshly made roll into a little soy sauce.

For our craft we made masks that were inspired by the idea of an Oni mask.  The Oni were originally invisible spirits or gods which caused disasters, disease, and other unpleasant things. I thought we could make the masks and throw the beans at each other as oni.  However the boys made some pretty happy looking masks, so instead we tried to throw the beans into each other's mouths (as if my children needed any help making a giant mess at meal time.)  

 Traditional masks- Oni usually looks like this red scary guys!

Traditional masks- Oni usually looks like this red scary guys!

 Cutting holes for eyes, nose, and mouth into plate

Cutting holes for eyes, nose, and mouth into plate

 Decorating the plate

Decorating the plate

 The boys final result for their masks.

The boys final result for their masks.

 

Both big boys decided to use the yellow crayon as the main decoration for their masks, which does translate into beautiful photos. However they had a good time making their masks, we ate a delicious meal, and learned a little about Setsubun-sai!

 

Chinese New Year

Get ready for a New Year celebration!  Sure, it was just New Years but why not continue the celebration and do Chinese New Year as well?!  According to the interfaith calendar its a holiday celebrated by Confucian, Doaist, and Buddhist religions.  Chinese New Year is the main Chinese festival of the year. As the Chinese use the Lunar calendar for their festivals the date of Chinese New Year changes from year to year. The date corresponds to the new moon in either late January or February.

Chinese New Year was traditionally the most important festival on the calendar.  Business life comes to a stop and the focus is on celebration with family.  For the new year people will clean their homes to cleanse them of any bad mojo that may have settled in the home and prepare for a fresh start in the new year.  Ritual sacrifices of food and paper icons were offered to gods and ancestors. People posted scrolls printed with lucky messages on household gates and set off firecrackers to frighten evil spirits. Elders gave out money to children traditionally in little red envelopes. In fact, many of the rites carried out during this period were meant to bring good luck to the household and long life to the family–particularly to the parents.

Most important was the feasting. On New Year's Eve, the extended family would join around the table for a meal that included as the last course a fish that was symbolic of abundance and therefore not meant to be eaten. In the first five days of the New Year, people ate long noodles to symbolize long life. On the 15th and final day of the New Year, round dumplings shaped like the full moon were shared as a sign of the family unit and of perfection.

This year the Chinese Zodiac is the year of the wooden horse.   If you are interested in what the year of the horse may hold for you here is a site with some zodiac predictions.  If you want to know your Chinese zodiac sign you can find it here.

For our craft we decided to make a horse.  When searching for ideas I saw these wine cork horses here and thought we should copy them.  I have a huge collection of corks and they kids love any chance to glue or pull out the googly eyes-so I knew this would definitely make them happy.

We each made a horse and the boys got very creative with their manes and even decided to make little men to ride on the horses.  

Supplies we used:

  1. corks
  2. googly eyes
  3. glue gun
  4. yarn for mane and tail
  5. colored cotton balls also for mane and tail

Method:

  1. Lay out how you want to horse body to look
  2. glue corks together
  3. glue on eyes, tail and mane
  4. add any extra accessories
 Corks laid out to get the right horse shape.

Corks laid out to get the right horse shape.

 Glue gun used for assembly

Glue gun used for assembly

 Addition of eyes and the horse is starting to come together.

Addition of eyes and the horse is starting to come together.

 A cork boy and his cork horse.

A cork boy and his cork horse.


For our food I thought it would be best to stick with the tradition of eating long noodles so we found a tasty Chinese noodle dish that would be pleasing to the whole family.  The tradition of eating the long noodle is to represent a long unbroken life- so don't cut your noodles into shorter strands because it would symbolically shorten your life!  We went with rice noodles and mine ended up quite sticky.  They were devoured quickly though.  So here is a tasty recipe I found (http://www.washingtonpost.com/pb/recipes/long-life-noodles/11251/) !  We did a take on this Washington Post recipe but with rice noodles and only a few mushrooms.  We then added corn and peas for additional veggies.  I also grated in a little fresh ginger.  It went over well with all three boys and I ate the leftovers for lunch (paleo challenge taken down by cold noodles.)


 Who needs utensils when you can shovel this much in so well with hands?

Who needs utensils when you can shovel this much in so well with hands?

 

I hope you enjoy your craft and noodle dish and have a fantastic Chinese New Year.  And don't think we're done with New Year's yet there is at least one more up my sleeve in the near future!

Mawlid an Nabi

We're baaaack!  After a truly enjoyable break of not paying attention to a calendar and what "should" be done, our family is off of winter break and back to the grind.  Somehow having a schedule does make me more productive and here we are back to researching holidays.  First one for 2014 is Mawlid an Nabi which is an Islamic holiday that celebrates the birthday of the prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam.  It is fixed as the 12th day of the month of Rabi I in the Islamic calendar.  Mawlid means birthday of a holy figure and al-Nabi means prophet.  This day is celebrated by many Muslims throughout the Middle East but not in Saudi Arabia or certain sects of Islam.  This is a super easy holiday to explain because the kids know and love birthdays.  So a birthday for a founder of a world religion was super easy to grasp.

I read that this holiday, like many Muslim holidays is celebrated by doing charity work or good deeds for others.  This led me to a craft idea I saw on crayola.com, which was to create a good deed calendar.  The boys do a chocolate advent calendar every year leading up to Christmas.  This is a similar idea except behind the doors is something nice you can do for someone else.  So I had my 4 and 6 year old each make a small calendar with five doors and in those doors five good deeds.   It's a fun craft and a nice way to remind us to be nice- especially when the weather is dreary and chilly and we may not be moving around enough and feeling not so nice.

Materials Needed:

  1. Two pieces of paper
  2. Something to color or decorate paper with (crayons, paint, markers etc)
  3. scissors
  4. glue or tape

Instructions:

  1. First take the top sheet of paper that will contain the "doors"  and make the openings.  For the kids and I we folded the paper in different spots and made our cuts so that when reopened it looked like a little flap that could open and close.  (Repeat for as many doors as you would like)
  2. When finished lay cut paper over the bottom paper and glue or tape together.
  3. Have children think of nice things they could do behind each door and have them write it or help then write down.
  4. Close all flaps and decorate the paper as you wish.
  5. Our final step was to swap papers so that each could do the tasks their brother had thought of.
 Cut the "doors" into the first sheet of paper.

Cut the "doors" into the first sheet of paper.

 Here's ours after the cuts

Here's ours after the cuts

 Putting glue on the paper.

Putting glue on the paper.

 Decorate page as you wish.

Decorate page as you wish.

 There you go- all done!

There you go- all done!

 

For our food we made date candy.  I like the recipe because it sticks with my clean eating resolution for the New Year.  Dates are considered a delicacy in many Muslim countries and are often associated with celebration so this recipe was primed to be a winner for us.

Ingredients:

  1. 1 cup of medjool dates
  2. 2 tablespoons of water
  3. 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  4. 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seed
  5. 1/2 cup of fresh ground walnuts
  6. warm honey
  7. fine ground almonds
 Close up of our ground walnuts- not totally appetizing in picture, but I assure you its Walnut-tastic!

Close up of our ground walnuts- not totally appetizing in picture, but I assure you its Walnut-tastic!

 Ingredients combined and rolled.

Ingredients combined and rolled.

 Honey drizzled or in some cases globbed on top and rolling in the almond meal.

Honey drizzled or in some cases globbed on top and rolling in the almond meal.

Method:

  1. blend dates and water to make a paste like mixture.
  2. Put walnuts in a food processor or blender to make into walnut meal 
  3. Combine dates and walnut meal and add cardamon and cinnamon
  4. Roll the mixture into small 1 inch diameter balls (if too runny add more walnut meal)
  5. Drizzle a little honey over the top of each ball
  6. Roll in the fine ground almonds
  7. Enjoy
 First bite picture here- he's mid-assessment before the "These are awesome" statement was made.

First bite picture here- he's mid-assessment before the "These are awesome" statement was made.

These went immediately after we made them with requests to do it again tomorrow.  It was so tasty and a very sweet celebration treat for the Prophet of Islam's birthday.  Enjoy Mawlid an Nabi and Happy New Year everyone!