|Celebrate in July and August!||Holidays|
Come celebrate with us in each issue as we explore the many holidays celebrated in Asian countries each month!
Folklore of World Holidays
by Margaret Read McDonald, Editor. Gale Research Inc., 1992
August is the hottest season in Japan.
* * * July * * *
Early JulySchrulblbha (Festival of the Ears of Grain)
Tibetan first fruit festival to celebrate the first ears of grain appearing on wheat and barley.
On the eve of this festival, green ears are brought in from the field and attached to the door posts, beams and wooden columns of the house as an offering for the earth deities (sa-bdag) and for the household and local divinities. On the afternoon of the festival the villagers gather in the open space in the village to eat, drink, dance and sing songs about the origin of the world and about the gods who brought the first grain kernels down to the earth.
Source: Progpa Namgyal: Ein Tibeterleben (Progpa Namgyal: The Life of a Tibetan) by Samuel Heinrich Ribbach. Munchen-Planegg: Otto Wilhelm Barth-Verlag GMBH, 1940 (Human Relations Files).Moon 6, Day 24
Birthday of the Lotus
Buddha envisioned man as rising like a lotus from mud to blossom at the lake's surface. Buddha himself appears seated on a lotus throne. The lotus is one of the Eight Treasures depicted on the sole of the Buddha's foot. This day honors the lotus.
This national festival is a celebration of the 1921 Mongolian revolution.
The three "manly games" of horse racing, archery, and wrestling, are played. Winners of local club contests are placed on a national ranking system.
Mongolian horseracing is similar to the Western steeplechase racing where races are conducted over land. Races are held for all ages, with the National Naadam featuring children from seven to twelve racing over a 20-mile cross country course while dressed in traditional costumes.
Archery contests feature the ancient Mongolian compound box, short but powerful enough to propel a heavy arrow for several hundred yards. Contestants compete both from horseback and from a standing position, aiming at a leather target of traditional design. Champions are awarded such poetic titles such as Supermarksman and Miraculous Archer.
Mongolian wrestling is the most distinctive of the three games. Contestants wear a colorful traditional costume of tight-fitting briefs, a tight vest covering the back shoulders but leaving the chest bare, and leather boots. Legend has it that hundreds of years ago a champion wrestler was discovered to be a woman in disguise, which embarrassed the men she had defeated so the distinctive wrestling vest is said to be worn to make it obvious that neither contestant is a woman.
The wrestlers enter the ring with slow, exaggerated steps, and arms extended at their sides, dipping and swooping in imitation of the magical Garuda bird of Buddhist legend. When the referee signals the beginning of the match, the wrestlers grab each other's vest, and attempt to topple each other over with throws, tripping kicks, and other maneuvers. The first to touch the ground with anything other than the soles of his feet loses. The loser then kneels and the winner passes his hand over the loser's head in a sign of victory. Champion wrestlers receive colorful titles such as Titan, Lion, Elephant and Falcon.
Source: The Land and People of Mongolia (Portraits of the Nations Series) by John S. Major, New York: J. B. Lippincott, 1990, pp. 147-148.
* * * JULY AUGUST * * *
Moon 7, Day 7 (July August)
The Birthday of the Seven Old Maids
This day honors the seven daughters of the god of the hearth, Tsao Shen. They are the protector of children. The youngest is the Spinning Maid, whose feast falls on this night.
The seven old maids, Chhit-nui-ma, are the patrons of children from their birth until their sixteenth year. Their aid may be solicited to conceive a child or for the good health of one's children.
To invoke their aid, one must make a vow to do charitable work, or perform an opera. The banner of the Eight Immortals is hung over the door and a banquet is given for relatives and neighbors. The family must "kill a pig and fell a goat" and do a work of mercy. If a child protected by the seven sisters lives to be sixteen, then on the seventh day of the seventh month, the vow must be fulfilled by killing a pig.
Source: Taiwan Feasts and Customs by Michael R. Saso. Hsinchu, Taiwan: Chabanel Language Institute, pp. 61-62.Chhit Sek (Seventh Evening)
The second celebration of the day is the meeting of the spinning girl and the oxherd boy, who are represented by the constellation Lyra and Aquila. They are the patrons of courtship and faithfulness in marriage.
The original legend tells of a spinning girl who was banished from heaven to earth for a period of three years, where she met the oxherd boy and married him. After the term of banishment, she returned to heaven and the oxherd boy's love was so great that he attempted to pursue her. He is stopped by the great silver river of the sky (the Milky Way) and can not find her. Seeing the plight of the two lovers, the Jade Emperor calls all the crows from the earth to fly up to the sky and build a bridge across the Milky Way so that the lovers might meet once a year. The evening of the seventh day of the seventh month is said to be the time of their annual meeting. However, if it rains, the crows can not fly up and the meeting is postponed another year.
Another version of this story says that the spinning maid came down to earth with her six sisters and was swimming in the stream when the oxherd boy sees her. Attracted to the spinning maid, he proposes to her and she agrees to stay on earth with him. So they lived happily for three years while the heavenly spinning was unattended. The Jade Emperor therefore decreed that the spinning maid must return to her work in heaven. When the oxherd boy tries to follow her, he is stopped by the heavenly river and only allowed to cross once a year. So on this night each year, the crows and magpies all fly up to heaven to form a bridge across the Milky Way. Rain on that night means the spinning maid is crying because she must be separated from her lover another year.
The Taiwanese, in a much more humorous vein, tell the story differently. The oxherd boy, they say, is very lazy. For a whole year, he does not wash his dishes, leaving them in the sink for the spinning girl to wash during her annual visit. A rainfall on this night means that the spinning girl is crying at the sight of all the dishes, for she must spend the whole night cleaning them.
To celebrate this festival, young ladies of the house lay out a table of offerings under the moon, including incense, fresh flowers, fruit, face powder and cosmetics. After praying, the powder is thrown in the air or onto the rooftop as a kind of offering to the spinning girl. The young ladies also try to thread a needle by moonlight, assuring their skills in embroidery and household management in the future.
Source: Taiwan Feasts and Customs by Michael R. Storey. Hsinchu, Taiwan: Chabanel Language Institute, pp. 62-65.
This festival is based on a similar legend and continues to be celebrated at least in rural districts. The Japanese legend goes as follows:
The daughter of the Celestial Emperor, Tentei, lived on the eastern bank of the River of Heaven (the Milky Way), where she was dutifully weaving cloth for the many gods in her father's mansion. She sat at the loom day and night so absorbed in the work that she was known as Shokujo, the Weaving Girl.
Upon maturity, her father chose a husband for her by the name of Kengyu, the "Ox-Puller," who ruled on the western side of the river where he pastured his only beast. The two fall in love and honeymoon so long that they neglect their duties. The ox grows thin and the gods begin to grumble about their lack of clothing. Tentei, in a fit of anger, condemns the couple to live apart and only meet on the seventh night of the seventh moon. On that night the magpies flock together and form a path with their extended wings over which the lady can walk to meet her husband.
Fourth among the five big festivals, the gosekku of Japan, comes tanabata on the seventh day of the seventh lunar month, usually in August during the hottest weather. Neat strips of paper adorn doors and eaves praising Tanabata, the Weaver Princess.
On the eve of the festival, children compose poems and inscriptions with India ink and brush on the goshiki no kami, the "papers of five colors" green and yellow, red and white, and dark blue as a substitute for the primary black.
In the morning, these are attached to bamboos. In the evening, the festival begins with a low stand loaded with sake and auspicious foods for the deities. In more cultured households, a koto (harp) and a flute may also be laid out to suggest the harmony of music. Other offerings might include a kimono, a pool of colored thread, and some imitation gold coins.
Source: Five Sacred Festivals of Ancient Japan by V.A. Casal. Tokyo: Sophia University and Charles E. Tuttle Co., 1967. pp. 79-94.
Special sohmen, thin wheat flour noodles normally eaten cold during the summer months, are served. Amanogawa (the Milky Way) is the name given to a sohmen dish that is specially made on the seventh of July each year when the Milky Way is most clearly visible in Japan. It is also on this day, Tanabata, when the Japanese can "wish on a star" to make their dreams come true.
Source: Taste of Japan edited by Itsuko Hamada. Japan Air Lines Co., Ltd., 1950, p. 83.
"SUIKA watermelons" painting by Akira Kajiura.
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