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  Holidays Celebrate in December
and January!
Come celebrate with us 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

* * * December – January * * *
Mochi No Matsuri

The rice cake festival (Mochi No Matsuri) is said to be native to Okinawa, beginning on the 8th day of the 12th lunar month (originally January 4, 1952). Women prepare red and white cylindrical rice cakes, about 4 inches long and 1 inch in diameter during the day before. These are wrapped in the leaf of the sannin or sugar cane. The glutinous rice cake is made by first soaking rice in water and then mashing it in a handmill. The rice is then placed in a cloth bag to allow excess water to drip out. The next morning the rice is boiled, shaped, and wrapped in leaves. The cake is doughy and insipid to taste. One the morning of the 8th, the cakes are placed on the shelf and after prayers, removed and served to guests during the day. Sometimes children attach strings to these to hang them around the room.

Source:   Studies of Okinawan Village Life by Clarence J. Glacken. Scientific Investigations in the Ryukyu Islands (SIRI) Report no. 4. Washington, D.C.: Pacific Science Board. National Research Council, 1953, p. 326.

Moon 12, Day 20
Day for Sweeping Floors
Hong Kong

The twentieth day of the Twelfth Moon is marked on the calendar as the 'day for sweeping the floors.' On this day a complete house cleaning begins in every home, leaving nothing untouched.

Similar to spring-cleaning in some western countries, this operation is symbolic as well as practical. Removing the old year's dust and dirt symbolizes getting rid of the old year's shortcomings and disappointments. Renovation of materials also signifies spiritual and social renewal.

Once the household cleaning is finished, Chinese housewives begin stocking up for the coming holiday period. Shops and markets are at their busiest with the street full of people. Once ingredients have been bought, the women must quickly cook them for once the New Year dawns no one may use a knife or do any work for two days, thus the days at the end of the month are the busiest of the year in the kitchen.

Sources:   Chinese Festivals in Hong Kong by Joan Law and Barbara Ward. Hong Kong: A South China Morning Post Production, 1982, p. 17.

Moon 12, Day 23 or 24
Kitchen God Visits Heaven

Once a year the Kitchen God visits the Jade Emperor in heaven to report on the behavior of the family. His picture is removed from his shrine and burned outside the kitchen to send him on his way. His mouth is often smeared with sweet foods or wine to ensure that he says only sweet things about the family.


After the cultural revolution, no Kitchen God pictures could be bought so people painted their own and hung up hand-written New Year couplets. When there were no incense sticks to be bought, in certain localities these were replaced by high-quality cigarettes.

In 1959, the newspapers carried the official edict that people should no longer honor the Kitchen God, but rather hang up pictures of workers, peasants, and good harvests in his stead. However, in 1980, it was reported that incense was still burned and offerings were still made to the Kitchen God in some villages in the countryside of the Shandong province.

Source:   Chinese Traditional Festivals by Marie-Luise Latsch. Beijing, China: New World Press, 1984, pp. 32-33.

Moon 21, Day 28
Dosmoche (The King's New Year)

This five-day Tibetan New Year's festival usually occurs in early February. A large dosmo (propitious pole) is erected and decorated. Numerous other propitious rituals, such as tsamba- throwing (toasted barley or wheat flour) take place.


On the morning of the first day, the lamas and the onpos erect the large dosmo (magical pole) in an open place in the desert outside the town of Leh. The dosmo is distinguished by its height and by the large number of string stars, string crosses and pentagrams that are attached to it. The pole is about eight meters high and everything is proportionately larger than other dosmos used on other occasions, such as the dedication of a house and the exorcism of demons of disease.

The lamas and pious laymen prepare themselves for the festival by fasting, reading sacred books, praying, and going on pilgrimages.

On the 29th day of the twelfth month, the lamas bring the stormas offering (gtor-ma). In so doing the monks and onpos separately read prayers and exorcise texts to drive out the evil spirits of the old year with them. The dances are performed by magicians wearing hideous demon' masks before their faces with magical daggers and skull drums in their hands,. These are believed to banish hostile spirits so that they will leave the people unharmed for the new year. This is the "ceremony of the dying year" (lo si-sku-rim).

After the reading of the formulas, one of the lamas take a pyramid-shaped offering cake, which has been placed in readiness, and carries it out to a crossing in the road in the desert. There he flings this offering to the rocks, breaking it into small pieces, and invoking the spirits to refresh themselves with the "precious meal," and in exchange, let the people live in peace in the new year and not inflict upon them any harm or malicious attacks. Some wealthier Tibetans have the lama fling their own cast offering (for a fee as insurance from the evil activities of the demons).

Towards evening the great magical pole, covered with crosses made of string and pentagrams, is surrendered to the people who have been standing around with tense expectation, ready to tear the pole down.

Sources:   Progpa Namgyal: Ein Tibeterleben (Progpa Namgyal: The Life of a Tibetan) by Samuel Heinrich Ribbach. Munchen Planegg: Otto Wilhelm Barth-Verlag GMBH, 1940, pp. 141-142.

New Year's Food in Lhasa

On New Year's morning, a piece of fire-colored silk, or handkerchiefs sewn together in the shape of a flag, is put over a heap of baked flour, on which are strewn some dried grapes, dried peaches and small black persimmons. The head of the house first picks up some of the fruits with his right hand, tosses them up three times, and eats them. Then his wife, guests and servants follow. This is followed by Tibetan tea with fried cakes of wheat flour.

Source:   Three Years in Tibet (Bibliotheca Himalayica) by Ekai Kawaguchi. Adyan Madras: the Theosophist Office, 1909, p. 408.

New Year's Tsamba Throwing

Lama and family gather round a large basin or bag filled with dry tsamba and take out handfuls, throwing them at each other, shouting: "Come luck! Come luck!" Soon everyone is covered with meal and the floor is white. As red is the auspicious color of China, so is white in Tibet, and the throwing of the tsamba signifies a happy new year, a wish that in the year just the begun the house and its inhabitants will always be white, that is, have the best of luck. This ceremony is called "Yangdrub," the gathering of luck.

Source:   A Tibetan on Tibet, Being the Travels and Observations of Mr. Paul Sherap (Dorje Z÷dba) of Tachienlu by G.A. Combe. London: T. Fisher Unwin Ltd., 1926, p. 55.

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