Tag Archives: Japan

New Year’s Around the World

No matter if we’re home together or visiting other family members, we usually celebrate on New Year’s Eve with games, snacks, movies, fireworks, and of course, staying up until midnight. This year, as we get ready for the festivities, we thought it would be interesting to find out how the rest of the world welcomes the new year. Here’s what we discovered:

In England, New Year’s Eve customs are quite similar to our own here in America. Many people celebrate with parties either in their homes, restaurants, or pubs with friends and family. They also watch fireworks displays, and at midnight sing “Auld Lang Syne”. They count down with the clock and toast the new year. Sound familiar? It did to my kids!

But here are some other things we learned:

In Scotland, New Year’s Eve is known as Hogmanay, and it’s an evening full of traditions. One of the customs is called first footing, or being the first person to cross the threshold of a home after midnight. This “first footer” will bring all the luck of the coming year with him, but there are some criteria he must meet. Ideally, he will be tall and handsome with dark hair, but he cannot be a doctor, a minister, or a grave digger. It’s also traditional for the first footer to carry a lump of coal to signify life, comfort, and warmth, along with a cake to represent prosperity.

Omisoko, New Year’s Eve in Japan, is one of the country’s most important holidays, coming second only New Year’s Day. Buckwheat noodles, called toshikoshi soba, are eaten to ensure longevity and prosperity. Families gather to watch the Red and White Song Festival, a television program that features singers whose songs were popular during the year. As the clock approaches midnight, many people visit the shrines and temples. Getting up to watch the sunrise on New Year’s Day is another important tradition, as viewing the first sunrise is considered a good and proper start to the new year. Popular foods for New Year’s Day include fish, fish eggs attached to seaweed, black beans, and kelp. New Year’s postcards sent to friends and family are delivered on New Year’s Day, and children receive monetary gifts in special envelopes.

In Mexico, Año Nuevo (New Year’s Eve) is celebrated by decorating homes in red ( improved lifestyle and love), yellow (blessings and good employment), white (improved health), and green (improved financial situations). Families often celebrate with a late-night dinner of turkey and mole. If Mexican sweet bread is served, it was usually baked with a coin or charm inside the dough. It’s tradition that whoever receives the piece with the coin  will have good luck in the coming year. When the clock strikes midnight, 12 grapes are eaten — one at a time with each chime of the bell – and a wish is made with each one.

People ring in the New Year in so many different ways! What interesting New Year’s traditions do you have in your family?

 

Photo by Matthew Hull

Hanging Japanese Koi Craft

fishThis week, our Five in a Row class read the book A Pair of Red Clogs by Masako Matsuno. The story follows a little girl in Japan who receives a new pair of wooden clogs covered in beautiful red lacquer. After only a few days of wearing her new shoes, she decides to play a game with them with her friends, and one of her clogs cracks. Since her shoes are no longer pretty, she has to figure out a way to get her mother to buy her a new pair.

To go along with the story, we slightly improvised a craft found on EnchantedLearning.com. Though it took some preparation on my part, it was fun for the kids and easy to put together.

Hanging Japanese Koi Craft

On May 5, the people of Japan celebrate Children’s Day with the koinobori, or fish kites. These are actually windsocks shaped like a koi or carp. When the wind catches them, they appear to be swimming. For this craft, the children made their own fish kites.

What you’ll need:

  • Construction paper or colored cardstock
  • Glue sticks
  • Stapler
  • Circles cut from magazines or decorative scrapbook paper
  • Markers or crayons
  • Foil
  • Crepe paper or streamers
  • String or yarn
  • Hole Punch

For our class of five and six year olds, I did the following before class:

Draw the shape of a fish on one piece of construction paper and cut it out. Use this shape as a template and draw and cut out two fish per child.  Older children could do this step by themselves.

Cut smaller circles from another type of paper — at least 10 per child. Enchanted Learning recommended using old magazines, but we had a lot of extra scrapbooking paper on hand, so I used that instead. I also cut a few from aluminum foil for a shiny addition. If you’re working with older children, they could do this by themselves as well.

Provide the students with two fish each. Have them glue the two pieces together. Staple the edges to hold it together.  Draw an eye on each side and color in the fins and tail with crayons or makers.

Next, choose some circles to use as scales. Glue the circles to both sides of the fish.

Punch a hole at the fish’s mouth and string the yarn though it. Tie it off at the fish’s mouth.

Finally, add the streamers to the tail by stapling them in place.

Enjoy your Japanese Koi Kite!