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Archive for January, 2012

We’ve been discussing the 2012 year of the dragon for a few weeks now to help you prepare for upcoming festivities. You’re probably preparing by cleaning your home—sweeping away all the bad luck of 2011 so you can start 2012 with good luck. Some of you may even be shopping for last minute Chinese gifts to honor the year of the dragon.  The celebration actually begins Sunday, January 22, 2012—the Chinese New Year’s Eve. Celebrations end 15 days later, February 6, 2012.

Legend has it that the monster Nian used to terrorize villagers.  A beggar once approached Nian with red ornaments and Nian was scared. So the beggar got dressed in red clothing and started dancing in the street. Nian was scared and ran away. Families began to decorate their doors and windows with red and Nian left them alone. The color red was then associated with good luck.

The zodiac animal most associated with good luck is the year of the dragon. Chinese culture celebrates the year of the dragon with the utmost excitement. The year of the dragon in general promises to be prosperous and lucky.

 

The 2012 year of the dragon is actually the water dragon. This dragon is calmer than other elemental dragons. This could be a very good year to resolve conflict as one of the strengths of the water dragon is the art of compromise. Many people in 2012 will also be overly optimistic, even in the face of hardships. There is a sense that everything will work itself out. That being said, dragon years in general years require some caution. Because they are a bit unpredictable and sometimes destructive, bad things can happen rather unexpectedly. But in the end, everything turns out as it should.

2012 is a year of promise, hope, and peace. Celebrate with family and friends, exchange Chinese gifts, and prepare to welcome the good luck promised by the water dragon.

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Not all Chinese dragons are created equal. Actually, there are nine Chinese dragons, not just one. Chinese scholars of ancient times identified a total of nine types of Chinese dragons based on their specialized tasks.  So while you’re doing your last minute shopping for Chinese New Year gifts, you may want to think about the different dragons.

  1. The Heaven Dragon protects the homes of the gods in heaven. This is the ruler of the all the dragons.
  2. The Spirit Dragon has five toes and is known as the imperial dragon. This dragon controls the weather. If you upset him, the weather may get nasty.
  3. The Earth Dragon spreads beautiful spring weather in the heavens and fall in the sea. He also controls rivers. When a river floods, we’ve upset the Earth dragon.
  4. The Underworld Dragon controls gemstones and precious metals. When this dragon reports to the heavens, he creates volcanoes. So next time one erupts, you know he’s reporting to the gods.
  5. The Horned Dragon is the strongest despite being deaf. His head points to the North. His tail points to the South. He also can make it rain.
  6. The Winged Dragon is the only Chinese dragon to have wings. He was the servant of the yellow emperor.
  7. The Coiling Dragon is the water dragon. He lives in deep oceans, lakes, and rivers. 2012 is the year of the Coiling Dragon.
  8. The Yellow Dragon represents the Chinese emperor. He is the dragon of knowledge.  He also doesn’t have horns.
  9. The Dragon King is not one dragon, but four. Each rules of the seas: North, South, East, and West. If you want it to rain, you go to the Dragon King.

Explaining the nine dragons to children can be fun. They might think it’s pretty cool that there are nine magical creatures. It just makes sense to buy dragon inspired Chinese New Year gifts.

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When shopping for kids’ gifts of any kind, we’re in search for something developmentally appropriate as well as fun and educational. This Chinese New Year, gifts are centered around the year of the dragon.  But the dragon hasn’t always been kid friendly, at least not in Western cultures. It’s quite the opposite in Chinese culture, where the dragon is been a something of a hero.

Dragons of the Western Culture
In Western cultures, dragons are portrayed as fire breathing monsters. Fairytale townspeople fear them. Handsome princes slay them. Dragons are villains—the bad guys little boys pretend to slay with their toy swords.  Dragons of the Western culture are scaly, ugly monsters drawn to appear fearsome.  The first dragon images made their appearance in the Middle Ages, but it wasn’t until the Medieval Times that dragons took on more sadistic roles in stories, which took place during the Middle Ages.  Now dragons ever made into evil monsters in video games.

Chinese Dragons
Dragons in Chinese culture are revered and loved. They are the givers of life. Their breath is “sheng chi” (divine energy). They represent luck, blessings, abundance, and all things good. Children look up to them and see them as divine heroes—divine sons of heaven. They have magical powers that stop evil and return the world to justice and happiness.Dragon Chinese New Year Giftsd

Choosing out of two, it’s no wonder dragons are celebrated. That is why children’s Chinese New Year gifts can be something representing a dragon of some sort. A dragon kite for instance is a fun, family friendly toy kids enjoy. The dragon is beautifully depicted with rich colors. On a warm, windy day, it’s an ideal outdoor toy. You would probably score some points with the kids with a dragon kite this Chinese New Year.

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Traditional Chinese New Year Rhyme

You’ll find whenever the New Year comes
The Kitchen God will want some plums.
The girls will want some flowers new;
The boys will want firecrackers, too.
A new felt cap will please papa
And a sugar cake for dear mama.

We can’t forget about kids this Chinese New Year. Yes, the adults will have fun mingling, eating, and drinking. But kids need to have fun too. They can join the adults at the table and go to the Chinese New Year parade, but activities planned just for them doesn’t hurt either. Here are some fun ideas to help make this Chinese New Year memorable.

First things first—2012 marks the year of the dragon. This is probably one of the most important years in Chinese New Year Giftsthe Chinese zodiac because the dragon represents luck, wealth, virtue, harmony, and longevity. The dragon is already an integral part of Chinese culture.  That being said, the year of the dragon is a great time to really reinforce lessons of loving your neighbor and being kind, money, and doing things to make the world a better place. Here are some fun ways to help ring in the Chinese New Year.

Toys
You give gifts during the Chinese New Year. Although most Chinese New Year gifts are red envelopes filled with money, kids love toys.  Most people have already started shopping, but in case you haven’t, here are some ideas.

  • Chinese YoYos— A set of 12 will keep your children entertained by Chinese printed paper.  They make great party favors too.
  • Dragon Noise Maker – Children can take part in festivities and ward off evil spirits with this dragon noise maker. In ancient Chinese culture, drums were used to ward off evil spirits.
  • Dragon Kite—Children enjoy this colorful kite, perfect for a fun Spring day.

Parties
Throw a Chinese New Year party for your child and their friends. Make sure to have him or her help you with preparations. It’s a good way to teach some very important lessons.  Plus, your child gets to socialize and have fun with friends.  The first lesson is about love and harmony. Explain to your child that in doing something for others (like planning fun activities during a gathering for others to enjoy), you’re showing your affection and love.

It’s also an opportunity to teach lessons about money since the dragon represents wealth. Buy Chinese red envelopes and have your child count up coins (of any denomination) and to insert inside.

There are other activities like coloring, watching movies, and reading Chinese New Year books. No matter how you celebrate Chinese New Year, taking time to incorporate cultural and life lessons will make this New Year memorable.

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So many couples struggle with having children. You can read books, go to doctors, and do everything right. But sometimes all you need is just a dose of good ol’ fashioned good luck. Family and friends can help by giving symbols of good luck and fertility…like Chinese chopsticks, jade jewelry, and dragon inspired gifts.

Chopstick Gift Sets
Language is always interesting. What something means in one language, can mean something completely different in another. For instance, the word chopsticks in Chinese is actually translated into “many sons.” For this reason, chopsticks are very lucky, especially for a young Chinese couple. With the Chinese New Year fast approaching and family and friends are shopping for just the perfect gift for a young couple, you may want to consider chopstick sets. Something as simple and ordinary (in the Chinese culture that is) as Zhu (chopsticks in Chinese) can be a lucky fertility symbol.  When given chopstick sets, a young couple takes that as good luck that they’ll have a boy.

Jade
Jade is more than just a beautiful natural stone. When jade is given as a gift to a young woman, it can be a symbol of good luck and fertility. Earrings, pendants, bracelets and even rings help give that special young lady an extra dose of luck in hopes of carrying a healthy baby. AJ Panda has a simple and beautiful Chinese jade necklace that would be the perfect gift for a woman hoping to get pregnant. JaChinese New Year Diaper Bagde and pearl earrings are also an option if she likes to dress up.

Dragon
The dragon is another symbol of luck and fertility. And with 2012 being the year of the water dragon, you can find all sorts of beautiful gifts depicting the dragon. Give a Chinese dragon while the young lady you know is trying to get pregnant for extra good luck. A popular option is the Chinese Zodiac Dragon Pendant.  She can wear it all day to bring her fertility.  For the lucky lady already pregnant and giving birth in 2012, the dragon diaper bag is a great gift idea for either Chinese New Year or a baby shower.

If you do know a young lady needing a little love and luck to help her start a family, give a little extra luck. It may seem a little unconventional, but Chinese chopstick sets may just be the extra luck needed. Whether you get chopsticks, jade, or something to commemorate the dragon as a Chinese New Year gift, it will be very much appreciated.

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The Chinese New Year will be here soon. Many people are already starting to buy Chinese jewelry for gifts

Chinese New Year Necklace

Dragon Chinese New Year Pendant

and red envelopes. But have you ever stopped to really consider what it all means?  The Chinese zodiac is more than just pretty pictures of animals you see at your local Chinese restaurant. There is a long history and tradition that is very important to Chinese culture.

Legend has it that the Jade King was bored and wanted to see a sampling of the animals on earth. So he invited the twelve signs to a party. So the Chinese zodiac was born. Each sign rotates every year. Chinese zodiac also includes 5 elements: wood, fire, Earth, metal, and water. They correspond to the planets Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, Venus, and Mercury. Each animal is assigned an element. So instead 12 cycles (for each animal), there are actually 60 for every combination. The Chinese Zodiac repeats every 60 years.

Water Dragon
2012 is the year of the Water Dragon.  It is said to be a year of rapid change and good fortune. Some say that it will be a fun and unpredictable year.  For the lucky individuals born between January 23, 2012 and February 9, 2013, they will blessed with ultimate good luck and prosperity. They are brave, pioneering in spirit and generous. Dragons are probably the most revered animal in the Chinese zodiac. Their good luck and strength make them quite popular.

Celebrating the Year of the Dragon
Chinese New Year is a time of giving gifts and celebrating life. Families thoroughly clean their homes before the Chinese New Year’s Eve, sweeping away all the bad luck. This tradition proceeds celebrations of Chinese New Year’s Eve and day with feats, games, and fun.  Families also celebrate by participating in dragon parades, gift giving days and more.

Chinese New Year Gifts
The most common gift is a Red Chinese envelope. Red envelopes have been part of Chinese culture for centuries. Filled with lucky money, they are given to friends and family to bring good luck in the upcoming year. Here are some other great gift ideas.

For Her
Chinese jewelry featuring beautiful and inspirational Chinese pendant symbols are always great options. For mom, wife, and especially your daughter, AJ Panda has a selection of Chinese pendants specifically for the Year of the Dragon. The Chinese Zodiac Dragon pendant is a great option, especially if she is a dragon herself (born in 1940, 1952, 1964, 1976, 1988, 2000, and 2012).

For a Child
Have fun at your Chinese New Year party with Chinese New Year toys and noisemakers. Embellished with a red dragon, they’re hand crafted to provide fun and amusement. Chinese YoYos are another fun gift idea or perhaps a dragon kite for a fun day outdoors.

Chinese New Year Crafts
You could buy Chinese New Year gifts for the entire family. Chinese New Year arts and crafts  are a fun option to bring you and your kids together.  Choose from necklace and bracelet kits, cards, dragon wands, and more.

Do you have plans for celebrating the year of the Water Dragon? Share with us what’s you’ll be doing!

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Part of the fun of Chinese New Year is having a gathering to bring in the New Year with plenty of food, games, and even tea.  Tea has been a part of Chinese culture for over 4000 years. It’s custom to be offered tea as soon as you enter a Chinese home. It’s also customary to take at least one sip of tea, otherwise you risk offending your host.

History of Tea
Tea originally had its start in China for medicinal purposes over 4000 years ago. Legend has it that a Shien Non Shai discovered tea before 618 A.D when he took his family mountain climbing. He was thirsty when a leaf drifted on his foot. He wrung the leaf with his fingers and drank the liquid. Tea was used for medicinal purposes after that point.

It wasn’t until the Tang dynasty that tea became popular. Lu Yu wrote a book tell all book titled, “Tea Classic” and became known as the father of tea.  China’s elite—scholars, members of the royal family, dignitaries, and wealthy families drank tea.

Tea became more and more widespread throughout China’s history. During the Sung dynsasty, tea rooms were constructed and tea became more commercialized. It wasn’t until the Ming and Ching dynasties that drinking tea became more widespread to commoners.

Tea Now
Yum cha (drinking tea) is part of everyday Chinese life. When you visit a home, you should be offered tea almost immediately. The tea cup is filled up to 7/10ths full. It is said that the rest of the cup will be filled with friendship and love. You are to consume the tea in three gulps.

There are five different kinds of tea:

Black tea is what most westerners drink. Tea leaves are withered, rolled, oxidized, and dried. The leaves turn black and are packed full of flavor. This team comes from India, Sri Lanka, and Kenya. Flavor is bold and strong.

Oolong tea is tossed, bruised, tossed, and roasted and often features apricot, spices, and woody flavors.

White tea comes from the Camellia sinensis plant, picked early when the leaves are covered in a white fuzz. White tea is sweet and crisp, lighter than most teas.

Green tea is extra special because leaves are picked in early Spring before it gets too hot. There is very little processing so oxidation doesn’t occur, which leaves the green color.

Brick tea is green or black tea compressed and formed into bricks, easy for travel and transportation.

Tea During the Year of the Dragon
If you’re going to have friends and family over to celebrate Chinese New Year, you’ll  want to make sure you have a special Chinese teapot to make your tea for guests.  AJ Panda has Chinese teapots specifically for the year of the dragon.  Dragon Chinese tea sets are perfect for the year of the water dragon. The dragon is even blue to represent water.  If you prefer more traditional Chinese teapots, Yixing teapots or even Chinese porcelain teapots are options you can use every day, not just for New Year’s.

Prepare with your favorite Chinese New Year foods, perhaps Nian Gao or Turnip Cake to serve with white tea when your guests first arrive. Visit and share the joys of the year past, wishing away bad luck, and embracing the good fortune the water dragon brings to 2012.

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