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2013 is the Year of the Snake and Chinese New Year celebrations are fast approaching! The 1st day of the 2013 Chinese astrology year begins on February 4th with Chinese New Year Day falling on Sunday, February 10th. Chinese New Year is the most important Chinese holiday and is known as Spring Festival in China. It ushers in the lunar New Year and is like rolling the West’s Christmas and New Year’s Eve into one giant celebration.

In the days leading up to the holiday, every house gets a thorough cleaning, because sweeping on New Year’s Day could sweep away the coming year’s good fortune. Nearly every university student and migrant worker travels home since it is such an important time for families to spend together and celebrate. Food plays an important role in the celebrations. Fish is a commonly served dish because the Chinese word for fish is a homophone for ‘surplus’. It is a lucrative time for children as red envelopes filled with money are given to young unmarried relatives by elders.

Snake years are sixth in the cycle and recur every 12 years. Chinese legend says a snake in the house is a good omen meaning your family will not starve. It is said that those born in the year of the snake are the wisest and most mysterious of all. They are usually financially secure and have a taste for the finer things in life. Snakes are goal-oriented, hate to fail, and are intense and passionate. Their weaknesses include being stubborn and jealous.

More specifically, 2013 is the year of the Water Snake. Water is an element that shapes us and will play a prevalent role in 2013. It provides calm, nurtures and forges new paths of discovery. Water’s influence makes this year the perfect time to take on new challenges and open yourself up to new experiences! This year will also bring many opportunities for the career and romantic life to flourish, and friendships will be more important than ever. This is a year for people to come together for a greater good. 

2013 is a year to be bold like the water snake and take chances! Best wishes to you from AJ Panda!

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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!

Articles:

The Chinese Dragon

Chinese New Year

Chinese Superstitions

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Year of the Rabbit

We’re a few weeks into the Chinese New Year 2011, the Year of the Rabbit, and we hope that you got to celebrate with friends and family. We were fortunate enough to be able to be a part of Chinese New Year celebrations at Northern New Jersey Huaxia Chinese School, Kwong Kow Chinese School, Great Wall Chinese Academy, and The Chinese Language School of Connecticut.

The Rabbit is the fourth sign of the Chinese Zodiac and is a lucky sign. Tradition states the Rabbit brings a year that will allow you to catch your breath and calm your nerves. It is associated with home, family, diplomacy and peace, which will help this year be a calmer one than 2010 on all levels.

People born during the Year of the Rabbit lead a peaceful life, but also possess a strong will. They are lucky in business and financial transactions and have impeccable manners. You can always rely on the Rabbit to be in control of himself and they really know how to live and let live. The Sheep, Dog and Pig are most compatible with the Rabbit and will also find 2011’s circumstances bring them great personal and professional happiness.

AJ Panda has a good selection of Rabbit items to help you celebrate all year long. Check them out! Here’s to a lucky, peaceful, successful Year of the Rabbit to all!

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