Qing Ming qīng míng 清明 Tomb Sweeping Day 4/4

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April Calendar

April Holidays and Celebrations

April 7th World Health Day

History

World Health Day seeks to draw attention to a major global health concern each year. The day attempts to increase awareness about the major health concern and the repercussions of this concern while providing countries and organizations with materials and ideas as how to best handle these global health concerns.

The World Health Organization (WHO) was founded on April 7, 1948 to better address the needs of global health issues. Every year, the WHO Assembly meets in Geneva, Switzerland to choose a major global health concern and promote it through World Health Day in the hopes of increasing awareness and preventing more cases.  This holiday is celebrated annually on April 7.

World Health Day Facts & Quotes

  • The theme for World Health Day in 2017 is Depression: let’s talk.  The World Health Awareness Day’s campaign this year is touted to focus on getting more people across the world dealing with depression to come forward and seek help.
  • According to the Centers for Disease Control 31% of Americans have high blood pressure. High blood pressure costs the nation $47.5 billion annually in direct medical expenses and $3.5 billion each year in lost productivity.
  • According to the American Diabetes Association, 2011 data showed 25.8 million children and adults with diabetes. This is 8.3% of the US population.
  • According to the World Health Organization, 58% of deaths in children under age five are caused by infectious diseases with Pneumonia the largest cause of those deaths.
  • Good health adds life to years – World Health Organization (WHO) 2012 slogan.

World Health Day Top Events and Things to Do

  • Get your blood pressure checked! High blood pressure is a silent killer known to massively increase the risk for heart disease and stroke.
  • Reduce salt and alcohol consumption. Alcohol consumption in large amounts has been associated with an increase in heart diseases, brain damage, cancers and liver diseases. Salt consumption in large amounts has been associated with heart diseases, decreased brain functions and kidney problems.
  • Play sports or exercise. Exercise raises the heart rate, burns calories, releases endorphins and helps lead a healthier lifestyle to combat diseases.
  • Book an appointment for your annual check up.
  • Learn to recognize the symptoms of diabetes. See your doctor and discuss your risk of diabetes.

April 20th Lailatul Barat

History

Lailatul Barat (Arabic: شب برات) commemorates a night that Muslims believe God descends from heaven and forgives sins very generously. For that reason, Muslims spend the night in prayer, and fast the next day. Lailatul Barat occurs in the middle of the month of Sha’ban, the month before Ramadan. It is considered one of the holiest nights on the Islamic Calendar. The night begins at sundown on the 14th and ends at dawn on the 15th of Sha’ban. Muslims are recommended to fast at least six days of this month. Often, women who missed fasts because of menstruation in Ramadan make them up in this month. According to Islamic tradition, the Prophet Muhammad fasted more in Sha’ban than any other month.

April 20th Start of Passover

History

Passover (Hebrew: פסח) is a seven day Jewish festival which celebrates the Israelites fleeing from Egypt about 3300 years ago.  Passover is called such because the Israelites marked their door frames with a sign.  It is believed because of this sign God passed over their houses during the plague of the firstborn.

The Israelites were servants from the days of Jacob until Moses.  They lived through famine in most of Mesopotamia, including Israel.  The Israelites built store cities for grain in Egypt (possibly, the pyramids).  After 210 years of servitude in Egypt, the Israelites had become ‘servant-minded’ and did not believe that they could flee.  They fled via the Wilderness of Sinai, where they resided for forty years.

Passover Facts

  • Traditionally, in accordance with Biblical Law, all Orthodox Jews remove all leaven bread, cakes, flour-containing products and flour-derived products from the Jewish home in the weeks before Passover.  These products include beer, whiskey, flour, and all patisserie produces.  Any products remaining on the Eve of Passover are given away to non-Jews, sold or burnt.
  • On Passover, Jews are to eat only unleavened bread (Matzah), baked from flour and water and prepared (mixed and baked) within eighteen minutes.  Unleavened bread symbolizes Israelites leaving Egypt in such haste they could not wait for their bread dough to rise.
  • On the first day of Passover it is customary to hold a Seder Night celebration with family and friends.  During this celebration, the Haggadahis typically read and sang. The Haggadah includes telling the story of  fleeing of the Israelite slaves from Egypt, the fact that their dough could not rise due to the hurried exit, blessings over Matzah, and songs of praise and happiness.
  • Traditionally, for Seder a plate is prepared containing the following: an egg – symbolizing the Chaggigah sacrifice;  a shankbone, symbolizing Passover Lamb;  salt water, symbolizing the tears of the Israelite slaves;  a bitter herb, symbolizing the bitterness of enslavement;  charoset (a mixture of ground apple, cinnamon, wine and sugar) signifying the cement used in the building works;  a vegetable to be dipped in the salt water.
  • The first and seventh days of Passover are considered festivals in which work is not permitted. The intermediate days are Chol Hamoed in which families typically go on hikes and tours, or visit friends.

Passover Top Events and Things to Do

  • Attend a Seder dinner or learn how to make your own Seder.
  • Make Matzahs.  You can watch how to make Matzahs on youtube.
  • Watch a movie that depicts Passover.  Our picks: The Ten Commandments (1956) and The Prince of Egypt (1998)

April 21 Easter Sunday

April 22nd Earth Day

History

Earth Day seeks to highlight and promote efforts dedicated to the protection of the environment.  As we enter the 21st century, we face many environmental crises, including global warming, deforestation, endangered wildlife, shortages of potable water and widespread pollution, all which negatively affect our planet’s resources and can have adverse effects on our long-term lifestyle and health.

In 1970, a US Senator named Gaylord Nelson was inspired to bring about mass public awareness of environment problems. He heavily promoted the day across the nation in an effort to gather the largest amount of public support possible and ultimately, in the hopes of elevating environmental protection onto the national political agenda. This day in 1970 marked the creation of United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts.   Today, Earth Day is celebrated by billions of people around the world and is observed in over 190 countries. Worldwide, Earth Day celebrations utilize educational programs to inform people of ways that can help protect the environment and its natural resources. It is observed annually on April 22nd and is celebrated as International Earth Day.

Earth Day Facts & Quotes

  • The theme for Earth Day 2018 is End Plastic Pollution.
  • During the 2015 UN Conference in Paris, France, participating nations concurred on the need for action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The countries cooperatively pledged to keep global temperature rise below 2C (3.6F). In celebration of Earth Day 2016 on April 22nd, the landmark agreement that testifies to this global commitment was signed at the UN Headquarters in New York by 175 participating nations.The history of Earth Day 2017 dates back to 1970 when it was first celebrated in 1970. It was founded by Senator Gaylord Nelson to promote ecology and the respect for life on the planet as well as to encourage awareness of the growing problems of air, water and soil pollution.
  • Energy Star rated LED light bulbs use at least 75% less energy, and last 25 times longer, than incandescent lighting.  Switching entirely to LED lights over the next two decades could save the U.S. $250 billion in energy costs, reduce electricity consumption for lighting by nearly 50 percent and avoid 1,800 million metric tons of carbon emissions.
  • In 2013, the US emitted 14.7 trillion pounds (14,700,000,000,000lbs) or 6.6 trillion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalents ‘Greenhouse Gases’.
  • In the past 50 years, humans have consumed more resources than in all previous history. – U.S. EPA, 2009. Sustainable Materials Management: The Road Ahead.
  • We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. – Native American Proverb

Earth Day Top Events and Things to Do

  • Organize a group of volunteers to help clean up and restore a green space. Some suggestions include planting trees and adding waste receptacles.
  • Try to go the whole day without creating any garbage, • Try not to use your car for the entire day. Instead, use public transit, walk or ride your bicycle.
  • Change your traditional incandescent light bulbs to energy saving LED or CFL light bulbs.
  • Watch a documentary or movie that touches on an ecological issue. Our favorites are: An Inconvenient Truth (2006), the Burning Season (1993, 2008), Elemental (2012) and The Day after Tomorrow (2004).
  • Read one of many books that relate to environmental issues such as, The World Without Us (Alan Weisman), Hell and High Water (Joseph Romm) and Natural Capitalism (Hawken, Lovins and Lovins)

April 26thArbor Day

History

Arbor Day is a celebration of trees and their importance to providing shelter, stabilization for the ground, and beauty to the beholder. While Arbor Day is a US holiday, several other countries have adopted similar observances including Japan, Australia, Korea and Yugoslavia. In 1970, President Richard Nixon declared Arbor Day a federal holiday and it is observed the last Friday in April each year.

Arbor Day Facts & Quotes

  • The first Arbor Day was celebrated April 10, 1872 in the State of Nebraska. More than 1 million trees were planted in Nebraska as they celebrated the first Arbor Day.
  • A single tree can absorb as much as 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year and can sequester 1 ton of carbon dioxide by the time it reaches 40 years old.
  • Newspaper editor, Julius Sterling Morton  began Arbor Day to help bring attention to the importance of trees.
  • Since the Yellowstone Fires of 1988, the Arbor Day Foundation has partnered with the US Forest Service. Through this partnership, over 25 million Arbor Day Foundation trees have been planted.
  • The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now. -Proverb

Arbor Day Top Events and Things to Do

  • Plant a tree.
  • Visit a nursery and consider buying some plants.
  • Australian accent: Crocodile Dundee (1986), The Babadook (2014)
  • Organize a neighborhood beautification project.
  • Hold a paper drive.  Use the recycling proceeds to purchase a special tree.

Arbor Day References and Related Sites

www.arborday.org

April

Mulch―Now that winter is gone, remove and replace mulch around such plants as azaleas, roses, and camellias because disease spores and insects may have overwintered in this material. If you think disease or insects are not a problem, just freshen your mulch.

Lawns―It’s time to start cutting warm-season turf such as Bermuda, St. Augustine, and centipede. Be careful not to scalp your lawn. Adjust the blade height so that the turf looks cut when finished, but you can’t see spots of soil. A good rule of thumb for spring cutting: Remove only about the top third of the grass blades each cutting. During periods of fast growth, try to cut your lawn at least once a week.

Herbs―Once the frost period has passed, it’s time to plant herbs. Culinary herbs are easy to grow, but be sure that you’ve planted enough of the ones you frequently use. As a general rule, it takes twice as many fresh herbs as it does dried ones to equal the same amount of flavor in cooking.

Yard and Garden

Trees and Shrubs

If your trees and shrubs are still dormant:

    • Prune any dormant trees and nonflowering shrubs.
    • Plant and transplant bare-root, balled-and-burlapped, and container-grown trees and shrubs.
    • Plant roses just as the buds swell.
  • Apply dormant spray.

If trees and shrubs are growing and freezing weather has passed:

    • Continue planting container-grown trees and shrubs.
    • Fertilize trees and shrubs.
    • Lightly shear your needled evergreens, being careful not to cut back to bare wood.
    • Prune nonflowering shrubs.
    • Prune spring-flowering shrubs after they bloom.
    • Prune summer and fall flowering shrubs before they set flower buds.
    • Remove any dead wood as a result of cold or storm damage.
    • Uncover winterized roses.
    • Feed roses when green growth is about 2” long.
    • Apply fungicide to get a head start on black spot.
    • Address insects and pests as soon as you spot them. Be on the lookout for aphids – they love tender green shoots.
    • Avoid spraying insecticides on blooming trees and shrubs – so as not to harm bees and other pollinating insec

      Bulbs

      Before the last frost:

        • Cut back dead foliage on perennials and ornamental grasses. Be careful not to cut new growth!
        • Plant, divide, and transplant perennials.
        • Gradually remove winter mulch from perennials when they begin to grow. Keep mulch handy in case of a surprise late freeze.
        • Fertilize spring-blooming bulbs (daffodils, hyacinths, etc.) after they bloom. Leave the foliage in place to nourish next year’s blooms.
      • Give tender bulbs a head start by potting them indoors.

      After the last frost:

        • Continue planting perennials, summer bulbs, groundcovers, and ornamental grasses.
      • Plant gift chrysanthemums, hydrangeas, spring bulbs, and azaleas outdoors. Some gift varieties are not cold-hardy, so check the variety before leaving it out over next winter.

       

      Annuals and Containers

        • Clean and sanitize summer containers, and plan your design for this summer.
        • Start summer annual seeds indoors.
      • Plant summer annuals (petunias, cosmos, marigolds, zinnias, etc.) after the last frost. Be sure to bring them indoors (or cover them with cloth) during a late cold snap.

       

      Lawns

      Before the last frost:

        • Begin post emergent weed control.
        • Lawns will be very soggy, so treat them gently and avoid too much traffic.
        • Test soil pH and add lime (if acidic) or sulfur (if alkaline), following package instructions.
      • Resume your warm-weather watering schedule when grass begins growing.

      After the last frost:

       

      Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

      Before the last frost:

        • Plant fruit trees.
        • Till your vegetable garden as soon as the soil is dry and crumbly. Add amendments, and let the soil settle for about a week.
        • Grow cool-season vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli, beets, radishes, peas, and carrots.
        • Plant asparagus, rhubarb, and berries.
        • Start seeds indoors for summer vegetables and annual herbs.
      • Plant perennial herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and lavender.

      After the last frost:

        • Plant summer vegetables (such as tomatoes, corn, squash, and peppers) outdoors.
        • Plant annual herbs such as basil and cilantro.
      • Remove mulch from strawberry beds.

       

      Houseplants

      In colder climates:

        • Address insect or disease problems immediately.
      • Give a little more water to cacti and succulents that are blooming or actively growing.

      As the weather warms:

        • Move houseplants gradually outdoors once night temperatures stay above 55° F.
        • If you grouped your houseplants in a warm spot for the winter, you can move them back to their places.
      • Care for an Easter lily by keeping it in a cool spot with indirect, bright light.

       

      Cleanup and Maintenance

        • Visit a garden center and take in the breathtaking array of plants. Try something new this year!
        • Clean out, inspect, and repair bird houses, for the spring nesting season.
        • Observe your garden during the spring thaw and rains. Note and address any drainage problems.
        • Give your yard a good spring cleaning to eliminate hiding places for insects and critters.
        • Add trellises, stakes, and supportive structures to top-heavy plants (such as peonies) before they need them!
        • After the last frost, begin hardening your seedlings by moving them to a sheltered spot outdoors.
        • After the last frost, add aquatic plants to your pond or fountain.
        • Start feeding your pond fish when water temperatures are above 50° F.
        • Apply mulch. Consider adding an organic weed preventer, such as corn gluten, under your mulch to save work later.
        • Check out irrigation systems once freezing weather has passed.
        • Postpone garden work if the soil is soggy.
        • Spread and incorporate winter compost, and start a spring compost pile.
      • Test soil to determine what amendments are needed.

       

      Further Information



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      April Lawn & Garden To-Do List

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Longtaitou Festival***

People pay tribute to the dragon king of sea and god of salt on the occasion of Longtaitou Festival in Weifang, east China’s Shandong Province, March. 2, 2014. The Longtaitou Festival, or Eryueer Festival, which means “dragon raises head” in Chinese, is the starting day of farm and fishery work of a year. People held the sacrificial ceremony to pray for seasonable weather with gentle breeze and timely rain in fishing and salt industry.

Hair cut on Longtaitou Festival for good luck

The most famous tradition on this day is to have a haircut. Some people believed that going to the barber on the second day of the second month would get rid of bad luck, while others believed it was very bad luck to get a haircut during the first month of the lunar calendar.

There’s an old saying, “Cut your hair in the first month and your uncle will die.” Nowadays most people pay no attention to the tradition but seniors say in the old days patrons would line up outside barber shops on the Dragon Head Raising Festival.

The traditional Chinese Longtaitou Festival, or Dragon Head Raising Festival, falls on the second day of the second lunar month every year, which refers to the start of spring and farming. The festival falls on March 10 this year.

Ancient people believed that after the second day of the second month on the Chinese lunar calendar, the rain will increase because the rain-bringing Dragon King has awakened from his winter sleep.

There is a widely known idiomatic phrase which goes, “Er yue er, long tai tou”. It means “On the second day of the second month, the dragon lifts his head.”

The festival is a reflection of the ancient agrarian Chinese culture, and some of the old ways to celebrate the festival are no longer in practice, but some still carry on.

Food connected to the Longtaitou Festival

People eat toufu balls in East China’s Fujian province during this festival. People often make the tofu and vegetable balls to pray for family and business.

Traditional chengyao cakes are sold in Suzhou, East China’s Jiangsu province. Suzhou has a tradition of eating chengyao cake on this day as an old saying goes, if you eat chengyao cake on Longtaitou, your waist will not hurt all year. Chengyao cake is a kind of Chinese traditional cake made with sticky rice.

People in parts of Shandong province eat fried beans to celebrate the festival.

There are also food with dragon names. Dumplings, spring rolls and popcorn are all given dragon names. Noodles are called dragon’s beard (long xu), dumpling are dragon’s ears (long er), spring rolls are dragon’s scales (long lin), and popcorn is called dragon seeds (long zi).

 Folk activities like dragon dance are also held during the Longtaitou Festival across the China.

The Longtaitou Festival (simplified Chinese龙抬头traditional Chinese龍抬頭pinyinLóng Táitóu), also known as the Eryueer Festival(二月二), is a traditional Chinese festival held on the second day of the second month of the Chinese calendar. The festival is a reflection of the ancient agrarian Chinese culture. In the tradition of Chinese culture, the dragon is believed to be the king of all creatures and the ancestor of human beings. It is also believed to be in charge of bringing rains, and both of these are important factors in ancient agricultural society. It is literally referred to as “Dragon rising its head” (lóng tái tóu, 龙抬头) because the dragon was traditionally regarded in China as the deity in charge of rain, an important factor in ancient agriculture. It is sometimes also simply called “2 Month 2”, (Er Yue Er, 二月二) for short. Longtaitou Festival is different from Zhonghe Festival for the latter was an official festival and holiday in the Tang and Song Dynasties, and it was celebrated on the first day of the second month of the Chinese calendar.

Longtaitou Festival is celebrated around the time of Jingzhe, one of the 24 solar terms (節氣). The phrase Jing Zhe (驚蟄) has the meaning of awakening of the hibernated (implying insects). Jing (驚) is startling, and Zhe (蟄) is hibernated (insects). This is the time during which the hibernating insects begun to wake up at the beginning of early spring, which is often accompanied by the arrival of the first rains, meaning the weather is getting warm. Longtaitou Festival is an important worship ritual of wishing for good harvest in the coming months. In addition to paying respect to Dragon King, was often paid to Tu Di Gongtoo and wishes are often made at the temples for Tu Di Gong. Another ancient practice to celebrate Longtaitou Festival was to get rid of insect pests in homes via fumigation by burning various herbs with recognized insect repellent effects.

Today, Longtaitou Festival is celebrated in various ways, most of which are still identical to those practiced in the ancient times, including eating Chinese pancakes (春饼) and noodles. Perfume bags filled with the powder of ground fragrant herbs are made to be carried by women and children for good fortune, though they are no longer used as insect repellent as in ancient times. Another ancient celebration still practiced today is that Longtaitou Festival is the first day of the Taihao (太昊) temple fair that lasts until the third day of the third month of the lunar calendar. Taihao (太昊) temple fair is a celebration of ancestral deities Fuxi and Nüwa and Longtaitou Festival marking the beginning of this celebration.

There were ancient traditions of celebrating Longtaitou Festival that are no longer practiced, including:

  • Women should not practice sewing because needles could puncture the eyes of dragon.
  • Plant ashes were spread around the house, and then inside the house, and finally around the earthen jug, symbolizing inviting the dragon to provide enough rain for good harvests.
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Vernal Equinox chūn fēn 春分 Mar 21st

Buuding leaves on branch

Monday was the vernal equinox. It was a very warm sunny day here and without much wind , which has been unusual lately. Everyone seemed very happy to celebrate the first day of spring, including yours truly. In the traditional Chinese calendar the vernal equinox is one of the 24 solar terms terms.   According to this calendar, spring began back on February 3rd, but even in most of China, no one thinks February is much like spring. Although there was a warm spell, here no one was fooled and the other shoe dropped with a big snowfall and cold temperatures.

The equinoxes are marked by an equal length of day and night. Thanks to the change to Daylight Savings Time here in the US most people are too disoriented to notice. People I know, both in person and on line, report their cats are disoriented too. Strangely, no one I know has complained their dogs are bothered by this. Of course, cats are very insistent on routine. I think dogs are in general more spontaneous.

large square balancing boulder I always like to use the equinoxes as a reminder to check the balance in my life. Am I working too much or not enough? Am I slacking on things I don’t really want to do? Am I neglecting some area of my life or some relationships which need attention? It can be hard to keep life in balance these days. There are a lot of externally imposed demands, like the deadline for filing taxes next month. Most people would put that off forever if they could. In my case I find working from home sometimes leads to being less efficient. Not because I am playing video games or with the cats but because household tasks haunt my every step and can’t be gotten away from. Also, I don’t get the feedback from working with other people. We all hate useless meetings that drag on to no end but well managed meetings and brain-storming sessions can be both inspirational and productive. I think now the weather will allow me to get out, a couple of mornings a week I’ll take my laptop down to the local coffee shop, The French Press, and work there, just for a change of pace.

The three pentads for the solar term Chunfen are the first 玄鳥至, ‘The dark birds arrive’. The dark birds referred to are swallows making their northward spring migration. This is not just true in China. The swallows of Mission San Juan Capistrano in California are quite famous and they are protected in the whole city. European swallows return from spending the winter in sub-Saharan Africa, Arabia and the Indian sub-continent. British swallows spend their winter in South Africa, returning along the west coast of Africa. European swallows travel further east and down the Nile Valley. All this to avoid crossing the Sahara. Chinese swallows have a much easier migratory path.

The second pentad: 雷乃發聲, ‘Thunder sounds’ refers to the onset of spring thunderstorms. We will get spring rains here but thunderstorms are less likely. The third  pentad, 始電, ‘Lightning begins’, also refers to the weather of this period. In Japan a version of this calendar is also used and I like the Japanese version of the pentads in this case. The second is 桜始開  Sakura hajimete hiraku which translates as ‘Cherry blossoms open for the first time’. This description is less repetitive and also fits what is happening where I live. Then the last pentad is 雷乃発 声 Kaminari sunawachi koeo hassu, ‘Distant thunder start to sound’, which fits the kind of rainstorms the Japanese also get at this time.

Book of Time book coverI am very interested in following the natural world according to this calendar and connecting to nature through it but I was frustrated by a lack of information. Thankfully I discovered a book was coming out on just this topic thanks to my habit of reading foreign newspapers. I found it available on the Amazon site, and I ordered it. I might have searched for ages for a vendoe, but I have to admit, Amazon is darn good at getting things to market across all kinds of barriers. It is published in China and yes, it is all in Chinese, but I am thrilled. The Book of Time, the 24 Solar Terms is by Yu Shicun. At first they estimated a two month delivery date but it arrived almost a month early, on the Equinox itself. Synchronicity. Give the subject matter I am going to be using the dictionary a lot but what a beautiful incentive to improve my Chinese!

montage of illustrations from The Book of Time by artist Lao Shu

The Telegraph 27 Feb 2017 Artist Lao Shu Credit China Watch

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Full Worm Moon March 9 17:47 UTC

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Caturday Thoughts – Spring Ahead? Only Humans Loose Sleep Over This

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March Calendar

 

 

 

 

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