Jun 19

Double Fifth Festival... the Food!

Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio

Now that we have all read an abbreviated notation of the Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the "Double Fifth," let's go eat!

Food. Sustenance. Delight.

The key component, no matter if you live by the water or deeper inland, is food. The main component of any culinary gathering is the "zongzi" dumpling, so named for the long leaf (similar to a bamboo leaf) in which it is wrapped [粽子].

Food, and our olfactory recall, is intricately tied to our memory. For some Americans, they can remember going to sleep on Thanksgiving Eve, with the mouth-watering smell of pumpkin pies baking in the oven. For many Chinese, youngsters can remember going to sleep smelling the zongzi cooking in the kitchen to be devoured the following day for breakfast.

Zongzi dumpling

Indeed, the maker of the zongzi is held in high esteem in many Chinese families, as this is a "one day only" item to eat. This honor can even cross gender lines.

Process: The process of zongzi making takes several hours, beginning with boiling and then soaking the bamboo-type leaves overnight to reconstitute them. Then, the special rice needs to soak for 3 hours or so. Meat (usually pork, so abundant) is condimented and cooked; later combined with the rice. Many families nowadays buy the "salty egg" yolk (could be duck or chicken) because that brining process takes a few weeks. The actual shape of the dumpling can vary depending on the length and width of the leaves used—some look more like bulging triangles, others look like delicate isosceles triangles, just a few degrees wide.

Regional Differences:

Of course, there are town and regional differences. (Who can forget the famous zongzi of Jia Xing?) Northern China serves savory zongzi; the South, in this instance, serves salty ones. In a Southern metropolis like Shanghai, that generally loves the slightly sweet/savory juxtaposition, one can find:

  • "Salty" varieties (containing pork, and/or "salty egg" yolk, which is quite traditional)
  • "Sweet" varieties (containing red bean paste, jujube or even dates). There is even a variation of "sweet" zongzi: a plain rice zongzi dipped in sugar or honey.

What a treat!

New World Varieties:

After viewing some pictures of "zongzi" online, I am reminded of the Cuban "tamal" made with reconstituted corn husks, yellow corn meal, and pork filling; the Nicaraguan (and Honduran) "nacatamal" made with fresh banana leaf, white corn meal, and a meat filling. Let us not forget the Mexican "tamal" as well. This type of cooking and food preparation must surely be the origin of "food on the go," a meal neatly packaged in a biodegradable leaf!

*  *  *

Here at Jump!, culture is deeply embedded in food offerings. Our native-speaking teachers revel in sharing the culture, music, rhymes, holidays, and food of their home countries. Any food presentation will be the culmination of a thematic presentation on a specific country, region or town, or a holiday. A few examples: the "Rosca de Reyes" or "Kings' Bread Ring" presented during Three Kings' Day in Latin America. Or the "Pan de Muerto" [a bread roll] offered during the Mexican holiday of the Day of the Dead, right around Halloween. How about a simple quesadilla for Cinco de Mayo? Food is truly a delightful way to "build bridges" and see, smell and taste how people eat in a different part of the world.

Jackie Sanin, the school's CEO, hopes that our students, whether they have spent 1, 2, 3 or 4 years at Jump! Immersion School, can blend in with locals during their travels or studies and not skip a beat. As a parent, I daydream about that. Be open to the possibilities.

Be sure to check out yesterday's post about Dragon Boat Festival, also known as the "Double Fifth"

Jun 18

Double Fifth Festival or Make it Rain!

Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio

An abbreviated history and key items regarding the Dragon Boat Festival or Duan Wu [端午节]

Thanks to my Shanghainese friend, I have a clearer insight on the different aspects of the Dragon Boat Festival... and a growling stomach yearning for good food to eat!

The Dragon Boat Festival is a multi-layered fête celebrated in China and other countries with ethnic Chinese. The Chinese government officially declared it a holiday in 2007. The race festivities typically occur near rivers and ports.

Historical Origins

The historical origins revolve around a minister and poet, Qu Yuan, who so loved his state that he drowned himself in the river (fearing dominion by the neighboring state of Qin). His poetry is cited in ancient texts but the language itself has been lost to history. To avoid the river fish eating his body, the townspeople threw food such as eggs and dumplings called "zongzi" into the river, all the while scouting the river for his remains. This is one event to commemorate during the Festival period.

Religious & Folk Origins

Religious/folk/agrarian origins: Another layer of the Festival reveals folk traditions that are alive and well in modern China. The Chinese have been racing for thousands of years. Typically, the Festival [五月初五] (or the 5th day of the 5th month) falls around mid-June. Regardless of the exact date, what you can count on is the start of warmer temperatures, and rice planting in south/central China, where this Festival originates. What do farmers do during this time?

The Dragon Deity

Ask for rain from the Dragon deity that watches over water. Although there are Mountain and Sea Dragons, even the Ni'an of Chinese New Year, their mythical role is to control water of all kinds: river, lakes and oceans of the earth as well as the water in the sky (hence the rain). Dragons [龙] traditionally are not seen as malevolent but beneficent. Dragons represent the Emperor, and the Chinese also like to associate themselves with the powerful Dragon (compared to the other ordinary animals of the Zodiac). Rain is needed for the rice crop, so the Dragon must be invoked.

The Cleansing Element

Putting aside crops for a moment, one can also use the boat races as a cleansing element as the summer is ushered in. The physical and mental effort necessary to race a "dragon boat" is said to keep disease away. For an interesting detailed description on the mechanics of "paddling" the boats, this writer encourages you to begin your research here. Crew lovers will love it!

(i)  Regular folks who do not partake in the races will still "protect" and strengthen their bodies with a fortifying wine, translated as a "Realgar Wine." [雄黄酒] I do urge you to look up a fairy tale for mature audiences, called the "Legend of the White Snake". [白蛇传] It is about a man that fell in love with a changling sorceress. Part of the story takes place in Hangzhou, at the West Lake, relatively near Shanghai. All I will say is that sometimes, drinking (in excess?) will show a person's "true colors" or true form.

(ii)  For young children, who do not participate in these demanding races, families would place small aromatic pouches with herbs, e.g. mint, to keep children healthy and safe. These pouches are worn continuously until they fall off (although they may also be placed bedside at night). This is Traditional Chinese Medicine (or TCM), which could be a whole different post.

(iii)  Not only is the body cleansed, but living quarters are cleansed as well. With warmer temperatures arriving, agrarian peoples would routinely witness a certain group of five poisonous animals crawl into homes: snakes, centipedes, scorpions, geckos and toads. [蛇,蜈蚣,蝎子,壁虎,蟾蜍] These animals are considered physically dangerous (i.e. poisonous) but also harbingers of evil spirits. People would also hang mugwort leaves and calamus from doors and windows to help keep these animals at bay.

Check back tomorrow to read about some culinary treats!

Jun 01

Movies & TV Shows Children Watch in China

Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio

I polled teachers here at Jump! Immersion School to compile this list of movies & television shows for children in Mandarin Chinese--this is what children watch in China. Again, it is a work in progress, so input is gladly accepted!

(Pictured is a scene from an episode of the series"Pleasant Sheep & Big Bad Wolf".)

Note: You can find these on YouTube. It's best to preview or talk to your child's Mandarin teacher for the "green light."

Preschool & Up

    English Name
Format Mandarin Name Pinyin Topic
    "3 Monks" (movie)
Cartoon 三个和尚 sān gè héshang Shows teamwork. 1 monk comes down the mountain to gather water; 2 monks shoulder the burden together, but what do you do with 3 monks? You fight!
    "Baby Tadpole Looks for Its Mother" (movie)
Cartoon 小蝌蚪找妈妈 xiǎo kēdǒu zhǎo māma Tadpole asks animal friends who is his mother. Shows life cycle of frog.
    "Pleasant Sheep & Big Bad Wolf" (TV series)
Cartoon 喜羊羊和灰太狼 xǐ yáng yáng hé huī tài láng Mr. and Mrs. Wolf have one idea on their minds—eat the sheep! The sheep create ingenious ways to escape Wolf's traps. Discusses community, teamwork, etc.
    "Big Head Son, Little Head Dad" (TV series)
Cartoon; at least 150 episodes 大头儿子,小头爸爸 dàtóu érzi , xiǎo tóu bàba Good for preschool & elementary school crowd.Discusses community, family.

Elementary School, 7-12 years

    English Name
Mandarin Name Pinyin Topic
    Changjiang Qihao
长江七号 chángjiāng qī hào A coming of age story about a boy, his father and a small alien. Boy is raised by his dad who is absent for many hours due to work. A kind teacher and an alien show the boy what is important in life.

Middle School, 15+ years for economic and cultural themes

    English Name
Mandarin Name Pinyin
    Not One Less
一个都不能少 yīgè dōu bùnéng shǎo
    The Way Home
回家 huíjiā
    Beautiful Mother
漂亮妈妈 piàoliang māma

*Older kids in China will watch Japanese anime translated into Chinese.

Be sure to also check out our list of movie classics Jump! Immersion teachers grew up watching in Spanish!

Jun 01

International Children's Day

Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio

Did you know?

Today is the June First International Children's Day in China [六一国际儿童节 or liù yī guó jì ér tóng jié]. Children 14 years and younger are given a "pass" on school work and are taken outside the confines of school for the day. Schools typically sponsor field trips to such places as a local park, or a zoo or even an amusement park.

Children's Day Celebrations Worldwide!

Children’s Day is celebrated in many countries. The roots of the commemorative day were initially to bring awareness to children's rights, the importance of education, safety, sanitation, and even life itself.

Festivities can run from January to December, with the Bahamas starting the party on the first Friday of January (typically the 1st through the 3rd), to the island of Dominica on the last Friday in December (typically the 25th through the 30th). The Spanish-speaking countries refer to this day as el Día del Niño.

This year at Jump! Immersion School we opted to celebrate the Mexican holiday on April 30th. Our students were thrilled to have popcorn, dancing, and a special visit from not one... but TWO guests: Mickey Mouse and a Friendly Clown! It was the talk of the hallway during pick-up in the afternoon.

Jump! Immersion School values festivities celebrated around the world. We like to occasionally take the time to engage in festivities during our Spanish and Mandarin Chinese language track programs and even our summer camp programs and weave in laughter and play... lest we forget we are working for children. We follow the founding principles of Jackie Sanin, the CEO, to make time for a song or a dance to lift our overall spirits!

May 22

Movie Classics We Grew up Watching in Spanish

Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio

A few months ago, when I found out about the NYC Children's International Film Festival (or perhaps it was during one of the many snow days here in New Jersey!), I started to think back to what movies or television shows I saw as a child in Spanish.

Very fuzzy memories... the character "Chapulin Colorado" of Mexico? The shows did not appeal to me at the time. But now I have children of my own and I would like them to see movies/TV shows from other parts of the world. I ask myself, how many Disney or mega-production company-fueled movies can I stomach?

I searched the Internet—strangely, in this New Age where we seem to list, post, and pin seemingly everything, I found nothing! So, I decided to informally poll the teachers here at Jump! Immersion School. I caught them off guard during drop-off and at pick-up, but then they started to remember. The list I have compiled is at the end of this post—it is a work in progress, so input is gladly accepted!

Parents, many of these movies can be found on sites like YouTube. Others exist on parallel Spanish-speaking sites. I would simply caveat that you should either review the movies (at least visually) or sit with your child during the first 10 minutes. (When I was trolling through YouTube for "Heidi," I found an "anime" version that looked a bit too violent for my taste.)

It would also be wise to give a short introductory speech or disclaimer to your child to remind him/her that certain phrases or actions were appropriate in times past, but opinions change. This would be particularly beneficial when watching "clean" but "slapstick" comedy shows. Something akin to "Benny Hill"or "Mr. Bean" for the Anglophiles. Parents will differ, but whenever time allows, I prefer to watch movies with my children, to share my insights in real time (a.k.a damage control).

Learning Language through Movies... and Songs too!

Seeing "authentic" movies is but one example of an activity to supplement learning language and finding a way to link your child's study to native students in other countries. I personally have a daydream from time to time, of watching my children at a park or resort overseas making new friends in Spanish, but also picking up the country-specific ties—be it songs, poems, books, or perhaps even an action hero.

If you want more information, Jump! Immersion School envelopes your child with songs, poems and subject matter from the native-speaking teachers' countries of origin. You might hear children practicing tongue-twisters in Spanish at recess or singing "Happy Birthday" as they do in Mexico. It is a beautiful thing... come see!

María Chucena techaba su choza
y un techador que por allí pasaba le dijo:
"María Chucena, ¿techas tu choza
o techas la ajena?"

"Ni techo mi choza ni techo la ajena,
que techo la choza de María Chucena."

Movie Classics We* Grew up Watching in Spanish

Teachers Country Movie or TV show
Specials Colombia
  • El Chavo (Mexico)
  • Chapulin Colorado
  • Abeja Maya
  • Jose Miel (the friend of Abeja Maya, a spin off)
  • Candy
Pre-K4 Mexico
  • El Chavo
  • Chapulin Colorado
  • Candy
  • Capulina (the stage name for actor Gaspar Henaine)
  • Marcelino, Pan y Vino (a Lenten story; an orphan meets God in the attic)
Kinder Colombia
  • Abeja Maya
  • El Viento en los Sauces (The Wind in the Willows)
  • Topoyiyo or Topollillo
Admin Director Peru
  • Candy
  • Heidi
  • Marco or Marcos (friend of Heidi, spin off)
  • La Niña con la Mochilla Azul, a Spanish movie by Pedro Fernandez
  • Topoyiyo or Topollillo
  • The show of Tio Johnny (his signature was drinking a glass of milk at the end, with a cow mooing)
  • The show of Yola Polastri, a great singer
Spanish Programs Director Costa Rica
  • La Ballena Josefina
  • La Casa de la Pradera (Ah--Little House on the Prairie!)
  • Mujercitas (Little Women, what a classic!)
  • Heidi
  • Pequeño Poni (or Pequeño Pony)
  • Gems
  • Abeja Maya
  • Marcelino, Pan y Vino (the Lenten story)

Spain Under Construction--check back shortly!


Click Here!

*We are the teachers and staff at Jump! Immersion School!

Be sure to also check out our list of
movies and TV shows children watch in Mandarin Chinese!

May 08

Using the Local Language While Abroad

Author: Bri Rodriguez-Cancio

In the quest to "open the minds" of my elementary school-aged children who continue to study Spanish, I decided to throw my bathing suit to the wind and travel North to Montréal during Easter break. My husband thought I should visit a psychiatrist. My rationale was to show my children the importance of speaking more than one language; that it is useful, no matter where you go. Montréal was within driving distance and we own a cargo box for the car, so I updated my packing lists and off we went! (Many reviews on Trip Advisor spoke highly about "Le Square Phillips" which is an apart-hotel. We all loved it!)

Now, you may be asking me, "Does anyone in your family unit speak French?" My response: "Why, yes. Proficiently... moi!" Husband also speaks a small amount, but kids knew nothing. So we prepared them with the absolute basics:

  • Merci = Thank you
  • Bonjour = Good day or a generic "Hello"
  • S'il vous plait = Please
    *We also reminded them very seriously to stay close, and gave them the hotel business card and our cell phone numbers written down for their pockets/purses.

"Perfect Mom" would have run out to the local library or big box store for French language learning DVDs, but I am not "Perfect Mom."

Québec province is truly dedicated to keeping French alive. However, it respects English. Case in point: museum presentations were given in both languages. Now, during this trip, I was the main communicator and translator. I must confess, my French was rusty. But I wanted to show my children that you always try, and that you must be ready to laugh at yourself whenever learning something new.

Use Every Opportunity to Practice!

After checking in, the moment I walked into the room, I assessed the bath towel scene. We needed one more. Now, occasionally, when I search for a word in French, I consider the Spanish word for any clues, as they are both Romance Languages. If I succeed, I can "slide" into the French word. Back to the snippet about the missing towel. I called the Reception rather confidently, and began to ask for an extra towel. The word eluded me completely; I blanked out. I started to feel the flutterings of anxiety, with the inner monologue: "How could I possibly forget such a simple word like 'towel?'" I hemmed and hawed. The receptionist asked if I wanted to speak in English. (Only in Montréal this would occur! Never in France.)

Instead of caving in, I trudged on in French: "No, no, I want to practice my French. How do you say 'towel' in French? We need an additional one."

She graciously reminded me: "une serviette." I repeated the full sentence in French. Hung up the phone, calmed myself, and smiled.

Of course! In Spanish, a towel is "una toalla." And in Spanish, a napkin is "una servieta." Light bulb moment, words newly engraved in my mind. Note to self:

Do... NOT... give up!

I was not so bold an hour later, when my husband tasked me to order takeout pizza--we had arrived on Easter Sunday and had missed the working hours of the closest supermarket (an "IGA" in the main level of the Complexe Desjardins on the Blvd René Lévesque). The gentleman on the phone was so darn nice that I just rattled off in English what we wanted. I felt embarrassed. Looking back, I made myself anxious because I believed the operator would be in a hurry. Wrong attitude.

As the days passed, I continued trying to speak French. The Montréalais do a fine job of "juggling" both French and English. Any time I hesitated to find a word, they were quick to ask in English: "Do you wish to speak in English?" After the takeout incident, I persisted. We visited museums, took the Métro [subway] and the bus, bought souvenirs, lunch, groceries, and I even visited a pharmacy. Now that was an experience--telling your ailments to a pharmacist! But I did it, and she actually complimented me. She said that very few Americans spoke French so fluidly.

The More You Use It...

Lesson learned: the more I spoke, the more confident I became in French. Why is the United States such a mono-lingual stronghold? My children were tacitly impressed with my "skills."
They made the connection: It takes time to become fluent in another language and the more you use it, the better you speak it.

Jump! Immersion School continues to buck the stereotypes of learning another language (the second, or third?) with preschoolers and elementary-aged students. We are the trendsetters. Children can start as young as 2½ years old and classes are available through 12 years of age, for Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. This is not your stodgy language class of years ago; the children are immersed, with fun activities, in a broad spectrum of subject matter, to get them talking, playing, running, dancing, all when they are ready to take that linguistic risk. Imagine speaking effortlessly, no mental "switching" necessary? How about speaking without an American accent, and sounding "like a native?" Yes and yes!

To conclude my linguistic travel story, you may want to know how the children fared: The younger one took the 3 new words like a fish to water. The older one was in a state of shock on the first 2 days. This was the first trip that she did not speak the local language and she had moments of frustration. I gave her my personal tip to try to "slide into French" and she did her best. Overall, the family enjoyed themselves thoroughly and we have vowed to return in the summertime, with warmer weather and longer days. There are so many parks to explore!

Consider the following: If your family is planning to vacation/move abroad, why not take advantage of Jump! Immersion School and get the kids ready? As our Founder, Jackie Sanin, likes to say, "the more you go, the more you'll know."

May 01

Printable Mandarin Fruits & Veggies Placemat

Today is Labor Day in China. This day celebrates all workers who have contributed to Chinese progress. As the Chinese will be taking the week off to go on outings, picnic, etc., food will play a central role. Here are some "basic" fruits and vegetables to get your child learning new words in Mandarin.


Please be sure to print on regular (8x11) paper
for best results.

Download Printable Placemat

Be sure to get our Printable Chinese Zodiac Placemat and our Printable Spanish A-Z: Alphabet Placemat too!

Apr 29

Feria de Sevilla ("Seville Fair")

sponsored by the Alborada Spanish Dance Theatre

  • Where: Parker Press Park, 428 Rahway Ave, Woodbridge, NJ
  • When: Sunday, May 3rd, 2015, from 2:00 to 5:00 p.m.
    (Rain date May 9th, same time)
  • Admission: FREE!

"The history (both past and living) of flamenco is unclear. Many scholars cite South Asian (i.e.) Indian dance, gypsy dance, with threads of Caribbean and jazz influences woven in. It is a passionate form of expression; serious dancers search for "duende" or the spirit within us, to bring out the fiery aspects of the dance. There are also European influences, such as ballet, to pick out. Come judge for yourself!"

This day promises to be an afternoon of cultural delights. The "Feria" will provide performances by Alborada's widely-acclaimed professional dancers and musicians throughout the afternoon. "Sevillanas" dancing throughout the park by dancers in traditional costumes, arts & crafts for children, flamenco dance and castanet lessons, a flamenco fashion show, artists creating works "en plein air" inspired by the dancers and the outdoor festival, Spanish food and drink for sale, and much more.

Irish step dancing is another variation or permutation of flamenco, in this author's humble opinion. Riverdance, anyone?

Jump! Immersion School will be participating at the fair. Come say hello! (or "ole! ")

Apr 23

Connections Across Cultures: Qingming Festival

China and the Chinese celebrated the Qingming Festival this year on Sunday, April 5th. This date marked an important point—a "seasonal division point"—the precise moment that suggests the sun's position. (As a lunisolar calendar system, the festival date can vary slightly from April 4th to 6th.) Traditionally, farmers used this system to help them plant and harvest during the most auspicious times. Additionally, religious and medical advocates also used this knowledge to advise on matters ranging from health to food intake, activities, etc. To me, a simple city-dweller, this sounds roughly like a Farmer's Almanac on "turbo drive."

Today, these "seasonal division points" are considered common knowledge in the Chinese psyche. For outsiders and foreigners, enjoy the meaningful titles: Qingming means "Clear and Bright" or "Pure Brightness." Who cannot support a festival of "clear and bright?"

What Happens During Qingming Festival?

Some traveling, some food and light exercise. Sounds like a great day to me! Pre-shopping necessary. Let's explore from our armchairs.

1. Remembering Your Ancestors & Sweeping their Final Resting Place

In order to minimize work disruptions, the Qingming Festival became a national holiday in China in 2008. Many individuals traveled home to the countryside to visit their ancestors' graves and before 2008 many people would simply take the days off of work surrounding that time. (See another instance of traveling home for a Chinese holiday».)

For those who live near or in the countryside, the day can begin with a trip to the cemetery, mausoleum or columbarium (tall building that houses niches with individual boxes of cremated ashes). Having land in China costs a fortune, so authorities prefer (rather, mandate) cremation for population control. However, one can always find exceptions to this rule with a little (or a lot) of cash in hand. The whole family is encouraged to go to the cemetery, including young children. This is part of the cycle of life that needs to be witnessed, no matter your age.

For those who live in a metropolitan city like Shanghai (population 14+ million)—which is another "melting pot" of domestic immigration—a family might just have a small "altar" on a table in their home or some other commemorative place. Or maybe just a photograph of their special ancestor hung on the wall (again, every centimeter counts in city apartments!)

What do you do?

Give the area a cleaning, burn some incense. Put out some of the deceased family member's favorite food, served cold... it can be meat (such as pork, amply found in China), fruit, etc. Say a prayer, or have a commemorative moment.

"We toast to you, Grandmother, and wish you well. This past year we have accomplished A, B and C and have been challenged with X, Y and Z. We hope this new year will be healthy and prosperous."

The cleansing and/or the toast is made with a strong white rice wine. And no sips allowed here, as that would be construed as disrespectful or lacking seriousness. Toasts in China are culturally diverse and intricate: what you say, where, and to whom depends on the occasion.

What do you wear?

It’s appropriate to wear black, white, yellow, or any somber color. Avoid the color red and other bright colors.

Additional offerings?

Only one particular flower is traditionally used for this day of remembering the dead: the Chrysanthemum. Note to self: do not give a mixed bouquet containing Chrysanthemums to my child's Mandarin teacher… I might be giving mixed messages!

Every Chinese knows the poem by Du Mu, a Tang Dynasty writer. The poem tells of a sad scene in early April:

"It drizzles endlessly during the rainy season in spring.
Travelers along the road look gloomy and miserable.
When I ask a shepherd boy where I can find a tavern,
He points at a distant hamlet nestled amidst apricot blossoms."

If you do brave the traffic and make it to the cemetery, after the cleansing and toasting, most people will take the food with them on their next stop: a park, field, etc. Best not to tempt feral animals with your delicacies.

2. No Cooking Over a Stove - Eat Cold Dishes

This aspect of cold culinary dishes actually began as a separate feast, the Hanshi Festival. It used to take place the day before Qingming, however the festivals were eventually combined. The cold food that is served is "Grandmother's" favorite. There is a very interesting legend behind the "cold food," the legend of Jie Zhitui. Although the details are for mature audiences, the story centers on the core principles of devotion, respect, tolerance and humility. What would one man do for his king, what amount of sacrifice? See here for more details»

You may have noticed that certain foods are tied to specific festivals. No? Take a look at this:

Autumn Moon Festival Moon cakes
Dragon Boat Festival Zong zi (pyramid shaped rice with fillings wrapped in reed or bamboo.
Chinese New Year In Shanghai (the South), glutinous rice balls called Tang tuan. In the North, dumplings.
Qingming Festival More glutinous rice, dyed with green vegetable juice and stuffed withsweet bean paste.In Shanghai, called Qing Tuan.Traditionally, shaped like a ball. See picture below!

These green ball-shaped delicacies can be filled with savory items, such as vegetables or meat, if one dislikes the traditional slightly sweet staple. After over 10 years of searching in the greater NYC area, my Shanghainese friend has not had any luck finding these. Does anyone know of any authentic eateries?

3. Spring Outings/Promenades or an Afternoon in the Park

If people can get to the countryside, a field, or perhaps to a local park, families will want to partake in a leisurely stroll. Sportier types may want to conquer nearby hills with a hike. Children run around, ride bicycles, all that is normal for little ones to do. Families will likely have a simple picnic (again, with cold food only), perhaps fly a kite, etc.

People want to enjoy the fresh air, warmer temperatures, the new greenery and flowering buds on trees. Life brims with hope.

I do believe this concept of spring picnics crosses borders. How about Georges Seurat's pointilliste masterpiece: "A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte?"

4. Release a Lighted Lantern or "Floating Luminary"

Whatever you want to call these Sky Lanterns, they are beautiful. A string of little candles is secured to the base of the lantern and released to the heavens. Many say they look like shining stars. In Mandarin, the translation of these night-time floating lanterns is: God's lantern [shén dēng].

Even Rapunzel in the Disney movie "Tangled" must have had an inkling about this».

5. Plant a Tree

For those with a "green thumb" or who are environmentally conscious, the Qingming Festival is also a time to plant saplings. This point in time increases the chances of a healthy tree, strong and tall. Any young tree/sapling will do. You would see this primarily in the countryside where landowners have earth to plow. In the past, Qingming Festival was also called "Arbor Day," however, the Chinese Government also created an official holiday in 1979 for planting trees: March 12th.

Building Bridges & Making Connections

Many of the same beliefs and traditions of the Chinese Qingming Festival are celebrated in other cultures in various ways. Consider:

    Pictured: Day of the Dead altar, image credit to http://www.mingei.org/about/news/1003

  • Spring Equinox in the West
    This begins to remind me of the Spring Equinox, which for the West, fell on Friday, March 20th, signaling the official beginning of spring.

  • Persia and Nowruz (or No rooz)
    This also reminds me of a dear Iranian-American family (by way of Wisconsin and Tehran) who celebrate Nowruz, which is a celebration of the Spring Equinox and New Year. Same general time: around March 21st. This wonderful celebration has a spring cleaning component, and is accompanied by special food and other items (that range from a hand mirror to a hyacinth plant to a small bowl with goldfish and much more).

    * Note: the last Tuesday of their Old Year is commemorated with a jump over a fire to drive out the cold and "paleness" of winter and welcome the Spring, heat and light. I remember participating in a jump over a small fire (created in a disposable aluminum brownie pan) one evening, sparks flying...and then I was regaled with a night-time view of the stars through a jumbo telescope. What a gift to be able to take a few moments to gaze at the constellations and pick out figures like the Big Dipper and Orion the Hunter...

    This entire celebration radiates symbolism and mysticism. For a beginning conversation on this holiday, see Wikipedia and then I would advise to continue the conversation with any Iranian acquaintances for further fine-tuning.

  • Spring Cleaning and the U.S.
    Even non-believers, at least in the Northern U.S., have a general "spring cleaning" of closets, the house, the garage. Et voila--we are all linked together.

  • Day of the Dead and Mexico
    And, as for remembering the dead, and celebrating their life, embracing this cycle, who can forget the Day of the Dead celebrations in Mexico? It is common to have/create "altars" for the dearly departed. Read more here to get a general sense of this holiday.

At Jump! Immersion School, the administration and teaching staff continually cultivate an openness and respect for other cultures at all levels. Teachers make connections every day, tying in prior topics, nurturing critical thinking and highlighting similarities and differences amongst us. They approach subjects from different angles and encourage thinking "outside the box" in new and creative ways. Children may say, from time to time, the "darndest things," but we like it that way.

Enjoy the Spring that has arrived; forsythias are blooming, along with daffodils! Spring is in the Air.

Mar 20

Printable Spanish A-Z: Alphabet Placemat

Today is Puerto Rican author Luis Palés Matos birthday! And to celebrate, Jump! Immersion School would like to give you a gift! Please download our Spanish Alphabet: A-Z Placemat for your child!

Spanish Alphabet: A-Z Placemat

This placemat has letters A-Z with corresponding words in Spanish and lively pictures your child will recognize to practice letters and words in Spanish. You can even print multiple placemats to help learn setting the table! Click the download button at the end of this post and print on legal-sized (8x14) paper for best results.

Printable Spanish A-Z: Alphabet Placemat

Please be sure to print on regular (8x11) paper
for best results.

Download Printable Placemat

Be sure to get our Printable Chinese Zodiac Placemat and our Printable Mandarin Fruits & Veggies Placemat too!

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