The first of two Sydney firework displays kicked off at 9.15pm local time with the second, bigger display going off at midnight.
Some communities have cancelled New Year’s fireworks celebrations, but Sydney Harbour’s popular display was granted an exemption to a total fireworks ban that is in place there and elsewhere to prevent new wildfires.
Speaking before the event, City of Sydney mayor Clover Moore told reporters: “Tonight we expect a million people around the Harbour and a billion people around the world to watch Sydney’s New Year Eve celebrations, which is Australia’s biggest public event.”
Responding to calls to cancel the event and reallocate the funding to fire-affected regions, Mr Moore said planning for the fireworks began 15 months ago, most of the budget had already been allocated and it would boost the NSW economy.
“Many of us have mixed feelings about this evening, but the important thing we take out of this is that we’re a resilient state,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian told reporters.
Japan is also preparing for their New Year’s Eve celebrations and firework displays hours ahead of the UK.
In 2020, a project funded by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Green Climate Fund and Kiribati’s government brings hope of providing safe and climate-secure drinking water to the main island of Tarawa, which is home to most of the nation’s 110,000 people.
In Samoa, New Year’s Eve was more sombre than usual. While fireworks erupted at midnight from Mount Vaea, overlooking the capital, Apia, the end of the year was a time of sadness and remembrance
Families enjoyed warm weather and music to see in the new year at Christchurch’s Hagley Park.
More than 5600 measles cases were recorded in the nation of just under 200,000. With the epidemic now contained, the Samoa Observer newspaper named as its Person of the Year health workers who fought the outbreak.
“We have experienced extreme sadness and sorrow,” the newspaper said. “Since the first measles death, the pain has only deepened. But amidst much hopelessness and tears, we have also seen the best of mankind in this country’s response.”
This year’s New Year’s Eve midnight fireworks display, famously known for lighting up Hong Hong’s iconic skyline, has been cancelled.
The Hong Kong Tourism Board announced that it had made a last-minute decision to scrap the event and instead create a special New Year’s themed version of its daily light show.
e lotto will be drawn at midnight to keep people interested in the countdown to 2020.
The decision was made after organisers of Hong Kong’s protest rallies announced that a mass demonstration would be held to mark the first day of January.
Thousands of South Koreans filled cold downtown streets in Seoul ahead of a traditional bell-tolling ceremony near City Hall to send off 2019.
Dignitaries picked to ring the old Bosingak bell at midnight included South Korean Major League Baseball pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu and Pengsoo – a giant penguin character with a gruff voice and blunt personality that emerged as one of the country’s biggest TV stars in 2019.
The annual tolling of the “peace bell” at Imjingak park near the border with North Korea was cancelled due to quarantine measures following an outbreak of African swine fever.
People flocked to temples and shrines in Japan, offering incense with their prayers to celebrate the passing of a year and the the first New Year’s of the Reiwa era.
Under Japan’s old-style calendar, linked to emperors’ rules, Reiwa started in May, after Emperor Akihito stepped down and his son Naruhito became emperor.
Although Reiwa is entering its second year with 2020, January 1 still marks Reiwa’s first New Year’s, the most important holiday in Japan.
“We have a new era and so I am hoping things will be better, although 2019 was also a good year because nothing bad happened,” said Masashi Ogami, 38, who ran a sweet rice wine stall at Zojoji Temple in Tokyo, drawing a crowd of revellers.
Other stalls sold fried noodles and candied apples, as well as little figures and amulets in the shape of mice, the zodiac animal for 2020. Since the Year of the Mouse starts off the Asian zodiac, it’s associated with starting anew.
The first year of the new decade will see Tokyo host the 2020 Olympics, an event that is creating much anticipation for the capital and the entire nation.
“Let’s pass on the traditions to our children!” cheered the notice delivered to my doorstep. The black-and-white printed flyer informed the event details: “Mochi-making. Outside the Public Hall, Dec. 8, 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.”
When I arrive at 8:25 a.m. on Sunday morning, the rice is already percolating away, threads of steam escaping from the sides of flat wooden boxes stacked three high and positioned over a small cauldron of boiling water.
The three island children are present, two of them running amok while their limp-limbed baby sister hangs from her father’s child harness. Of the 20 or so bystanders, not all are islanders. Friends and family have come over to Shiraishi Island from the mainland to join in the festivities, including a few more children, which makes a total of six under the age of 12. An army of a dozen island wives outfitted in white aprons formed the “women’s club,” on hand to shape the mochi rice cakes.
While the women crowd around a long tabletop shrouded in a thin film of rice flour, men of all ages hover around the steaming rice box contraption. When cued, two men lift the square racks from the top of the stack while another guy pulls out the bottom shelf and carries it to the waiting stone mortar.
These stone basins can be found outside of every house on our small island. With a long history of granite-mining here, our mortars are said to be of exceptional quality. So much so that brides would pack the family mortar, or usu, and take it with them when they married and left the island.
Now that the steaming cooked rice has been peeled from its mesh and transferred to the usu, four men stand poised with large wooden mallets to begin the mochi-tsuki (the pounding of rice to make rice cakes). With a grunt they start, each taking his turn to bring the hammer down to wallop the mass of rice in a sequence called yon-cho-gine (four mallets). The unbreaking rhythm of thuds was ensured by shouts of “yō, dokkoi!” Each wallop advances the glob to a stickier state while a referee on the side whisks water into the mix to prevent the mass from sticking to the wooden mallet heads.
“Do you pound mochi in your neighborhood on the mainland?” I ask some spectators. “Oh no,” one woman says. “We make it at home with a machine. It’s very convenient.”
I’ve never actually seen a mochi-making appliance but I imagine it is not quite the back-breaking proposition unfolding in front of us. After 15 minutes — and several changes of manpower to allow the mochi masons interim rests — the rice is gaining the consistency of mochi and, at this point, the referee sneaks his hands into the pure white mass to turn it over between the bone-crushing wallops.
When deemed ready, the weighty glutinous blob is carried by hand to the ladies around the table, who part it to form rice cakes so delicate they sit in the palm of your hand like a freshly laid goose egg. The mochi cakes are lined up in trays and some are sent to the public hall’s kitchen.
Another matron takes a tray to offer some of the globules to the spectators. Following close behind is another lady in a smock with a bottle of sake and communal cups for o-miki, a toast with the Shinto gods. After all, the process of making mochi is itself an offering to the gods.
Getting the kids involved
Meanwhile, the next pallet of steamed rice is taken from the bottom of the stack on the cauldron, separated from its mesh and dumped into the mortar. The hammers come down, but in time to a traditional mochi-pounding song that the participants struggle to remember. They laugh as they grapple with both strength and memory.
While the island only pounds mochi into cakes once for the new year holiday these days, in the past it was performed more frequently for all kinds of celebrations. People could be seen doing mochi-tsuki outside their houses before family celebrations such as when a child turned 1 year old and had to carry a large rice cake on their back — whether they could walk or not!
Another occasion to make the cakes is for mochi-nage, an inauguration rite when rice cakes are tossed from a new house into the crowd gathered in front of it, or from a new boat to those crowding the shore before the boat’s maiden voyage. I’m reminded of this as I stand talking to the local cargo ship captain as we reminisce about the mochi-nage ceremony for his own boat more than 20 years ago.
“It’s said that it’s good luck to have pregnant women attend the ceremony for a boat,” he tells me. It turns out that mochi is believed to help with milk production in lactating women and the cakes are also eaten by women after giving birth to help restore their health.
“Were there any pregnant women at your event?” I ask him.
“I don’t remember,” he replies with a loud and hearty laugh.
The junior high school kids are now attempting yon-cho-gine. Bereft of even the slightest refrain of a mochi song and too shy to grunt, theirs is a quiet affair as the mallet heads gently poof into the rice pillow. When the cake finally reaches its globby glutinous stage, an aproned woman appears from the kitchen carrying a basket of mugwort, known to be rich in calcium and iron, and tosses it into the mix. Gradually, the strands disappear into the glob, dying it a vivid green for o-mogi rice cakes.
With the transfer of the meanie greenie to the table, and the last pallet of hot steamed rice thrown into the usu, one of the elders, Tadashi Amano, takes the chance to teach his 7-year-old grandson, Minato, how to hold the mallet. As the child taps the rice with the head, the womens’ club distributes the special New Year’s holiday treat o-zōni: A hot vegetable broth with a rice cake submerged and semi-melted inside. O-zōni is a delectable, one-of-a-kind texture that can warm the heart on a cold winter’s day.
While nibbling away on a mochi rice cake, I can’t help but think this is a fitting way to welcome in 2020, the Year of the Rat.
Amy Chavez is the author of “Amy’s Guide to Best Behavior in Japan: Do it Right and Be Polite!” (Stone Bridge Press).
The long shadow of the Citizenship Amendment Act failed to dampen the Yuletide spirit in Christian-dominated Nagaland. Christians, irrespective of denominations, celebrated the festival across the state with religious fervour and held special mass and feast.
After the midnight mass which was preceded by singing of carols, believers attired in new colorful dresses were seen attending special prayer services in various churches across the Christian majority state. This was followed by mass feasts as in other years. K Elu Ndang, general secretary of Naga Hoho, the apex body of tribal organizations in the state, said We condemn the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Bill which is posing a grave danger to the indigenous people of the region.
We feel insecure with enactment of the CAA but it has nothing to do with Christmas,” he said. Christmas is a relationship between Christ and believers. Therefore the passing of the CAA despite rigorous protests did not create much difference in the celebration in Nagaland, Ndang said.
Joshua Newmai, a member of the Nagaland chapter of North East Indigenous Peoples Forum said the people are against the CAA. “But it is a festival break and protests against CAA will resume after Christmas and New Year celebrations”. Protests against the CAA had rocked Nagaland on December 14 and a six-hour shutdown was called by Naga Students Federation.
Thailand’s Ministry of Culture on Monday announced that its committee responsible in promoting and conserving cultural heritage has resolved to nominate Songkran Festival to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO)’s Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. This festival has been observed in Assam and Arunachal Pradesh in India too for centuries.
The committee would subsmit the proposal to the cabinet for approval within next February and send it to UNESCO within the following month, said Thai Culture Minister Itthiphol Kunplome on Monday.
It should enter the listing process of UNESCO in 2022 at the soonest, the minister said.
Itthiphol said that Tom Yum Kung or Thailand’s spicy prawn soup would be nominated next.
He also said that UNESCO will consider Thailand’s nomination of “Nora, Dance Drama in Southern Thailand” as intangible cultural heritage in 2021.
Nora is a form of dance-drama performed mainly in the southernmost provinces of Thailand and the northern parts of Malaysia.
This month, UNESCO had already included Thailand’s “Nuad Thai,” traditional Thai massage in the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.
And because of this, the Tourism Authority of Thailand and the culture ministry will organize special events to promote “Nuad Thai” from this month to next August, the minister said.
Sangken celebration is commended with intensity and energy in the Tai Khamptis, Singphoos and Tangsas Tikhaks possessed locale. It denotes the approach of the New Year and is commended in April. A celebration or affair is an occasion, normally and usually organized by a neighborhood group, which fixates on and commends some exceptional part of that group or a celebration.
A powerful first feature from Polish actor-turned-director Ewa Bukowska, 53 Wars charts the mental and emotional breakdown of a young Polish mother married to a thrill-seeking war reporter. Based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Grazyna Jagielska, this compact psychological thriller is chiefly an impressive showcase for its star Magdalena Poplawska, whose pent-up intensity dominates almost every scene.Ewa attended Guwahati International Film Festival in November 2019 and expressed her views and feelings to young journalist Bhavyashree Chivukuladuring an extensive interview
53 Wars is psychological a thriller of first-time director Ewa Bukowska’s and it’s about the post-traumatic breakdown of a woman triggered by her husband’s dangerous job.
A feature debut of the actor turned director Ewa Bukwoska, 53 wars (Poland) is a movie based on the traumatic struggle of the unvoiced victims of war. In an attempt to explain the nuances of emotional turmoil within the wife cum mother (Anna) whose journalist husband is often away in potentially dangerous war zones, the director has managed to depict the string of damaging mental health experiences in the woman. The psychological suspense thriller driven by the intense performance in the lead Anna (Magdalena Poplawska) was gripping to watch in every scene. While the movie has showcased different shades of sentiment from agony, and passion, the repressed emotions of constant anxiety for the uncertain news pave the way to destruction of the normalcy in Anna’s mind in turn impacting her life. The film also deals with the complexity of gender biased professional roles yet is an effortless watch with startling revelations at unexpected intervals.
In a visit to Guwahati International Film Festival (Giff) both the actor and director of the movie, Poplawska and Ewa discussed fragments of their experiences in India.
“The roots of Indian culture are very deep. The religious beliefs to the Indian society are a treasure and it is interesting to experience the depth of it,” says Ewa. On being asked about their perspective on Indian cinema, Ewa says.
“Recently, I watched a popular TV show on Netflix, “Delhi Crime” and that was a powerful series explaining the stigma and oppression towards a woman as well as the scenario attached to it.” “However, these problems are everywhere and it is not confined to one country. The intensity of the problems being faced by women is different in different places, so this is common to all of us. We watched two social issue centric movies, an Iranian and Spanish. The former showcased women’s problems on a different note but it was an eye opener too. The culture may be versatile but the issues are global and everywhere.” adds Poplawska.
“I am someone who believes in working on things which are natural to me not artificial. Every place, person or situation is a source and if it is original and makes me feel connected, I feel I found my story. There is a source in India; there is a source in Israel as well so it all is important to my soul and creativity. It flourishes with experiences” says the 8 times nominated movie maker Ewa. “The culture of India is so different and fascinating to me that the urge to understand it is more” adds Ewa.
On their weeklong day visit to Giff the 53 year old polish actor turned director was accompanied by panellists Roma Zachemba, Heiki Kujanpa, Noor Imran Mithu for an interaction on the Topic “Impact of Film Festivals in Propagating Film Culture”, where she expresses how the equilibrium of storytelling and direction for men and women should be alike without discrepancy. She feels that the movie should be watched for the content not the gender that qualifies it and it should be content driven and not gender driven. Accompanied by the 39 year old polish actress Magdalena Poplawska who is a 3 time jury choice award and best supporting actress, both the women have been able to establish the subtle connotations in the movie by dedication which intensifies the movie 53 wars.
“This has been our second time in India and is totally different. The first time we came to India was in the Goa International Film Festival, and we felt more touristic, and here it seems more sophisticated. We saw a few Indian art movies and were surprised – the art movies were great. Also it is good to see the youth being engaged in art house movies. The culture in Europe and India are vastly different,” says Ewa.
“In this kind of International film festivals, it is important to invite global art movies because commercial cinema will survive but art movies which are delicate do not seem to receive enough audience, and as art filmmakers we need to care about that. I watched a movie last night that had a great sense of humour and it is was the speciality of that movie. I hope we get to watch more,” says Poplawska on her feelings of the common dynamic behind global cinema.
“It was during the opening of Giff that someone mentioned that films have an immense and deep influence on us. This is beyond the border so it is never too much,” concludes Poplawska on being asked what kind of cinema she would look forward to watch. The polish actress Magdalena Poplawska has won three awards including two as best actress in the “New Classic Cinema Film Festival” and the “Polish Film Festival” and a nomination for the movie Between Two Fires (2012). The polish actress turned director has been nominated 8 times and was awarded the youth jury award for the “Koszalin Film Debut Festival Young and Film” which is the oldest and the largest young cinema festival in Poland. (First appeared in the Hills Times)
In a move that could upset China, the US Ambassador to India on Monday inaugurated the Tawang Festival in Arunachal Pradesh, becoming the second US envoy to visit the festival held in an area China claims to be part of South Tibet
US Ambassador to India Kenneth Ian Juster on Monday inaugurated the four-day Tawang Festival in Arunachal Pradesh, chief minister Pema Khandu tweeted.
He became the second US envoy to visit the festival held in an area China claims to be part of South Tibet.
Ambassador Juster thanked the people for the exceptional hospitality and added that he was mesmerized by the people of the area, their dresses and traditions.
The Tawang Festival is an annual event, which is in its seventh edition this year, and showcases the state’s rich cultural tradition and adventure potential in order to boost tourism.
In 2016, the then US Ambassador to India Richard Rahul Verma had visited the same festival leading Beijing to oppose the trip while New Delhi termed it as routine.
At the inauguration, Juster informed the gathering about US funding in the health sector in Arunachal Pradesh that have helped modernize hospitals and health facility centres in Namsai and Pasighat.
In his address, Chief Minister Pema Khandu stated that Arunachal Pradesh was fortunate to have hosted two US Ambassadors within a span of three years.
Khandu, who was also the chief minister when Verma visited in 2016, sought support of the US embassy to attract investment to Arunachal Pradesh in tourism, agriculture, horticulture and hydropower sectors.
The CM informed about the work the Defence POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), a US agency which traces details of nearly 79,000 US soldiers, who served in the Second world War and were unaccounted for, was doing in the Northeastern state.
“Until now 20 aircraft have been identified and remains and personal belongings of five martyrs have been recovered and sent to families. A Hump museum is under construction and scheduled for inauguration in March 2020,” said Khandu.
The Hump, named by Allied pilots during the WWII, comprises parts of Arunachal Pradesh, Tibet and Myanmar, where nearly 650 aircrafts crashed during that war due to difficult flying conditions. Eighty one aircraft went missing in the region at that time.
Khandu also said that in the past three years only 336 US tourists visited Arunachal Pradesh and sought the embassy’s help to increase it 10 fold in the next two years.
Union minister for sports and youth affairs Kiren Rijiju, who is a Lok Sabha member from the state, lauded the Arunachal Pradesh government for successfully hosting the festival over the past years.
Imphal : Locals of Imphal thronged the markets ahead of the festival of Ningol Chakouba celebrated by people of Manipur. On this festival, married daughters are invited to parental house for a grand feast. The word ‘Ningol’ means daughter and ‘Chakouba’ means feast. The festival reinforces the bond that exists between siblings and parents. The Ningol Chakouba Festival is celebrated on the second day of the New Moon in the Manipuri month of Hiyangei which is November.
Manipur is a land of merriment, fun and caper which goes on throughout the year. Manipur is always bustling with the series of numerous festivals. The festivals of Manipur project their cultural, social and religious ambitions. The Ningol Chakouba Festival is a very popular social festival of the Meiteis or the Vaishnavites where the married women (Ningol) are invited (Chakouba) to their parent’s house.
The Ningol Chakouba Festival is an outstanding social festival of the Meiteis, when the married women of the family, who were married off to distant places, come to their parental house along with their children and is served with a lavish and extensive meal to enjoy. This festival is a form of a family get-together in order to revive the family affection. In the present times this festival is observed by the Pangals or the Manipuri Muslims to some extent.
Rishikesh International Pyramid Meditation Centre celebrated Buddha Purnima with a cultural festival at Rishikesh-Badrinath and Kedarnath, and they invited Srivari Padalu Dance Academy based out of West Marredpally, Secunderabad to perform for the event. Rishikesh International Pyramid Meditation Centre celebrated Buddha Purnima with a cultural festival at Rishikesh-Badrinath and Kedarnath, and they invited Srivari Padalu Dance Academy based out of West Marredpally, Secunderabad to perform for the event. The team from the academy started their journey to perform amidst the sacred Himalayas on May 12 towards Rishikesh and reached there the next day. The Beautiful Ganga Harathi at the Triveni Sangamam was followed by the dance performance, which was viewed by lakhs of pilgrims there. Also Read – Man held for sexually assaulting minor girl in Hyderabad Advertise With Us They started with ‘Pushpanjali’, a salutation to the lord of dance Nataraja, the Guru, the musicians and the audience. ‘Pushpanjali’ in Amruthavarshini ragam, Adi talam, was sung by TV Srinivas, and was composed by Bangalore T Srinivas. The dance was choreographed by Rama Devi Nalla. The second performance was ‘Maha Ganesha Pancharatnam’ which is a sloka, composed by Adi Sankara in the 8th Century. It is addressing Lord Ganesha, who is also known as the destroyer of obstacles. ‘Maha Ganesha Pancharatnam’ was presented in Ragmalika ragam, Adi talam. Also Read – Hyderabad police arrest five for looting commuters Advertise With Us This was followed by ‘Jathiswaram’, a pure dance presentation, devoid of any abhinaya (emotions), in which, intricate sequences are fused with repetitive musical notes. The dance deals with the execution of adavus (basic steps) and mudras (hand gestures). The piece was presented in Saveri ragam, Adi talam. The last piece for the day was ‘Sree Mahisasura Mardhini Stotram’- a popular devotional stotra of Goddess Durga written by Guru Adi Sankaracharya. Advertise With Us On 14 May, the group started off to Badrinath Temple, which was a difficult ghat road journey of 13 hours. The temperature was -2 to -8 degrees. The strenuous journey was followed by a performance (on May 15) in the presence of lakhs of pilgrims. It was like Lord Shiva gave them the energy to perform in that cooled. “During the performance we did not experience the extreme cold climate, but immediately after the program was finished, we started to shiver and felt the energy given to us for the performance by the Great Lord Shiva present there. The temple CEO then presented us the mementos and the Badrinath prasad. He then personally took us all for the special darshans of the Lord. The extraordinary feeling, we got by performing in the sacred place will remain special in our lives,” says Rama Devi. At Badrinath Temple they performed ‘Shiva Thandavam’. It is described as a vigorous dance that is the source of the cycle of creation, preservation and dissolution. While the Rudra Tandava depicts his violent nature, first as the creator and later as the destroyer of the universe, even of death itself; the Ananda Tandava depicts him enjoying. In Shaiva Siddhanta tradition, Shiva as Nataraja is considered the supreme lord of dance. Ramadevi’s students Simritha, Aakruthi and Kaavya Sri performed the dance. On May 16 the group was scheduled to perform at Kedarnath, but extreme colk climate prevented them. However, it was a great experience shares Rama Devi, “The three programs were organised by Pyramid Yoga & Dance Academy – PYDA International, Vishakhapatnam CEO Padma garu, and we are very thankful to her for giving us this wonderful opportunity.”
Communities in the Himalayan region prepare an intoxicant as part of their prayer ritual
For the Himalayan folk, their drinking sessions are as important as their daily prayers. This spirited ritual always begins by offering a few drops of their drink to their Gods and ancestors.
A lot of precision and patience, care and a keen sense of timing go into the preparation of their blends. It takes several months of drying, smoking, fermenting and filtering before it is poured into a bamboo shoot, sipped with a bamboo pipe or into a simple glass to be consumed. Served at room temperature, these brews leave behind sweet, malty and spicy memories on the palate.
Every community in the Himalayan region has its own unique intoxicant, a concoction made from fermented rice, barley or millet, sometimes mixed with herbs and sometimes not. The Adis of Arunachal Pradesh relish their Apong, a local rice beer with different flavours. The Chang, ‘hot beer’ made by fermenting millet, using yeast is Sikkim’s heartbeat.
‘Soor’, the most celebrated elixir, overflows at every communal gathering of the Jaunsaris and the Parvatis of the Tons Valley in Uttarakhand. It is made from keem, a cake prepared from the roots, leaves and flowers of the local florae combined with fruit pulp, barley or finger millets and kept aside to ferment after which the distilled ‘soor’ is collected in a pot. For the Himachali, it is ‘Lugdi,’ a very crude local beer that is made from sour barley or rice. The sweet-sour frothy beer ‘Chhang’ presides over every function in Ladakh and is famous among the people of Sikkim too.
Dried wild apricots and apples are used in the transparent ‘Chulli,’ very popular among the Kinnauris. The enophiles of the Ribbu region of Kinnaur adore their ‘Anguri’ a potent wine made from red and green grapes.
Araq is a favourite among the simple mountain people of the Spithi Valley. The boiled rice or barley, stored in huge containers for many months is mixed with water. After another month, some of this Chang is taken in a big vessel inside which another vessel is placed to collect the araq through a process of condensation. It is covered with yet another hollow vessel, which is filled with chunks of ice and kept over a low flame for nearly three hours.
The alcoholic beverages of the Himalaya have medicinal properties as well. Besides keeping the body warm, they are a great cure for cold related ailments and fever.