Written by Meira Lee and Allison Lunandy
Shougatsu (Japanese New Year)
Shougatsu is an annual tradition made by the Japanese to celebrate the end of the year. It is not a one-day celebration like most New Year traditions, Shougatsu is celebrated for three days, starting from December 31st to January 2nd. This holiday is one of the most important events in Japan; all schools, businesses, and establishments are closed for all of Shougatsu. Families and friends gather to celebrate and children are gifted Otoshidama (envelopes of money). On the first two days of Shougatsu, the people follow the Hatsumoude tradition of going to a local temple or shrine to pray for a prosperous new year. On the final day of Shougatsu, the Japanese emperor gives a speech, then allowing the public into the imperial palace.
Lunar New Year
Lunar New Year, also known as Chinese New Year, is a holiday not only celebrated in China but all over Asia. This holiday is celebrated on the Lunar calendar’s first moon day. This year, Lunar New Year is on February 12th, 2021. There are many traditions celebrated differently throughout the continent, however, some common traditions are family gatherings, giving red envelopes, fireworks, and praying. Food is an important part of Asian New Year tradition, and certain kinds of food can represent positive values for the new year. For example, fish represents abundance, sticky rice cakes represent family unity and long noodles represent a smooth year. According to the Chinese Zodiac Calendar, this upcoming year is the Year of the Ox! Those born in the years 1949, 1961, 1973, 1985, 1997, 2009, and 2021, are a part of the Year of the Ox.
Christmas is a holiday celebrated all over globe, even in Asia! This holiday is celebrated every year on December 25th. Asia is home to a great diversity of cultures, including religions such as Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Shinto, Sikhism, and Taoism. However, this doesn’t stop Christmas to be celebrated all throughout Asia. For example in the Philippines, Christmas is celebrated from the 16th of December all through the first Sunday in January. Philipinos also usually go to early masses before Chrimsas called, “Misa de Gallo” or “Simbang Gabi”. A Christmas tradition in the Philippines is the making of a “parol” which is a Christmas star made out of bamboo strips and colored Japanese paper, which represents the star that guided the Three Wise Men. In Japan, there is a tradition to eat KFC on Christmas day. It was inspired by the tradition of eating turkey on Thanksgiving in the west. KFC’s Christmas slogan in japan is, “kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” which means, “Kentucky for Christmas!”
Thaipusam is a temple festival celebrated by Hindus of Tamil descent all over Southeast Asia and India. This festival takes place on the night of the full moon in the 10th month in the Hindu calendar, which usually falls in either January or February. Thaipusam celebrates Lord Murugan, who is the Tamil god of war. Devotees of this festival and Lord Murugan celebrate Thaipusam by piercing themselves with swords or hooks, while also carrying kavadis. In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, many celebrators of Thaipusam watch as skewered devotees walk and climb up 272 steps in the Batu Caves to show their dedication and devotion to Lord Murugan.
Written by Kevin Nguyen and Minhanh Nguyen
During his speech for the student Republican group, Turning Point Action, Trump refers to the novel coronavirus as “kung flu,” while going on to say “some people call it the Chinese flu, the China flu, they call it the China.” The racist name for the Wuhan-originated virus, which has killed over 200,000 Americans, received elicited laughter and wild cheers from the young crowd. Since the pandemic began, thousands of Asians in the United State have become targets of harassment and assault. A poll found that three in 10 Americans blamed China or Chinese people for the virus. This harkens back to decades of state-sanctioned discrimination, such as when Japanese Americans were forced to relocate and be incarcerated in concentration camps during World War II. Recently, Danny Satow was walking home one day, when a heavy object slammed into her chest. A car drove past and a voice yelled a racial slur against Chinese people. Although it stung, she kept walking, but she broke into tears before she got to the end of the street. Human beings are social creatures; we, as a whole, have a constant desire for affection, acknowledgement, and a sense of belonging. Often, we face the conscious decision of whether to continue being an outcast or try to feel accepted by society and people around them by changing the qualities that set us apart. Ostracism, exclusion from a society or group, on Asian-Americans has and will threaten individuals’ physical and psychological well-being.
Within the 21st century, the issue of ostracism has grown to become a widely researched topic. Notably, humans are recognized to possess the desire to feel the sense of belonging or an acknowledgement for the things we do and people that we are. As cultural diversity heightens within the ongoing era, it is difficult to say that cultural acceptance has advanced alongside it. Despite the fact that the North American region occupies the largest immigrant population and is often recognized to be a “melting pot,” many of those who hold cultural differences to what may be denoted as the standard, face the feeling of being ostracized. Whether involving police brutality, social slander, or blatant racism, many minorities have experienced hostility as a result of what they represent or who they are. The issue of ostracism has been present for an innumerable period of time, but with the ever changing societal standards and the increased influence of social media, the prevalence of this issue continues to escalate.
To say that ostracism has had a very minimal impact on Asian-Americans is an understatement. Everyday, we are constantly faced with racist comments and told that “This isn’t racist.” Even if it was told in a jokingly manner, it still stings to have the stereotype repeated everywhere you go. Studies have shown that ostracized people are less helpful and more aggressive to others, and long-term effects include alienation, depression, helplessness, and feelings of unworthiness. For parents, it is especially hard to shield their kids from this, as it can affect their youth. It is important to include all Asian identities because it is in these times, where the US is in a crisis, that racism reaches its highest point. If you look back in history, most of the major events/conflicts had some connection with racism. The 9-11 attacks by Islamic extremist grips on the Twin Towers in New York led to discrimination against Muslims, even though most aren’t associated with the group. The Chinese Exclusion Act prevented Chinese people from immigrating to the US. The American Civil War was a direct consequence of African slavery and discrimination. Asian-Americans have brought creativity and benefits to the economy, though they are the scapegoat for a virus that has little to no connection to them. Aren’t breaking the ideals of democracy and freedom a price high enough to continue excluding them from society?
It is quintessential in this day and age to focalize upon the risks that ostracism poses. Growing up as an Asian-American is as though to have two separate identities, the vying desperation to recognize a source of cultural representation is met empty handed. Trying to find a sense of cultural individuality is often retaliated by those who have fully accepted the “American” way of things. It is on a daily basis that first generation Asian-Americans have to face the reality that the world does not care for them; it is the feeling as though what we do can never be as significant as our counterparts. And especially as a result of this global pandemic, the fear of standing out is more so prominent. The media often broadcasts hate crimes initiated as a result of cultural prejudice; within the past year, cases of stabbings targeting Asian-Americans and varying reports of anti-asian assaults have skyrocketed. These implications have forced the NYPD to considerably recognize the necessity to establish a Asian Hate Crime Task Force. As a result of the global pandemic, many individuals have taken it upon themselves to single out Asians and punish them for a disease that they have no control over; and although people of color are exposed to ostracism, Asians are intensively targeted by essentially all races. The escalating issue of ostracism will only continue to affect the livelihood of a population of people who have already experienced social isolation during the entirety of their presence within the United States.
Written by Alvin Abraham
When you look at modern day cinema today, it seems that every film that is successful in the United States is a part of Hollywood. Hollywood has undergone some changes since its initial movies in 1910, but over time it has become a staple of western culture and the epicenter of big film production. But elsewhere, on the eastern side of the world, lies a different but similar genre- Bollywood. Bollywood is an Indian film Industry that is based in Mumbai and makes almost exclusively Indian films. At first glance, Bollywood may seem like a rip off of its Western counterpart. But there are some distinct differences in the integration of music, the actors chosen to play the roles of the films, and the target audience of these two worlds.
Bollywood is something that is shown to have a lot of differences in production in comparison to Hollywood films. For example, while typically only musicals have multiple songs playing throughout the movie in Hollywood, The Bollywood Industry has almost every one of its movies have at least 4-5 songs that are played throughout the movie. Similar to musicals, these songs often reflect a key point in the movie, and it could show things like the change of heart a character has in a film. These songs are usually used as a means to integrate the Indian music Industry into Bollywood, as each movie also comes with CD’s with a soundtrack of the movie for a separate purchase. The films produced are also typically 3 hours in length, compared to Hollywood’s 2 hour runtime. This is due to the frequent number of songs and the slower pace that Bollywood movies tend to take.
Bollywood also has a particular format in which movies are made for actors. While in Hollywood a film can be successful without A-list actors, Bollywood movies make this act near impossible. This is due to the way that Indians decide on what film they want to watch. While we would typically watch whatever movie has a more interesting plot or story, The film’s audience mainly looks at the actors that are in the film. Almost every successful film in Bollywood has some of the best Indian actors, which include Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika, Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachan, Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Prianka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor, etc.
The main reason the Bollywood film industry is formatted like this is due to the different audience. Bollywood’s main audience is India and South Asia, and they consume cinema a lot different than we do. Hollywood usually has film critics and ratings to say if a film was particularly good, but Bollywood relies a lot more on word of mouth reviews. While the film typically has trailers and there are some sites that have Bollywood ratings, knowing if a film is good in India usually relies on the actors that are in the movie and the previous experience people had watching the movie. This leads to some of the tendencies that Bollywood makes, and it's what helps to separate the Industry from its American counterpart.
While the Bollywood film industry looks a little strange and foreign to us, there are some very good movies that have come from the industry. My favorite movie of all time, “3 Idiots”, is a Bollywood movie due to the difference in emotions I felt when watching that movie that I have never felt with other Hollywood films. I greatly recommend watching a Bollywood movie for any avid movie goer, if only to get the different experience. And when you come, be sure to bring some of the popcorn from America, because the ones in India just need a little more butter.
For the 2020-21 season, REACH will be releasing a new blog post written by our officers during the first and third Wednesdays of each month about different aspects of Asian culture, such as pop culture, conflicts faced, representation in media, history, celebration and holidays, and stereotypes. We hope you enjoy reading them!