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Asian-Australian Children's Literature and Publishing
An Australian Children's Literature Project
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  • Festivals of Asia

    Due to its rich diversity of cultures and traditions, the Asian region celebrates a vast number of festivals each year. Many of the texts in the Asian-Australian Children's Literature and Publishing (AACLAP) subset make reference to such festivals. These festivals have historical, religious, symbolic and/or local significance.

    Some festivals, such as the Chinese New Year and Dragon Boat Races are celebrated throughout the continent (and, increasingly, around the world) while others are particular to one country or one region within a country. The array of customs and rituals associated with the festivals is enormous and range from Songkran which is the Thai New Year, through Hari Raya Aidilfitri which celebrates the end of Ramadan in Malaysia to Thaipusum, a Hindi festival observed by members of the Tamil community. In Japan many different matsuri (festivals or holidays) are conducted to honour local shrines or temples.

    While many of the traditions associated with various festivals are still observed changes are also occurring: people watch the festivals on television rather than participate in person, young people celebrate with their friends rather than their families and the use of firecrackers has declined due to the risks involved.

    The resources listed here (most of which are from the Asian-Australian Children's Literature and Publishing (AACLAP) subset) only cover a small sample of the festivals of Asia. However, a quick search of online resources will reveal an amazing variety of festivals held each year throughout the Asian region.

  • The Race for the Chinese Zodiac / Gabrielle Wang / Sally Rippin / Regine Abos

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    'The Jade Emperor has declared a great race: the first animals to cross the river will win a place in the Chinese Zodiac. Thirteen animals line up along the shore, but there are only twelve places to be won. Who will miss out?' (Source: Trove) (...more)
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    The Chinese Zodiac is closely related to the Chinese New Year celebrations. There are many different versions of how the Chinese Zodiac came into being and why particular animals were chosen but all centre on a race staged by the Emperor to determine which animals would feature on the Zodiac. According to legend the cunning rat climbed on ​the ox's back and crossed the line first followed by (in order) the Ox (or Cow), Tiger, Rabbit (Cat), Dragon, Snake, Horse, Ram (Goat, Sheep), Monkey, Rooster (Chicken), Dog and Pig (Boar). This book tells the tale of this race creating extra interest by having thirteen contestants.

  • In the Year of the Tiger / Selina Duke / Stanley Wong

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    'This Chinese folk tale traces the cycles of village life through the rich community celebration of the Lion Dance performed during the Spring Festival. Chiu Wing and his neighbours eagerly await the festival each year.' (Source: Google Books) (...more)
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    The Chinese New Year is also known as the Spring Festival. One of the customs of the Spring Festival is the Lion Dance. People often mistake this dance with the Dragon Dance. The 'Lions' are usually operated by only two people who are hidden from view within the lion costume whereas in a Dragon Dance many people are required to manipulate the dragon costume. This is usually done using poles. The Lion Dance is an exciting part of the Spring Festival parades.

  • Big Dog / Libby Gleeson / Armin Greder

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    The big dog down the street is very frightening until some children in a Chinese lion costume accidentally confront it and find that it is really quite friendly. (...more)
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    The Lion Dance is performed in various parts of China to scare away evil spirits. Lion Dances are also traditionally performed in Japan, Taiwan, and Korea. In this story the wearers of the lion costume are able to overcome their fear of a big dog that lives in their street.

  • Xiao-Mei Celebrates New Year / Peter Barker

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    'Chinese people regard New Year as the most important festival of the year. Xiao-mei and her mother are preparing for the festival of the New Year. As part of their preparations they go shopping to Little Bourke Street. One of the highlights of the festival for Xiao-mei is letting off firecrackers. After the New Year festivities are over Xiao-mei writes to her grandparents telling them all about it.' (Source: Back cover) (...more)
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    Chinese New Year is now celebrated throughout the world, particularly in regions that have a significant Chinese population. This book follows Xiao-mei and her mother as they prepare for Chinese New Year celebrations in Melbourne, Australia.

  • Fang Fang's Chinese New Year / Sally Rippin

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    Fang Fang's fears that her friend Lisa won't enjoy the Chinese New Year celebrations are put to rest as Lisa has a wonderful time tasting the different foods and watching the Dragon Dance. (...more)
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    Chinese New Year is a festival which is now celebrated all around the world; ranging from private family gatherings to spectatcular parades through the streets of some of the major cities of the world. This book recounts the events from the perspective of a small Australian girl of Chinese heritage who fears her friend Lisa may not enjoy the festivities. Fang Fang's fears prove groundless, however, as Lisa loves both the food and the Dragon Dance.

  • City of Sydney Chinese New Year Twilight Parade

    The annual Sydney Chinese New Year Twilight Parade was held on Sunday 2 February 2014. It was a night of floats, lanterns and dances. Sydney's George Street buildings were illuminated by beautiful projections and followed by a spectacular fireworks display in Darling Harbour.

  • Australian Government - Chinese New Year

    This website from the Australian Government provides a lot of information on Chinese New Year, particularly on how the celebrations are conducted in Australia.

  • Moon Festival (Tet Trung Thu) Le Quang Vihn

    This dual (English & Vietnamese) language text recounts the story of the Moon Festival. Cuoi, a Vietnamese boy, lives with his aunt and uncle until they tire of his tricks and attempt to throw him in the river. He escapes and lives in the bush where he learns to survive for many years. He is guided by a spirit to return to his village and use the healing powers of the Banyan tree to cure people. The spirit warns that if ever the tree should fly away Cuoi should take hold of the roots and go with it as he will have the opportunity to meet a beautiful woman. (...more)
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    This is one of a number of available folktales which explains the origins of the Moon Festival which is an important festival celebrated in China and Vietnam among other Asian countries and cultures. This particular folktale explains the significance of the lanterns that are an essential part of the Festival.

  • Chu Cuoi's Magic Tree / Judy Gillett

    This play is based on a Vietnamese tale which explains how the man in the moon got there. When a tiger unknowingly leads Chu Cuoi to a tree with magic leaves he thinks he might be able to make some money from them. When the Emperor's daughter falls ill Chu Cuoi cures her with the leaves and is thus granted her hand in marriage. However, when the Princess digs in the soil around the magic tree it has unexpected consequences. (Source: Book)
    (...more)
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    This is another Vietnamese version of the origins of the Moon Festival. Readers will note that while there are a number of common features to the tales there are also a number of differences. This is the nature of folktales particularly as they were originally oral tales and were often added to or adapted to suit the purposes of the teller or to appeal to a particular audience.

  • The Puppet Theatre that Walked: A play Based on a Chinese Custom / Betty & Joan Rayner

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    This play tells the story of a young Chinese couple, Chang and his wife. It is the day of the Moon Festival and Chang shows his wife the Puppet Theatre that he has made to take to the village that night for the festivities. Chang then goes to help his neighbour winnow rice and his wife dresses for the Moon Festival in her wedding dress and a family headdress that is quite valuable. A slave-trader comes to the house and abducts her. She calls to her husband but he only sees them disappearing on a horse. (...more)
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    Based on a folktale, the focus of this tale is on how Chang is able to trick the slave trader and thus, save his wife. However, the action is built around preparations for the Moon Festival celebrations and provides readers with an insight into how that festival is (or used to be) celebrated in rural China.

  • The Eid Moon and Other Stories / Jane Naqvi

    This book centres on an Australian girl, Zehra, whose father was born in India. Each year the family celebrate Eid-ul-Fitre (or Eid); a celebration to mark the end of Ramadan which is a period of fasting. Zehra's family celebrate Eid in Australia but one year they go to India to share in the festivities with her Dad's family. Zehra likens Eid to Christmas as there are cards, presents, money and lots of eating. Zahra explains the differences between her cousin's wedding in Hobart and another cousin's wedding in India. (...more)
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    This book, by recounting the similarities and differences between particular customs and festivities as they are celebrated in Australia and India, contributes to the development of intercultural undertandings within each of these countries.

  • The Scorpion Garden / Jane Naqvi

    This book centres on an Australian boy, Kamal, whose father is from the northern Indian village of Amroha. The family go to Amroha on holidays and Kamal learns about a number of traditions and traditional tales. The family goes to a dargah (graveyard) to offer sweets and prayers. This particular dargah is infested with scorpions but they do not sting. Kamal tells his friends back home the tale of The Scorpion Garden which explains why this is so. Another story in the book, Moharram, describes a procession in which Kamal participated to commemorate the death of Mohammed's grandson Hussain in a battle long ago. (...more)
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    In a similar manner to The Eid Moon and Other Stories, The Scorpion Garden describes various customs and beliefs followed by Muslims of northern India.

  • When the Dragon Wakes / Christine Harris

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    A young boy, Tan Yali, lives with his mother and grandfather. His grandmother has recently died. Tan Yali is looking forward to celebrating the Spring Dragon Day however his grandmother has twice appeared to him in a dream to tell him that she is not at peace. In order to help his grandmother the boy and his grandfather visit the grave in an attempt to ease her discomfort. (Source: Book)
    (...more)
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    The festival to which Tan Yali is looking forward is the Spring Dragon Festival which is celebrated on the second day of the second lunar month of the Chinese calendar when the dragon in charge of rain lifts its head. (In other words the monsoon rains that are so vital for the crops arrive around this time.)This book may be challenging for some readers but it does illustrate the importance of the departed or ancestors to Chinese cultural groups, particularly at festival times.

  • My Village (Lang toi) / Le Thao / Le Than Nohn

    This text provides simple but lyrical descriptions of village life in Vietnam. It also follows the seasons and recounts some of the activities associated with particular seasons. (Source: Book)
    (...more)
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    As suggested in the general abstract at the beginning of this Exhibition, festivals in Asia, as indeed is the case all over the world, range from small localised affairs to nation-wide events. This text chronicles an example of the former which are just as significant for the participants (more so in some cases) than the major events.

  • Come to the Party! Celebrate Chinese Festivals / Suzanne Lauridsen / Sally Heinrich

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    'Join Max and his Chinese friend, Ping, as they celebrate the Lunar New Year, the Dragon-Boat or Dumpling Festival and more. Find out the significance of various Chinese customs and practices. Have fun making Chinese red packets and lanterns!' (Source: publisher's website).
    (...more)
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    Max helps his friend Ping celebrate some Chinese festivals. The first festival of note is Chinese New Year. As is the custom in many other countries, it is important to the Chinese people to thoroughly clean their house for the coming year. At the reunion dinner everyone wears new clothes and the children are given red paper packets with money inside. The Lion Dance is an important part of the festival too. The Festival of the Hungry Ghost is celebrated in the seventh month.The Mid-Autumn (or Lantern or Mooncake) Festival is celebrated after the farmers have harvested their crops. There is lots of food in store and everyone carries a lantern in the parade.

  • Come to the Party! Malay Muslim Festivals / Suzanne Lauridsen / Sally Heinrich

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    'Join Max and his Malay friend, Ahmad, as they celebrate Hari Raya Eidil Fitri and observe the sacrifices of Hari Raya Eidil Adha. Discover the layout of the mosque and the significance of the traditional greeting with a salam' (Source: publisher's website). (...more)
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    Ahmad takes his friend Max on a journey of discovery to learn all about how Ahmad and his family celebrate the festival of Hari Raya Eidil Fitri (or Hari Raya Puasa as some people call it). This festival celebrates the end of Ramadan which is a period of fasting. The house is cleaned, a feast is prepared and families come together. The children also receive green paper packets which contain money​. Max has fun learning about the different Muslim festivals that are celebrated but Ahmad and he enjoys sampling all the food too.

  • Come to the Party! Celebrate Indian Hindu Festivals / Suzanne Lauridsen / Sally Heinrich

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    'Join Max and his Indian friend, Rani, as they celebrate the Festival of Lights, Deepavali, and observe the rituals of Thaipusam. Have fun with the Indian musical instruments and the colourful rangoli' (Source: publisher's website). (...more)
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    In this book Rani, who is of the Hindu faith, takes Max on a tour of some inportant Hindu festivals. Some of the festival rituals shock Max. For example, during Thaipusam the men pierce their bodies with sharp hooks and needles as acts of faith. The festival of Thimithi is celebrated by running barefoot through a pit of coals. Deepavali Hindu people decorate their houses with rows of lights. The lights symbolise the win of good over evil and welcome Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, into their homes.

  • Created by Cherie Allan

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