Baloo's Bugle

January 2008 Cub Scout Roundtable Issue

Volume 14, Issue 6
February 2008 Theme

Theme: Chinese New Year
Webelos: Scholar & Engineer
Tiger Cub
Requirement 4


Brenda, Last Frontier Council

Chinese New Year starts with the New Moon on the first day of the new year and ends on the full moon 15 days later. The 15th day of the new year is called the Lantern Festival, which is celebrated at night with lantern displays and children carrying lanterns in a parade. In 2008, New Year's Day falls on Thursday, February 7. 

Legend has it that in ancient times, Buddha asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve came, and Buddha named a year after each one. He announced that the people born in each animal's year would have some of that animal's personality. In 2008 it will be the year of the Rat, those born in rat years tend to be leaders, pioneers and conquerors. They are charming, passionate, charismatic, practical and hardworking.   

Lai See is the custom of giving a gift of money in a special red envelope during the New Year's celebration. In the Chinese culture red is a lucky color. The combination of the red envelope and money represent a wish for good luck and good fortune in the coming year as red represents good luck and money wealth. While the amount of money in the envelope is usually small (a single, low denomination bill – never coins) it symbolizes a wish for good fortune. Many believe that good luck will come to both the giver and the recipient of the Lai See.


Alice, Golden Empire Council

Chinese New Year is celebrated each year in January or February – the date is based on The Chinese calendar. a combination solar/lunar calendar, and some complex astronomical calculations, including the longitude of the sun. Chinese New Year falls on the second new moon after the winter solstice (all months begin with a new moon). Parades are held all over the world to celebrate the beginning of the Chinese New Year. The celebration lasts for 15 days and ends with a Lantern Festival, with children again parading with lanterns.  There are a lot of customs or superstitions surrounding the New Year – check some of them out:

Superstitions about the New Year:

·         Clean House - Before the New Year arrives, the Chinese consider it very important to give the house a thorough cleaning, sweeping away any bad luck that may have accumulated over the past year. They also don’t clean for the first few days of the New Year – to avoid sweeping away their good luck!

·         Decorate! - Doors and window panes are also often painted red, considered to be a lucky color. In addition, people like to hang paper cuts on doors and windows. (Paper cutting is an ancient Chinese art form dating back to the Han dynasty).

·         An important tradition on New Year's Eve is for families to gather together and spend the evening preparing Chinese Dumplings.  They hide a coin in one of the dumplings, to bring good luck in the coming year to the person who finds it.

·         Pay Debts and wear new clothes – never wear white, as it is a color associated with dying.  Red is the color of good luck and new beginnings.

·         Chinese people believe that evil spirits dislike loud noises – that’s why firecrackers are set off – houses are even decorated with plastic firecrackers!

·         They also buy kumquats, since the name of the fruit is a play on the word for “Prosperity”

·         The peach blossom is also considered to be lucky and the markets are decorated with the delicate blossoms wrapped in tissue paper that stops them getting damaged....

·         The word for Tangerines and oranges sound like luck and wealth, so they are popular. Pomelos, the large ancestor of the grapefruit signifies abundance, as the Chinese word for pomelo sounds like the word for "to have."

·         The word for fish, "Yu," sounds like the words both for wish and abundance. So on New Year's Eve fish is served at the end of the evening meal, symbolizing a wish for abundance in the coming year. For added symbolism, the fish is served whole, with head and tail attached, symbolizing a good beginning and ending for the coming year.

·         And what about the sweet, steamed cakes that are so popular during the Chinese New Year season? Their sweetness symbolizes a rich, sweet life, while the layers symbolize rising abundance for the coming year. Finally, the round shape signifies family reunion.

The Legend of the Quarreling Animals

There is a twelve year cycle to the Chinese calendar, and an animal to represent each year. According to Chinese legend, the twelve animals quarreled one day as to who was to head the cycle of years. The gods were asked to decide and they held a contest: whoever was to reach the opposite bank of the river would be first, and the rest of the animals would receive their years according to their finish.

All the twelve animals gathered at the river bank and jumped in. Unknown to the ox, the rat had jumped upon his back. As the ox was about to jump ashore, the rat jumped off the ox’s back, and won the race. The pig, who was very lazy, ended up last. That is why the rat is the first year of the animal cycle, the ox second, and the pig last. According to the cycle, 2008 will be The Year of the Rat.

According to the Chinese horoscope, people born in the Year of the Rat are noted for their charm and attraction for the opposite sex. They work hard to achieve their goals, acquire possessions, and are likely to be perfectionists. They are basically thrifty with money. Rat people are easily angered and love to gossip. Their ambitions are big, and they are usually very successful. They are most compatible with people born in the years of the Dragon, Monkey, and Ox.

Chinese Inventions

Scouter Jim, Great Salt Lake Council

·         Umbrella - The umbrella were used as much a 4,000 years ago in ancient Assyria, China, Egypt, and Greece, originally to make shade from the sun. The Chinese were probably the first to waterproof the umbrella for use in the rain; they used wax and lacquer (a type of paint) to repel the rain.

·         Abacus - The abacus was first seen in a sketch book written during the 1300s in China, although there isn’t a record of who actually invented it. Masters of the abacus can often count as fast as another person using a computer.

·         Papermaking - Chinese legend tells that the new invention of paper was presented to the Emperor in the year 105 AD by Cai Lun. Archeological evidence, however, shows that paper was in use two hundred years before then. Either way,          the Chinese were significantly ahead of the rest of the world. The craft of papermaking relied upon an abundance of bamboo fiber to produce a fine quality paper.

Paper was made in Egypt out of papyrus plant.  Since about the first century AD when the Chinese made paper out of the fibers from the mulberry plant, folding paper has been practiced.  The Chinese developed some simple forms, some of which survive down to this day. When the secret of paper was carried to Japan in the sixth century AD by Buddhist monks, they quickly developed complex designs.

·         Printing - The Chinese invention of moveable type, credited to Bi Sheng in the year 1045 AD, did not significantly impact Chinese society. Three hundred years later in Europe, Gutenberg's development of moveable type revolutionized the Western world. Why? The Chinese language uses 3000 to 5000 characters in an average newspaper. The English language, in comparison, uses 26 characters in an average newspaper. Clearly, manipulating 5000 characters on a printing press took much longer than moving 26. Still, the invention of moveable type furthered Chinese technology and its role in the advancement of human civilization.

·         Gunpowder - Imagine their enemy's surprise when the Chinese first demonstrated their newest invention in the eighth century AD. Chinese scientists discovered that an explosive mixture could be produced by combining sulfur, charcoal, and saltpeter (potassium nitrate). The military applications were clear. New weapons were rapidly developed, including rockets and others that were launched from a bamboo tube. Once again, the raw materials at hand, like bamboo, contributed ideas for new technologies.

·         Compass - By the third century AD, Chinese scientists had studied and learned much about magnetism in nature. For example, they knew that iron ore, called magnetite, tended to align itself in a North/South position. Scientists learned to "make magnets" by heating pieces of ore to red hot temperatures and then cooling the pieces in a North/South position. The magnet was then placed on a piece of reed and floated in a bowl of water marked with directional bearings. These first navigational compasses were widely used on Chinese ships by the eleventh century AD.

·         Silk - was first made by the Chinese about 4,000 years ago. Silk thread is made from the cocoon of the silkworm moth (Bombyx mori), a small moth whose caterpillar eats the leaves of the mulberry tree.  The cocoon is a single, continuous thread about 500 to 1200 yards long – it’s made from a protein from two glands in the caterpillar’s head. After the caterpillar spins his cocoon, it is dropped into boiling water and the thread is unwound. Silkworms are also fed to turtles, lizards, frogs, fish and birds. Some American teachers send away for silkworms so their class can see the whole process and actually unwind the silk thread. (It takes about 6 weeks or more, but if you have scouts who really want to try it, go to  There is also a journal from a class that did the project, which is fun to read, at )

Chinese Trivia

Brenda, Last Frontier Council

Did you know…?

?         Some of the first forms of currency in China were made of shell, satin, or Jade.

?         There are 55 official minority nationalities, and 206 listed languages.

?         China has approximately a 75% literacy rate.

?         Only Imperial dragons embroidered on the robes of the Emperor or his personal attendants could display five claws.

?         The Chinese women have won medals at the Olympics for their outstanding ability of weight lifting!

?         In China, Tiger body parts are sought for use in traditional Chinese medicine and exotic recipes.

?         In China, snake is a delicacy. Some dishes include roast boa and five-step snake, snakeskin with peppers, and snake lemon liqueur, which is "good for a person with a weak body". Some Chinese even check into sanitariums for extended snake-diet therapy.

?         Even though there are French and Italian eateries popping up in southern China, Barbecued rat and dog are still favorites. Others include silkworms and black beetles. 

?         The ancient Chinese consider the peach a symbol of long life and immortality. These "Persian apples" actually had  their beginning in China, but were developed in Persia and went from there to Europe and then to America with the colonists.

?         Ladies in the high society in China once made black dye from dark eggplant skins and used it to stain their teeth to a black luster, a fashionable cosmetic use.

?         Chinese is the oldest and the greatest of the world's literature.

?         Acupuncture originated in China more than 5000 years ago.

?         The Great Wall is the only man-made structure that can be seen from the Space Shuttle and is used by scientists to study earthquake



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