HFVS Around the World Holiday Episode with Guest DJs Katherine Dines & James Coffey (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

Listen to Podcast:

HFVS Holidays Around the World Episode
with Guest DJs, Katherine Dines & James Coffey

This episode of the Hilltown Family Variety Show is a celebration of global holidays and light with Guest DJs, James Coffey and Katherine Dines from the Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Band. It features many award-winning artists, as well as fantastic educational content about several of the holidays highlighted, including Chinese New Year and Diwali.

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
November 30th & December 1st, 2019
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

FEATURED VIDEO: Divali, Diwali or Deepawali (depending on where you are from), is one of the most joyous celebrations for Hindus, Jains, Sikhs, and some Buddhists. The name comes from two Sanskrit words: “Diyas” which means “clay lamps” and “avali” which means “rows.” During the 5-day celebration, people place rows and rows of clay lanterns around rooftops, doorways and windows, symbolizing the triumph of good over evil, hope over despair and light over darkness.

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1. Andy Zamenes (Andy Z) – “Turkey in the Straw” [Classic Songs and Traditional Tunes]
2. Lucy Kalantari – “It’s the Holidays” [It’s the Holidays]
3. Katherine Dines – “Somewhere in the World” [Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Holidays Song and Stories that Celebrate Global Light]
4. Hot Peas N’ Butter – “Firelight” [Back to the Land]
5. Joyce Rouce – “Green Christmas” [Earth Mama; Christmas Heart]
6. Barb Tilsen – “Lucia Day” [Take the Seed]
7. Katherine Dines – “Nian” [Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Holidays Song and Stories that Celebrate Global Light]
8. SoulAviv – “Candles of Chanukah” [Digital Track]
9. Katherine Dines – “Light Rises Over Darkness” [Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Holidays Song and Stories that Celebrate Global Light]
10. KB Whirly and M.I.S.T.A. Cookie Jar – “Love Light Shine” [Digital Track]
11. Kelli Welli – “Little Ray of Sunshine” [Digital Track]
12. West LA Children’s Choir – “As We Go Round the Sun” [Digital Track]
13. Greta Pederson – “Kwanzaa is Here” [Digital Track]
14. Heather Dale – “Huron Carol” [This Endris Night]
15. Joanie Leeds – “Nightlights” [Bandwagon]
16. Katherine Dines – “Stars” [Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Holidays Song and Stories that Celebrate Global Light]

4 Reading Lists & Literary Guides for February

February celebrates Black History Month, Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, and snow! Here are reading lists and literary guides to connect you to the season with books for all ages.

Celebrating Black History with Children’s Picture Books
In celebration of Black History, here are ten titles which feature stories of bravery, heroism, the pursuit of justice, and so much more… and each one beautifully illustrated!

12 Picture Books to Celebrate Chinese New Year
Explorations of Chinese culture can begin with our rich list of children’s titles by author Demi exploring Chinese art and traditions offering young readers a visual feast! A recurring subject in her extensive body of work is that of ancient China. Many of her books are steeped in Chinese art, history, folklore, and tradition. Here are a dozen titles were written and illustrated by Demi that celebrates Chinese culture. Happy New Year! Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts’ai!

A Literary Guide for Valentine’s Day & Kindness
With Valentine’s Day serving as a catalyst, February is a time for practicing kindness in all its forms. Use titles from our library to learn about the impact that acts of kindness can have on the world, and to gather ideas for practicing kindness in your community.

A Community-Based Education Guide to Bill Easterling’s Prize in the Snow
A short and sweet tale of a very young trapper’s change of heart, Prize in the Snow can catalyze both learning animal tracks and signs, as well as an examination of the ethics of animal trapping and hunting – all within a community-based context!

Lunar New Year Brings Opportunities for Cultural Studies

Ringing in the Year of the Earth Pig!

Chinese New Year (also referred to as the Lunar New Year and Spring Festival) takes place this year on February 5, 2019.  By exploring art, food, music, and traditions, families can gain background knowledge to support participation in regional celebrations of the lunar holiday. Getting curious about the associated zodiac can lead you to discover the mythology behind the calendar while learning how other cultures, like Vietnam and Thailand, adapted the zodiac to reflect the values and habitat of their communities.

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Chinese New Year Brings Opportunities for Cultural Studies

Chinese New Year: The Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year: The Year of the Horse

Chinese New Year 2014 is the year of the Wood Horse, ushered in on January 31st. Take this opportunity to discover the cultural traditions, folk stories and history of the Chinese New Year with your kids and have fun!

If New Year’s Eve was actually a full two weeks worth of celebrating, what things would you add to it? Besides ringing in a new calendar year, we often spend a little bit of time reflecting on the past year and making plans for bettering ourselves during the coming one. But what else would you want to celebrate if you had fifteen days to fill? What parts of your history and culture would you include?

After a family brainstorm of your ideal two-week New Year’s celebration, explore the traditions of the Chinese New Year and compare. Celebrations of the Chinese New Year do, in fact, cover a full fifteen days. And it’s second name – the Lunar New Year – explains why it takes place after our own calendars have already rolled over to the next year. The Chinese calendar is lunisolar, meaning that the date indicates both the current moonphase and the time of the solar year. Because of this, the Chinese New Year takes place on a different date on our own calendars each year, and is always held between a month and a month and a half after our own January 1st New Year’s celebration. This year, the Chinese New Year will be celebrated beginning on January 31st, 2014, and will honor the year of the horse.

There are lots and lots of ways to explore the traditions surrounding the Chinese New Year with kids…

Three Picture Books for the Year of the Horse

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

Galloping into 2014: Three Picture Books for the Year of the Horse

As the Year of the Water Snake slithers away, the Lucky Chinese Year of the Wood Horse comes galloping in with the promise of victories, adventure, travel, fiery energy, decisive action, good fortune, and free-spirited independence. In searching for books to coincide with the marking of the new year, I discovered these three beautiful picture books that portray ancient China through folktale and fantasy and feature magnificent, powerful horses.

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac

The Race for the Chinese Zodiac comes to us by way of Australia, where it was first published in 2011. Candlewick released it here in the states this past November, perfectly timed for the lead up to Chinese New Year. Author Gabrielle Wang retells the ancient story of the race to become one of the twelve signs of the Chinese zodiac. When the Jade Emperor promises to name a year after the first twelve winners to cross the river, thirteen different animals accept the challenge. Each chooses their own method of crossing the river from swimming and flying to raft-building and log-floating. And each reveals their personality traits through competitive spirit, from being kind and supportive to selfish and deceitful.  The easy pacing and large print make for a good story time. And illustrations reminiscent of ancient China give the book visual appeal. Illustrator Sally Rippin used traditional Chinese ink on watercolor paper and also created linocut “chops,” or stamps, showing the Chinese character for each animal. Designer Regine Abos digitally dropped in the texture and color behind Rippin’s hand rendered illustrations to create a modernized vintage look.  Includes additional annotations on the zodiac years and symbols.

  • The Race for the Chinese Zodiac written by Gabrielle Wang, illustrated by Sally Rippin, with design by Regine Abos. Published by Candlewick, 2013. ISBN: 978-0763667788

Click here for more featured titles…

12 Picture Books to Celebrate Chinese New Year

Oprn Drdsmr: Kid Lit Musings and Review by Cheli Mennella

A Dozen By Demi: Books to Celebrate Chinese New Year

A recurring subject Demi's large body of work is that of ancient China. Many of her books are steeped in Chinese art, history, folklore, and tradition. Here are a dozen titles written and illustrated by Demi that celebrate Chinese culture.

With over 140 children’s books published to her name, the author/illustrator known simply as Demi has given readers dozens of stories to savor over the years. From the many picture book biographies she has created to the retellings of different cultural folktales, Demi provides a visual feast every time. Her authentic and original work shows a reverence toward her material and strives to uncover universal truths in both stories and pictures. Her books are not only good reads but also leave you with something to ponder.

Demi has a distinct artistic style, characterized by vivid color, exquisite detail, and the use of gold leaf, which makes the illustrations glitter and shine and imbibes them with a kind of magic. Tiny, lively figures populate her books, and intricate patterns, often resembling rich brocade, adorn clothing, furniture, buildings, even the end papers.

She is said to use the “four Chinese treasures” in every book: Chinese paintbrush, ink, ink-stone, and paper. Her commitment to traditional methods and materials is evident in The Dragon’s Tale. On the copyright page she wrote about the colors used in mixing her paints, and how “To all, powdered jade was added for good fortune!” She also noted, “The brushes were made of sheep, rabbit, goat, weasel, and wolf hairs picked in autumn for pliancy. A brush of one mouse whisker was used for extremely delicate work. Changes were made by applying the juice of the apricot seed.”

A recurring subject in her large body of work is that of ancient China. Many of her books are steeped in Chinese art, history, folklore, and tradition. Here are a dozen titles written and illustrated by Demi that celebrate Chinese culture. Happy New Year! Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts’ai!

The Dragon’s Tale and Other Animal Fables of the Chinese Zodiac   — Twelve fables rendered within circular motifs tell stories about the animals of the Chinese zodiac. Each fable leaves the reader with a morsel of wisdom to chew on. (Published by Henry Holt & Co., 1996.)

Happy, Happy Chinese New Year!  —  A simple, but charming introduction to the rituals and ideas behind Chinese New Year, from the last fifteen days of the old year spent cleaning and preparing to the first fifteen days of the new year spent celebrating. (Published by Crown Books for Young Readers, 2003.)

Happy New Year! Kung-Hsi Fa-Ts’ai!  —  A look at the traditions, zodiac, symbols, and foods associated with Chinese New Year, and illustrated with vibrant double page spreads. More information than her other new year book, but this edition is harder to find. (Published by Dragonfly Books, 1999.)

The Boy Who Painted Dragons  —  Ping paints dragons all over his house, not because he loves them, but because he is scared of them. The Heavenly Dragon gives Ping three pearls of wisdom. But in order to gain the wisdom of dragons, Ping must confront his greatest fears. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.)

The Girl Who Drew a Phoenix —  When Feng Huang  attempts to draw a phoenix to attain its magical powers, she is met with ridicule. The Queen Phoenix intervenes, however, and sends Feng Huang on a journey to discover powers that enable her to draw a phoenix that comes to life off the page. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008.)

The Empty Pot  —  In order to choose his successor, an emperor challenges every child to grow the most beautiful flower from the seed he gives to them. Not one flower impresses the emperor. It is Ping’s empty pot which holds the truth. (Published by Henry Holt & Co., 1990.)

The Greatest Power  —  Young emperor Ping sends the children of his kingdom on a year-long quest to find the greatest power in the world. At the end of the year, children present Ping with money, weapons, beauty, and technology, but none are as great as the tiny gift a young girl gives to the emperor. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2004.)

The Legend of Lao Tzu and The Tao Te Ching  —  An artistically stunning introduction to the legendary Chinese figure, Lao Tzu, accompanied by twenty verses from the Tao Te Ching. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2007.)

Su Dongpo: Chinese Genius —  With rich and elaborate illustrations, Demi tells the story of the 11th century Chinese genius, Su Dongpo, whose many talents include being a great statesman, poet, philosopher, painter, architect, engineer, and humanitarian.Lee & Low Books, 2006. (Published by Lee & Low Books, 2006.)

The Magic Pillow  —  Based on a Chinese folktale about a boy who is given a magic pillow able to grant his wishes for fame, power, and wealth. But after a night of sleeping on the magic pillow, the boy is grateful for his humble life. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2008.)

The Emperor’s New Clothes  —  A retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, set in old, provincial China. An emperor who loves to dress in new clothes is shown who is clever and who is a fool when he walks into the province wearing what he believes are magical robes. (Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2000.)

Liang and The Magic Paintbrush  —  Liang, who longs to paint, finds a magic paintbrush which can bring his subjects to life. When the greedy emperor tries to use the brush to paint treasures for himself, the magic fails, giving Liang a chance to free himself and oust the emperor forever. (Published by Henry Holt & Co., 1980.)


Cheli Mennella

Cheli has been involved with creative arts and education for most of her life, and has taught many subjects from art and books to yoga and zoology. But she has a special fondness for kid’s books, and has worked in the field for more than 20 years. She is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Valley Kids and teaches a course for adults in “Writing for Children.” She writes from Colrain, where she lives with her musician-husband, three children, and shelves full of kid’s books.

Music Trekking: The Chinese New Year

Happy New Year and Happy Chinese New Year!

Along with the January 1st ringing in of the new year, there are several other types of new year celebrations that are marked by different cultures, countries and other religions. For instance, on January 23rd, Chinese New Year celebrates the arrival of a new year – the year of the Dragon!

What’s a Chinese New Year celebration like? Great fun and lots of festivities. I’ve chosen this video from Sydney, Australia’s Chinese New Year celebration because they’ve boiled a huge amount of the city’s activities into a short video. Take a look and you’ll see awesome parades, music, martial arts, dragon boat races, and much more — plus they’ve even added some of their own Australian Aboriginal music. In this video, you can see a short segment of people playing the didgeridoo and the bilma (Australian clapsticks) making it a truly multicultural celebration:

What is Chinese music like when a big celebration is not in full swing? Check out this video of a popular group of traditional musicians from China called the 12 Girls Band (女子十二乐坊). In this video you can see them playing some really unique instruments such as a Chinese fiddle called an erhu, a pear shaped lute called a pipa, a hammered dulcimer as well as several types of flutes and zithers. Although this group was formed to play Chinese folk music, they also do some amazing versions of folksongs from other cultures such as “El Condor Pasa” and even versions of songs written by modern artists such as Coldplay and Enya. I chose this video because it allows you to get a close look at the 12 girls in the band and the instruments that they play:

Until next month … Happy New Year(s) to you!


Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content.  She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

A free copy of this month’s song can be downloaded on Daria’s Monthly Song Page.

If you’d like to check out more about instruments from this region of the world, Daria will be sharing Chinese New Year customs, the Tibetan Singing Bowl and a “Make-Your-Own” Chinese Gong craft this month at Making Multicultural.

The Year of the Rabbit

Celebrating the Year of the Rabbit

Happy Chinese Lunar New Year! 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

The Chinese Lunar New Year is on February 3rd this year. If you’re considering celebrating this year’s Chinese New Year for the first time, there are many web sites to guide you on decorations, food, activities, and crafts, and to learn how the day is determined.The libraries have several titles to lend for your family to discover the cultural traditions of the Lunar New Year. There are also a variety of supplemental social study curriculums that take a closer look at these traditions, superstitions and customary foods from Asian countries.


The Lunar New Year is full of superstitions. Cutting your noodles on this day is said to shorten your life, and cleaning your home the day of the Lunar New Year is a big no-no, for it’s customary to clean in the days prior. Discovering these superstitions can lead to an exploration of their history with your children; opening up discussions on why they originated.


There are many traditional foods you can serve on this day, or popular dishes from your local Chinese restaurant, along with a New Year’s Cake (Neen Gow) and fortune cookies. Decorating your home with paper lanterns, colorful dragons, Red Couplets, bowls or oranges and arrangements of flowers can be fun too.


The Lunar and Chinese New Year can be celebrated for up to 15 days, depending on the culture that is in observance. The Chinese New Year is celebrated for 15 days (from the first full moon to the next new moon), but the Vietnamese Lunar New Year is celebrated for only half that time. A single evening of celebration to discover more about this culture is perfectly okay too.


Everybody Cooks Rice (By Norah Dooley)
A child is sent to find a younger brother at dinnertime and is introduced to a variety of cultures through encountering the many different ways rice is prepared at the different households visited.

Lion Dancer : Ernie Wan’s Chinese New Year (By K. Waters & M. Slovenz-Low)
Describes six-year-old Ernie Wong’s preparations, at home and in school, for the Chinese New Year celebrations and his first public performance of the lion dance.

Look What Came from China (By Miles Harvey)
Describes many things, both familiar and unfamiliar, that originally came from China, including inventions, food, tools, animals, toys, games, musical instruments, fashion, medicine, holidays, and sports.

Moonbeams, Dumplings & Dragon Boats: A Treasury of Chinese Holiday Tales, Activities & Recipes (By Nina Simonds and Leslie Swartz)
A great book that gives reviews the history of and supplies recipes, crafts and legends of five different Chinese holidays, including: Chinese New Year and the Lantern Festival, Qing Ming, the Dragon Boat Festival, and the Mid-Autumn Moon Festival.

China (DK Eyewitness Books) (by Hugh Sebag-Montefiore)
I love Eyewitness Books!  Their China book takes a look at Chinese culture with “eye-popping” images!

The Wishing Tree (By R. Thong)
Ming’s wishes at the tree on Lunar New Year with his grandmother always seemed to come true, but one year the tree does not help, and he alone must make peace with the loss of his grandmother and the spirit of the tree.

Celebrating the Chinese New Year with Your Kids

Chinese New Year 2008: The Year of the Rat

Last year was the Year of the Boar. This year, on February 7th, it’s the rat’s turn. Read Celebrating the Year of the Red Fire Pig, our Chinese New Year post from last year on Hilltown Families, and learn about superstitions, traditional foods, decorations, length of celebrations, great reading list for kids and a list of resources for actvities, lessons and crafts.

    Web Review: Chinese New Year on Kaboose
    Chinese New Year: “Celebrate the Chinese New Year holiday with great kids’ activities and crafts.” Crafts include making red envelopes, a Chinese orange tray, and paper plum blossoms. Also includes Chinese-style recipes and a short list of Chinese New Year books for children. From Kaboose. http://crafts.kaboose.com/holidays/chinese_new_year.html
    [(c) lii.org]

    Reading List

    • Dara’s Cambodian New Year
      by S. Chiemruom,. D. Pin (illustrator)
    • Happy New Year, Everywhere!
      by A. Erlbach, S. Holm (illustrator)
    • My First Chinese New Year
      by K. Katz
    • Goodbye Old Year, Hello New Year
      by F. Modell
    • This Next New Year
      by J. Wong, Y. Choi (illustrator)

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