It’s What We Do or What We Celebrate

by horngyih

This Friday is the Mayan’s end of time ( Calendar actually ). It is also the Winter Solstice – the Chinese celebrates it as “”冬至” one of the 24 Seasonals in the Chinese culture. Sadly, I have noted that some have taken to call it the Tang Yuan Festival or “汤圆节”. Have we forgotten why we celebrate this festive occasion or must cultures adapt to new situations.

Should festive seasons be morphed and adapted to be based on what we traditionally do during those seasons or should we still refer to them by their traditional names in memory of what the season marks culturally and traditionally?

Here in the equator, the Chinese diaspora who have come to be naturalized citizens of an equatorial homeland but still we cling to celebrating the traditional festivities of our ancestors from the Northern hemisphere.

And so we still welcome the coming of Spring to the land, though no equatorial Chinese descendants have ever experienced the joy of the warm winds of Spring that marks the fading of those dark and chilly Winter months. We gather with family, feast in merriment, give out red packets to kids and basically celebrate in high spirits and furore.

If we adapt festivities based on what is practiced rather than what is represents, then Chinese New Year becomes Red Packet Festival, the giving of red packets are certainly a highlight of the festivities – or perhaps Firecracker Festival, though these days it’s illegal to let off the long string of firecrackers – but we still do it behind the authorities backs and they keep an eye closed to such indiscretion.

Posted on Facebook 19th December 2012

Some of these traditional seasons have already fallen to such adaptations, where once the Chinese culture celebrates the Mid Autumn Festival marking the middle of Autumn in the Northern hemisphere homeland, we now regale in feasting on “Moon Cakes” and dubbed the festivities Moon Cake Festival – aptly referring to what we practice rather than what it represents.

The “Duan Wu Festival” or 端午节 that initially marks a day where people of ancient China takes out their furniture, bedding and clothing to lay out in the sun for its anti-septic capabilities, and then later it marks the memorial of a beloved Chinese official who committed suicide by jumping into a river with a broken heart after being ousted and exiled by the emperor on corrupt officials whispered poisons. Even this has become marked by what we traditionally practice rather than it’s cultural meaning, where the Chines packs Rice Dumplings called 粽子 – and instead of throwing them into the river to satiate the fishes in the river giving the boatmen more time to recover the body of the suicidal official, we eat them. And so the festivity comes to be known as the “Rice Dumpling Festival”.

So question begs to be answered is, should we adapt cultural festivities’ identity to what we currently practice giving it a relevance but lose the cultural meaning of the festivities?