Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Festivals do not define who we are

Illustration: Jung Song

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. It was so fun to see people dressing up last week, bunny tails or beetles in the dining hall. I even got some emails offering Grandma’s secret cookie recipe in exchange for costume equipment.

Undoubtedly, lots of people celebrate festivals. Festivals not only present culture but also cause economic boosts in modern society. Before I came to Whitman, I was told to book the airline tickets right after I got my visa because they would get expensive during Christmas; a few days before Valentine’s Day, some of my male friends always start to buy roses and try to keep them fresh because roses cost ten times more on that day. However, what if they do not buy a bunch of roses for their girlfriends on that day? Does it mean they do not love them enough?

Of course not. Maybe they just cannot afford it. Maybe they are saving money for buying a ring to propose. Maybe they just think it is not economical to spend that much money on roses when instead they can take their girlfriends out for a fancy and romantic dinner. People can do whatever they want on festivals; they don’t need to follow the traditions all the time; they can even define their own traditions if they want.

I have never felt the need to send my mother a bunch of carnations or do anything special for her on Mother’s Day. I call her really often, asking how things are going and if the tumor in her breast is getting better. I don’t need to tell her I love her because I know and she knows that I will love her as long as my heart still beats.

Spring Festival, also known as the Chinese New Year, is one of the longest and most important festivals in China. It starts on Jan. 1 on the Chinese lunisolar calendar and lasts until Jan. 15, which is the date of Lantern Festival. No matter how busy or expensive it is, most Chinese people will come home to unite with their families and friends.

I did not go back home last year and when my friends found out, they asked questions like “Are you having trouble with your parents?” and “Do you hate them?” and “Are you adopted?” implying that I was a jerk for not coming home to see my parents. I was deeply offended; my friends judged me because I did not come home for the Spring Festival.

First, to clarify: I love my parents, especially my mum, who almost lost her life to give birth to me. I did not go home last year because I wanted to travel in order to take a break after having a rough and tiring semester. That semester I took 24 credits of classes, worked as a teaching assistant for my professor, a translator for my university website and a coordinator for the Gender Issue club on campus. I prepared to take the TOEFL test and applied to get the U.S. visa. When I went out to socialize, it was to let my friends know I was still alive.

I felt exhausted at the end of the semester, which generated a strong desire to travel, releasing myself from stress and absorbing something new, such as food. I talked with my parents and they were completely supportive. They even booked me the air tickets as a New Year’s gift. I traveled around the southern part of China during winter break, which included the Spring Festival.

I feel lucky to have parents who allow nontraditional things to happen during traditional festivals, giving their son what he really needs by respecting the choices he makes in his own life. So, Mum and Dad, you are a hundred times cooler than my judgmental friends.

I am not saying people don’t need to celebrate festivals, but I firmly believe that people don’t need to follow the traditions of festivals if they don’t want to. Festivals cannot define who we are; they cannot prove whether or not I am adopted. Instead, we can define what festivals are: I define the last Spring Festival as a festival of understanding and communication because I had the deepest conversation with my parents. Therefore, even though I did not have a family reunion, the Spring Festival was still special for me.

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  • R

    RensiDec 25, 2011 at 4:29 pm

    Hi Chen Chen,

    I completely agree with what you say. Your love for your mom is very sweet. She must be very proud of you!

    Best wishes to you and your family (especially your mom)! And I believe that you will meet with success in everything and anything you choose to do!

    Merry Christmas, no matter where you are!