If you’re the parent to a child born in a different country, you may have some of the same thoughts I have regarding keeping your child in touch with their birth culture. My daughter was born in China, and though she did not experience much of her own birth culture as a small child, I want her to learn about and know about where she came from. I want her to be proud of the country that was her first home, and I want her to feel confident in who she is; a Chinese girl in an American family.
Yes, she is American but she’s also Chinese. She wants to be both, and I want both for her. I have the desire for my daughter to love her birth culture, and for her to know that as her family we care about the things she cares about. One of the ways we do this is by celebrating Chinese holidays.
I keep track of the biggest of the Chinese holidays, and try to incorporate them into our family life. Lunar New Year (Chinese New Year) is the biggest, and we have our house decorated with a few things purchased from online resources like www.chinasprout.com, but generally I forget to order things far enough in advance because LIFE HAPPENS, yes? Another big holiday in China is Mid-Autumn Festival, and I love this one. Maybe it’s because it occurs during the time of year when the weather finally starts to cool off a little. Maybe it’s the fat yellow moon that hangs in the sky. I can’t say for sure what I love about it, but I can say what is challenging about it – it frequently falls in the middle of the week, and in America, we don’t have time off from school and/or work to celebrate in what I consider to be a truly authentic way.
And the question becomes…
How exactly does one celebrate a big holiday in an effort to incorporate their child’s birth culture?
How does one do justice to a holiday when you live in a location where the Asian markets are few and far between, or maybe don’t exist at all?
How do you celebrate when your cooking skills are not up to par, and your family schedule looks more like piano lessons, followed by dance lessons, followed by football practice on the day of the holiday?
There is a solution, and it’s an easy one. Be authentic in your heart.
Here’s what I mean. I may not have authentic moon cakes this week to celebrate, but we will have things that are round like the moon, which is why moon cakes are round to begin with! We will bake chocolate chip cookies, we will eat roly-poly potatoes. We will make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on little sandwich rounds instead of the normal loaf of bread we use. We might even make a special pancake breakfast, or hey, doughnuts are round! We may not have authentic lanterns at our house, but we do have balloons! We may not have authentic homemade fish or noodles, but we do have a quite lovely Pei Wei just a few miles away. Is it uber-authentic? Nah, not really, but the heart behind it all is very real.
We read the two books we have about Mid-Autumn Festival. One of them is titled Round is a Moon Cake, which is a book about shapes. We giggle and talk about how we eat round foods, too, even if we cannot eat the traditional moon cakes the book talks about. We thank God for making the moon to reflect the sun and shine in the night. We sit around the table and enjoy each other’s company. This year I bought the little pumpkins at the grocery stores that my kiddos are going to have fun decorating; just a fun “round” activity that gets us to be together as a family.
Fun. Family. Togetherness. These are the only things you really need.
Sometimes? Sometimes our celebrating doesn’t even happen on the exact day of the holiday. Last year we celebrated a few days later once the weekend had arrived and we could really relax and have fun with it all. My gauge of authenticity has become how much my daughter’s face glows when she recognizes that we are doing something together, something that is a part of our family because she is a part of our family. Yeah, I’d really love to be able to make the homemade dumplings, but what my girl needs is just to know that we love China, because in loving China, we love her.
So, you know? If all you can manage this year for Mid-Autumn Festival is running to the doughnut shop for doughnut holes this weekend before your job as the Soccer Mom or Football Coach starts up, then so be it. Take the time to let your precious one born in China know that the reason behind the sweet treat on that particular day is to celebrate them, to celebrate who they are, and where they came from. You’ll see the glow in their face when you do, and you’ll what I now know. You’ll know that authenticity comes from the heart whether it’s a chocolate chip cookie or a moon cake. You’ll know that it’s not how well you celebrate, but that you chose to be intentional about letting your child know that the country that gave them life is valued by you.
And you know what? If you’re together, if you’re having fun, if your family knows how much you love them, well then, you’ve celebrated authentically.
Happy Mid-Autumn Festival! May it be authentic, no matter what it looks like.