Author Archives: Jennifer Chen

Full Month Party

MATERIAL

 

小婴儿出生后一个月之内,不去公共场所,但是当满一个月时,通常都要摆“满月酒”,亲戚朋友们要给小婴儿送钱或者礼物表示祝贺;婴儿的家人要请来宾喝喜酒、吃喜蛋表示感谢。

 

Before a newborn turns one month old, neither the mother nor the baby ventures outside of the house. The baby especially can never go to any public places. However, when the baby turns one month old, there is a full month party. Friends and relatives come to the mother’s house to celebrate the baby’s first month. They drink alcohol and give the baby money or gifts to congratulate his or her life. In return, the mother and father will provide hard-boiled eggs that are painted many different colors for their friends and family to eat to show their gratitude for them.

 

ANALYSIS

 

Up until a few decades ago, it was not uncommon for babies in China to die before they reached one month of age. Living conditions, especially in the rural areas of China, were not up to par and many diseases floated around. Therefore, it was a big deal for a baby to survive its first month, because it was much more likely for it to live a normal life without complications. In some areas, babies weren’t even given names until they turned one month old. The Chinese tradition of celebrating a baby’s first full month has carried over to the modern day, despite newborn mortality rates being much lower than ever before. The eggs that are given to guests to eat are a symbol of fertility.

 

This tradition is especially hits home for my informant. She was the youngest of 5 in her family, the oldest being her brother and then three older sisters. She was born and raised in rural China, only moving to the United States when she was 28 years old. After my informant’s mother had her son and the first two daughters, she gave birth to two boys one year apart from each other. The first boy died before he reached his first month, but the other lived to be two years old before passing away from disease. Although my informant never met her two older brothers, it is still something that the whole family will with their whole lives. So, the full month celebration for all of the babies in the extended family have been and will continue to be elaborate, grand parties with a lot of love.

Saint Martin’s Day

MATERIAL

 

“On November 11th, we celebrate Saint Martin’s Day. Now, we just have a big dinner that night with whoever is home. I have 3 younger sisters, but one of my sisters and I are already in college, so we don’t go home for it. So, it’s just my parents and two youngest sisters that celebrate it. It’s not as big of a deal to us now as my dad told me it was to his family growing up in Germany. It is a holiday that ends with a huge feast, usually with a cooked goose, at dinnertime. Before November 11th, the children all build their own lanterns. There are lantern parades in towns and cities all over the place, kind of like America on Thanksgiving or St. Patrick’s Day. Sometimes, onlookers will give the children candy. I want to go to Germany to observe this holiday at least once in my life.”

 

ANALYSIS

 

Saint Martin’s Day celebrates Saint Martin of Tours, the third Bishop of Tours. He is remembered as a very altruistic man who, as legend recalls, saved a homeless man in the middle of winter from freezing to death by giving him his cloak. Now, the tradition is to mainly eat a goose at dinnertime, which even in America, my informant’s family adheres to. This is due to honoring the tradition of payday, which in the medieval tax system in Germany, was November 11. Tax debts were usually paid with a goose and so nowadays, Saint Martin’s memory is celebrated by eating a goose with the whole family. One good thing about customs and traditions aimed toward young children is that the customs become ingrained in their mind, even if they don’t know the meanings behind them. However, as they grow older, they will discover the meanings and that will give their favorite traditions some background and make it all the more special. It is a good way to teach children about their culture in a fun way. My informant even stated that she would like to go to Germany, where her father was born, to observe this holiday and join in on the festivities.

Advent Calendars

MATERIAL

 

“In German culture, we have the Advent calendar around Christmastime. It is a calendar given to children, usually younger ones, which lists the dates of December from 1-25th. There are flaps on each day and beyond that, there are two variations. One type is that under each flap, there is a piece of chocolate. Another type is that under each flap is one piece to a picture. Once you open all the flaps, the whole picture will emerge and it’s usually something to do with Christmas. Sometimes in Catholic Advent calendars, a Baby Jesus picture is under the last flap.”

 

ANALYSIS

 

In German history, many religious peoples created calendars to count down the first 24 days of December. Sometimes, they would physically mark a strike on the floor every day or they would light a new candle for every day. Ever since calendars began to be manufactured though, the countdown to December 25th has resided mainly on an Advent calendar. Incorporating the one picture a day aspect, or the chocolates for every new day, teaches young children patience, as they can only open one flap every day. It also teaches them, from a young age, the religious aspects of Christmas. My informant lives in America and said that she and her sisters all received individual Advent calendars every year when they were young. They had ones in which each flap contained a different candy, but also revealed a piece of a religious puzzle. Since in America, Christmas has become so commercialized, the Advent calendar really brought back her father’s German roots and allowed her parents to teach her about their religious backgrounds.

Candle in Window

MATERIAL

 

“On Christmas Eve, we put candles in our windows. We put them there to signal the warmth of our home, but I know in older times, it was considered a signal of welcome to travelers. It also represented safety and welcome to passing priests and signified to them that they had permission to perform Christmas mass in those homes. You light these candles on Christmas Eve and they are thought to bring good luck if they stay burning until Christmas morning. Usually, the youngest member of an Irish family must light the candle that’s placed in the window by an elder on Christmas Eve. It must be left undisturbed until Christmas morning. Now, for safety measures, we use plastic electronic candles that you plug in and they light up in the dark but go out in the morning, nowadays.”

 

ANALYSIS

 

In Catholic traditions, candles are very symbolic. They represent light, warding off evil, a burning love for God, truth, and welcome. In the 17th century, the Penal Laws made it illegal and dangerous for the Irish to practice their Catholic faith. As a result, many Irish Catholics placed candles in their windows at Christmastime to signify to wandering priests that they were welcome into the home and would be safe to conduct the traditional Catholic Christmas mass. Since the Penal Laws were retracted and now in many parts of the world, religious oppression is long over, a candle in the window of Catholic households is taken to mean that the household is warm and peaceful. It is now one of the most prominent and popular Irish Christmas decorations.

El Día de la Velitas

MATERIAL

 

“In Colombia, the Christmas season starts on December 7th. This day celebrates the Immaculate Conception and is called ‘El Día de la Velitas’, or the Day of the Little Candles. On the night of December 7th or sometimes earliy in the morning on December 8th (before the sun comes up), families light colorful candles and lanterns in the houses and lining the streets. Everyone does this in Colombia and so the whole country is lit up for that one night and day to welcome in the Christmas season.”

 

ANALYSIS

 

The Immaculate Conception is celebrated mainly on December 8th in many Catholic countries and Colombia is no different. No Christian service is ever held without candles, as candles symbolize a dispelling of evil, warding away the darkness of the night, the Eternal Light, and also a burning love for God. Candles are lit everyone on El Día de la Velitas to welcome in the Christmas season, one of the most holy times of the year. It is to bring light to the country and remind everyone of the peacefulness of the holiday season.