M, a 21-year-old, Chinese male who grew up in Beijing until he turned 17 before moving to the United States. He now lives in Los Angeles, California, and attends the University of Southern California with his girlfriend who is from Southern China.
M’s first language was Mandarin. His family spoke Mandarin and he only learned English before moving to the United States. Because he grew up in Beijing, he believes himself to be fairly knowledgeable about the folklore that every day people participate in. This is one of the Chinese traditions in their household.
This is a Chinese tradition that M’s family would participate in during the Lunar New Year in Beijing. Because he was close with all his family, he and his younger sister would often have to do these traditions twice a year, once with their mother’s side of the family and again with their father’s side. This was told to me during a small get-together at his house. The following is a transcript of the piece as told by M.
“A more recent tradition that became popular in China is… you know how America has Christmas? Well, in China, Christmas Eve is called Píng’ān yè (in Chinese: 平安夜), which means like… ‘Night of Peace’. And because the Chinese word for apple sounds like the word for peace, people will go around and hand out apples. Almost like Halloween here in America, except instead of people going door to door, people will go and hand out apples to people walking around. It’s weird, too, because the stores will sell apples with the word ‘peace’ on them, but for higher price than normal on this day. You don’t really see middle-aged or older people doing this, though, it’s typically only the young adults or teenagers. There aren’t really gifts on Christmas, but on Christmas Eve, there is apples! I think that it is kind of interesting that young people in China took this Western holiday and like made it their own. It’s almost… uhh… artificial, in a sense, but you know, I think it is a good way to mix the two cultures without the older generations thinking we are trying to make China like the West. It’s also funny because my sister is in high school now and one of her volunteer projects this year was to go and hand out apples.”
Although this is a relatively new tradition in China, I was fascinated by this. Sometimes it’s hard to disassociate yourself from your own traditions and see that other cultures do things differently. When M discussed the tradition being only celebrated by the youth, and almost dismissed by the older generations, I was left to wonder why. When I asked him what he thought of such a new tradition, he laughed and asked me what a tradition was, or how long needed to pass before something became a tradition. He also asked if a tradition needs to be celebrated by everyone in the community, whether that be a family, a group of friends, a neighborhood, a city, state, country, etc. I liked the idea of the youth creating their own traditions, blending two cultures together as the world becomes closer and more connected to each other. Often, when people examine traditions outside of their own, they shut them out, or even shut others out of their traditions. It was cool to see the blending of two traditions, rather than an exclusivity. On a side-note, I also found it interesting to learn that markets would sell apples for a higher price around Christmas Eve. Money dominates everything, even tradition!