Spring Festival Gala

Background of informant:

My informant SS is an international student from Beijing, China. She lived with her grandparents when she was little.

The conversation was in Chinese.

Main piece:

SS: “My relatives will come gather in my grandparents house every new year eve. They will arrive in different time, due to the whether they live far away or not. My grandpa is always the one who do the cooking. Oh he loves to be the chief, and he doesn’t let anyone enter the kitchen when he’s preparing for the spring festival meal! [laugh] And then when the food is being prepared, my family will start to eat and drink, oh, and we’ll all sit down to watch the Spring Festival Gala! When the meal is all prepared, the gala has already began for like… 1 hour.”

SH: What is that?

SS: “That’s the activity that people always do, like every year, with no exception, on New Year Eve day. It’s a huge showcase rehearsed by CCTV, consigned by Chinese government [SS changed her tone]. [laugh, keep using the flat tone] It’s usually consisted with dancing and singing performance, short plays, magic shows, and so on. And normally, while the show is entertaining the audience, there are central ideology penetrated in the show to educate people [SS made the hand gesture of quote when saying “educate”]. But since the Gala has been operated every new year eve for dozens of years, watching Spring Festival Gala on CCTV has become the habit for middle-age to elder Chinese. I’m thinking most younger people also have the habit to open the TV to watch it…while comments on Weibo (a popular social media in China) at the same time… It’s like we are all so used to watch it. And I do think Spring Festival Gala brings people together, it attracts the family to sit in front of the TV, comments on the show, eat some sunflower seeds, and … just… be together!


Context of the performance:

This is a section in our conversation about Chinese Spring Festival.


My thoughts about the piece:

Regarding to the fact that China has huge population dispersed in different parts of the country, people live in different regions really have drastically different customs and habits. For example, when talking about what do people eat on New Year Eve, my informant SS provided me a list of food that I never had in my home (I’m from southern part of China while she’s from the North). However, after hearing so many differences of what people do on this country-wide festival, watching Spring Festival Gala is the only habit that can be found in almost every family in every part of China at that dat. And since Spring Festival Gala, as SS pointed out, is a show consigned by Chinese government, this common custom is an example of how institutional products gradually become and being transformed into folklore.