Since I consider the importance of education to be one of the primary values I can transmit to our kids (I gave up on the idea of leaving them with a trust fund the day I entered the Religious Studies field), I’ve been spending a lot of time trying to explain all of the interesting historical and cultural aspects of the Chinese traditions, festivals, sites, etc. that we encounter. The other day, for example, we had a conversation regarding the various rituals and traditions surrounding Chinese New Year (the sweeping of the house before New Year’s Eve to expel all of the bad luck of the previous year, the fireworks, even the lunar calendar!). I really want them to understand that not all cultures believe the same things and, therefore, not all cultures celebrate the same traditions.
In China, I told them, they do not have a tradition of celebrating Christmas (although that is changing now), or Thanksgiving, or July Fourth, and, instead, they have festivals like the Lantern Festival and the Dragon Boat Festival, which reflect a different history, as well as a very different way of life and understanding of the world. We are (or we think we are) a very educated (one of these days I will have my Ph.D. to prove it!), liberal family, so it is important that our kids know that we embrace difference and diversity. Just when I was sure I was getting my message across and my kids were making a breakthrough in their understanding of Chinese culture, and cultures in general, Sophia and Dylan asked me what kind of festivals we would have if we could create our own countries and cultures.
For Sophia (“bossy pants” that she is), she would proclaim a “Sophia Day,” where everyone would have to do whatever she wanted them to do (or, as we call it at home, a normal day). Dylan (the little 3 year old that he is) thought of the perfect holiday for his country: “Butt Day,” a very unique festival where everyone would show their butts (which is also something he usually does every day). Finally it was my turn. I tried to explain that my favorite holiday in Spain (Catalonia, to be precise) is Sant Jordi (April 23rd), a day where everyone buys books and roses for their loved ones (on April 23, 1616, already the day in the Catholic tradition honoring St. George, both Cervantes and Shakespeare died, which led to the book themed holiday). Since this is an actual holiday of a real country, they told me it was not a valid invented holiday, so I decided, given the recent acute episode of jet lag the family has suffered, that I would institute a “National Sleep Day,” where all of the citizens of my country would be forced (I mean encouraged) to sleep for a whole day. No getting out of bed, no asking for cereal at 5 a.m., no wanting to join us our bed, just, simply, sleep…They were not as excited as I was with my holiday (Dylan thought it was boring), but I am sure they will feel differently when they have their own kids…