Moon Cake Time is Family Time

So, tomorrow is Mid-Autumn Day. Someone has to help them with their holiday-naming. It’s a big deal, though, from everything people tell me. No school break, though. In front of the shopping center by my house is a gigantic plastic moon cake. Moon cakes, though normally not gigantic or plastic, constitute the centerpiece of the Mid-Autumn Day festivities. They are the turkeys of this Chinese Thanksgiving, if you will. St. let me try one the other day. I’m afraid I like turkey quite a bit more.

The moon cakes are golden, about the size of your hand, and they’re typically filled with nuts, fruits, meat, apparently pretty much anything that’s within arm’s reach is in peril of becoming moon cake stuffing. I’ve read that they’re made out of bean paste and had something to do with the overthrow of Mongolian rule (battle plans baked into the cakes, I guess). But this is supposed to be a big family time. Time to get together and… eat. What a bizarre culture, right? So in just about every store there’s a big display of fancy “moon cake sets.” By the big plastic one near our house, there’s a couple hundred feet of tables selling big colorful boxed sets ranging from a couple bucks to more than fifty.

I’ll try to write more about people’s relationships here when I’ve learned more, but I’ve been really impressed by a couple things about their family lives. First, they pay a lot of lip-service to the office of the parents. When we first came here, my wife and I invited some of our new Chinese friends (all students) to come to our house. So I asked them what relationships were important to them. Almost everyone of them just said, “My parents.” So at first I was kind of intimidated to talk to them about relationship problems. I mean, every place I’ve ever been, one of the most recognizable conflicts in society is between parents and children!

But I went ahead and taught one of our first (it was our second, actually) Bible studies once about our relationships with our parents. I asked one of those rhetorical questions and said, “Have you ever disagreed with your parents, or had an argument with them?” I had, like, three or four people smiling and waving their hands, saying, “No, no! Of course not.” Discovery number two: people don’t like to admit it when they have a problem (maybe I should have known that one already). And the third: there are, like in any other place, some really serious family problems. In spite of all the stuff you hear about the honor and respect that the older generation is shown, I’m pretty sure a lot of it is just talk.

First of all, after that first meeting, I thought everyone was just big fans of their parents! But it was amazing to me how seldom these students mention their parents. Seldom meaning never! Then there’s the holidays. Many of them skip out on opportunities to go home. Only a couple of people have opened up to us enough to tell us about strained relationships with their parents. My wife told me about one of the students that told her that he was the second born (again, it’s illegal to have more than one child, unless you pay a big fine) and, to escape paying the fine, was sent to be raised by his grandparents. Another student in the room said their upbringing was the same! How common is this? Anyway, the first student talked about the tough relationship he has with his family as a result.

It’s amazing how little all that cultural stuff you read about is worth sometimes. Once again, the Chinese people are people. Their struggles are people struggles. And the answer is the same. Happy Mid-Autumn Day Eve!

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  1. Relationship » Moon Cake Time is Family Time - September 25, 2007

    […] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptI’ll try to write more about people’s relationships here when I’ve learned more, but I’ve been really impressed by a couple things about their family lives. First, they pay a lot of lip-service to the office of the parents. … […]

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