Whilst teaching English in a Chinese school, I have not only imparted knowledge, but also in turn learnt so much. Not only about a different language, and culture, but also something more. Something more fundamental. The different beliefs and attitudes to certain aspects of life, compared to that which I am used to.
As a project for one of my senior classes, I asked them, as part of learning dates and time, to make a year calendar and name all the holidays and national days that they celebrate here in China. I was so surprised.
It is no surprise that a lot of emphasis is placed on education, and acquiring certain skills to help you in society and later on in life, such as learning English or a second language, but what surprised me is the fact that China celebrates, and recognises not only the students, but the teachers.
There is a student day, or Children’s Day, in which children receive presents, some time off of school, and are able to celebrate their youth, in a manner that I have not seen before. As I was growing up, the emphasis seemed to be on how fast I could grow up, rather than actually celebrating my youth.
I think that this is a very important message. Children should celebrate being a child. It is after all a state to which we can’t return.
At school that day, we handed out sweets to children at the end of class, and added to the celebration. Fully trying to immerse myself into the day, and the reasoning behind it.
Furthermore, teachers have a national holiday as well. They have teacher’s day. This falls on the 10th of September. It is a day when the students at schools can thank their teachers for the effort they have put into teaching them, and recognise that effort.
A number of teachers at school received various gifts, as a token of this thanks and recognition. Whilst no teacher teaches for gifts and accolades, I have to admit that the recognition of the hard work we put into the classes and into the students was a welcome and very gratifying experience. You know that people have noticed, and it isn’t a thankless task.
What can we learn from these National Days?
I feel that whilst on our calendars back home, these days may be marked out; no one actually sees them or pays attention to them. The students and teachers in many societies could receive so much from celebrating these days. Creating an awareness of why the days exist, and to show that education is a major part of our life. One that should be celebrated.
Teacher’s Day and Children’s Day aren’t the only major National Holidays celebrated here. There is National Day, a day or long weekend, where families get together and celebrate the independence of China. It appears to be a time with the family, and is followed by a week celebrating the moon! At the moment there are so many mooncakes everywhere, it is impossible to miss this festival!
Other National Holidays:
There are plenty of holidays in China. There is the Mid-Autumn festival (mooncakes), the Dragon Boat festival, Lantern Festival, New Year, which falls in February next year, and smaller, regional holidays, linked to the various religions and people.
Each festival is celebrating a part of the Ancient Chinese beliefs, all of which is so interesting and colourful, and inevitably accompanied by some special type of food, that goes beyond my imagination.
One thing that seems to link all of these holidays together, apart from them being Chinese holidays, is the sense of family. Every holiday is an opportunity to get together with your family, all of them, and celebrate together. A time to remember family, rather than just going out with friends, like we might do back home. The New Year isn’t a time to go to the best party, get drunk, and hope that you might end up kissing someone come midnight. It is a longer holiday in which the families remember those that have past, and celebrate in their lives, as well as in their own. They go through stages of cooking the most exquisite food in honour of people, and starting the New Year with those in mind, and with a clean start.
The only warning that should come with these National Days and Holidays, is book travel well in advance, a country whose population is as big as China’s is, the transport system is rather overloaded with the whole country travelling. And be prepared to taste some delightful food, interesting food, and some just indescribable food. Most importantly enjoy, fully immerse you into the Holiday and get caught up with it like everyone else.