Why do we keep traditions generation after generation? Perhaps it is the need to connect to our past or the knowledge that rituals are the glue that keep societies and families together. Most of us have fond memories of childhood traditions and the comforting feeling of stability and predictability that came with it. Yet sometimes tradition does not fit into modern society and old ways are threatened to disappear completely. beijingkids spoke with students from Harrow International School Beijing to discuss their views on traditions.
17, Namibia, has been living in Beijing for seven years
16, UK/Bulgaria, has been been in Beijing three years
17, Scotland, has been been in Beijing five years
16, Hong Kong, has been living in Beijing for five years
Has your family carried on traditions from your grandparents?
Eve: No, because my parents did not grow up in Namibia. My mom went to the Czech Republic when she was 8 years old, so she adopted the European way of traditions and that is how we celebrate.
Evan: We usually celebrate [Christmas] on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We also have the traditional James Bond movie on Christmas Day as well.
Ben: On Christmas, we do the normal stuff: tree and presents on the 25th. We also have Robert Burns night where we have a bonfire.
Erica: Both my parents are from mainland China, but I grew up with a Western background and so I celebrate both. I celebrate Christmas Western style [as well as]Chinese New Year. For Western holidays, we tend to be less formal.
Do you have any favorite traditions that you do with your family?
Erica: During Chinese New Year, my grandparents come over and my grandmother makes the best dumplings ever and we get money.
Ben: We usually go back to Scotland for Christmas and everyone does Secret Santa.
Evan: Sometimes we go back to the UK and we have a massive family Christmas Day lunch. Usually it is my mom and dad who cook throughout the day, so at the end of the day, they are pretty tired and groggy and no one talks to each other and we are all silent and eating our food and someone coughs and someone says, “Shut up!” and it’s not very nice.
Eve: On the 21st of March when Namibia was liberated, we usually sit around the table and my dad tells us stories because he was in the war. It is always really interesting.
What customs or traditions have you adopted since moving to Beijing?
Eve: Chinese New Year and the Boat Festival – those are ones we didn’t celebrate before coming to China but now that we are here it Clubis our tradition to do so. Once I leave China, I will probably celebrate it wherever I go.
Evan: I would like to say that we participate in Chinese New Year, but to be fair, we try to leave the country as soon as it starts. It’s just annoying, fireworks at 6am. It’s not for me.
Erica: My family does fireworks. Every night at 11, we go outside and light fireworks.
Have you lived in different countries, and are there traditions that you have kept from living there?
Erica: I lived in Hong Kong my whole life before I came to Beijing. There, we celebrated Christmas and Easter, everything.
Ben: I lived in the same place in Scotland before we lived here.
Evan: I lived in Abu Dhabi and South Korea. In Abu Dhabi, we were respectful to Ramadan; there was drinking or eating outside your house in front of Muslims. In Korea, there was a holiday called Chuseok where everyone went away for a couple of weeks. Not sure what that was.
Eve: Before coming to China, we were in Germany and I went to a British school. So we went Easter bunny hunting, celebrated Guy Fawkes and had fireworks, and lit lanterns and set them off into the air.
Are there any customs that you have kept from your home country?
Eve: In Namibia on Independence Day, we have to sing a song.
Ben: If I go to formal events, I usually wear a kilt.
Erica: We celebrate all the Chinese festivals, but it makes it easy because we are in China.