Excuse me while I digress from all things moving related for a moment.
Recently I have seen comments from parents of new/older adoptees asking about Children’s Day in China. I have also seen some lamenting it. My purpose isn’t to judge or criticize or shame but to encourage adoptive parents to reconsider the holiday by providing some insight into how the Chinese celebrate Children’s Day, and perhaps even uncover some aspects of this holiday that can strengthen family relationships rather than cause distress and conflict.
As adoptive parents we are often reminded that incorporating our child’s culture into our family life is an important aspect of international adoption. To this end many, myself included, spend considerable time, effort, and expense on celebrating Chinese New Year and Moon Festival, two major Chinese holidays. What I have come to understand (realizing that practices vary considerably around the country and from orphanage to orphanage) is that the two biggest holidays for children in orphanages are Chinese New Year and Children’s Day. In fact, few children, unless they are in foster homes, will have much knowledge or experience with Moon Festival – it is a fairly minor event on the calendar. Celebrations of Chinese New Year may be elaborate with performances, red envelopes and special foods, or fairly simple non-events with visitors bringing extra bags of candy, oranges and peanuts. Many children will have fairly minimal understanding of what the holiday is about, and the actual New Year’s Day is often a very quiet one because much of the staff is gone to see their own families.
While Children’s Day in the US, which was once primarily celebrated by churches on the first Sunday in June, seems to have all but disappeared, in China it is going strong. Children’s Day is a school holiday, though many schools, from pre-school through middle school, arrange “field day” type events where students and parents compete together on teams and individually. Preparations are elaborate and begin weeks in advance. City parks are filled with performances, carnival rides and other events for families to enjoy together. A significant indicator of the national importance of this holiday is that government workers receive half day off, and many private employers also allow parents to take some time off to enjoy with their child. It would not be an overstatement to say that Children’s Day is one of the top three holidays in China, and probably second only to New Year. Like most Chinese holidays, it is a very family-centric affair.
So, if Children’s Day is a family celebration, why do so many children from orphanages seem to know about it? Significantly for our adopted children, particularly older ones, Children’s Day is a very inclusive holiday: every orphanage that I know makes a major event of Children’s Day. Within the orphanage there are often events, performances, special meals, and definitely lots of candy. Volunteers, community groups, businesses, schools and local government officials all may pay a visit to the orphanage to smile and pass out treats. Some children may have the opportunity to go for a special outing to a park or cultural center where there are community events and performances. It almost seems that for this one day of the year even the forgotten, “left behind” children are in the spotlight. When you think of it, it’s a pretty amazing thing and no wonder why -- in a life that was fairly bleak and monotonous -- Children’s Day stands out as a special and important memory of your child’s life in China.
As you might surmise by now, I think that there is value in continuing the Children’s Day tradition with our adopted children, and particularly with those who have positive memories of it. Here are three reasons why:
Happy Children's Day!
About This Blog
Part documentary, part family chronicle and part personal reflection as I try to sort through the ups and downs, the joys, heartaches and surprises of our life and work as we follow the path that God has set for us here in China!
Lindsay and Marissa as they prepare for semester exams and look for good summer jobs to earn money for college tuition.
Kristen to finish the school year strong and to make friends.
Donna to have wisdom in planning and implementing new programs for the youth and for financial provision to cover our expenses.