by Yafei Zhu, October 22, 2018
Today is October, 17th 2018, and it’s the traditional Chinese holiday called the Chongyang Festival. Also known as the Double Ninth Festival, this takes place on the 9th day of the 9th lunar month in the Chinese lunar calendar. In an ancient and mysterious book Yi Jing, or The Book of Changes, number “6” was thought to be a Yin character, meaning feminine or negative; while number “9” was thought to be Yang, meaning masculine or positive. Chong in Chinese means “double”; also, as number “9” is pronounced the same as "Jiu" (the Chinese word “forever”), then double ninth has a really positive meaning of “forever and ever.” Therefore, the number nine in both month and day creates the Double Ninth Festival or Chongyang Festival. Chinese ancestors considered it an auspicious day worth celebration and the tradition continues today. Due to the special meaning of the festival, people also extend the name to be Senior’s Day to respect the elderlies in China.
To understand the true meanings of the Chinese traditional festivals, Yueya Lake Kindergarten has celebrated Chongyang Festival for the last eleven years. To get ready for the celebration, the Yueya Lake Kindergarten staff has been preparing the activities since the beginning of September. Xaria was asked to invite her grandma or grandpa to participate in the event. My dad has problems with his knees so it was an easy decision that my Mom should go with Xaria. My Mom was so excited.
The weather was beautiful in the morning, blue skies with warm sunlight. All the children were in their autumn uniforms. Their grandmas or grandpas were sitting by each class in the well-designed playground in the back of the building. On the center stage, there was a big red and long slogan written in Chinese “Let Grandparents Return to Childhood.” There were balloons and flowers on each side.
At 9 am, the head of the Yueya Lake Kindergarten gave a short speech to give thanks to all the grandmas and grandpas for their hard work of helping each family raising their children. Then three of the pre-schoolers provided thankful words to all the teachers and grandparents. Starting with the older children, groups of children performed with basketballs, flowers, and rings. The children all did exceptionally well - Xaria was in the group performing with little green rings. She was at the back of the line and participated but was a little distracted. The good thing was she did not give up and finished the whole activity. I was so proud of her, given the fact that she only practiced for a week. Good job, Xaria!!!
Classes Perform During the Chongyang Festival
Xaria Performing With Her Class
Some grandparents also participated in the activities, such as passing basketballs between each other or walking together holding a ball between them. The grandparents were laughing and had a great time - it really did make them feel they were children again. My mom and I were laughing as well. Of course, Xaria had no patience to watch a bunch of senior people play like kids - she was off to the playground as soon as she could!
Grandparents Performing at the Chongyang Festival
After grandparents play, everybody went back to their respective classrooms and started to make handmade Shou Tao – Long Life Peach using playdough. Miss Gong, who is the main teacher in Xaria’s class, showed us how to make it. Then Xaria together with her grandma followed the instructions and started to make their Shou Tao. Their collaboration was fruitful, excuse the pun, and the result was amazing; a beautiful Shou Tao with green leaves around its base. The teachers had pictures taken of each pair to show off their artwork. After all the children and grandparents washed their hands, every child picked one Chongyang rice cake. Xaria picked a white cake with a carved flower in the center. Then each child sat next to their grandparent and shared the cakes together. What a special and sweet moment!!!
Making Shou Tao – Long Life Peach, using Playdough
Showing off Shou Tao – Long Life Peach
Xaria sharing her Chongyang Rice Cake with Grandma
The whole Chongyang Festival celebration took two hours. It was fun and everyone participated. Most importantly, it provided a great opportunity for the children to learn to respect elders, which is essential in Chinese culture. I hope Xaria grasped the true meaning for this festival, which is her first celebrated festival in China. I felt this event gave me a deeper understanding of the true meaning of the Chongyang Festival. I see my parents aging quickly and watch their struggles with daily life - I feel so grateful that I have this opportunity to spend time with them in Nanjing.
While today was a very happy day, after my first two weeks being back in Nanjing with my parents, I'm a little sad that while living conditions have been improved enormously with China's economic rise, the city infrastructure and bank system still has much room to improve to accommodate seniors - especially people like my Dad who has difficulty walking. There was no handicap access in all the banks where we went, some banks are even on the second floor with steps but no elevator. Many streets have no handicap access either. Bus drivers never wait till the seniors sit down before driving off, which often makes seniors struggle on the bus and is not safe at all for them. I wonder if the society and the government could continue to improve the city infrastructure and people’s attitude towards seniors to make their golden years enjoyable. One-day celebrations are great but further actions are required to make a real difference.