Mother's Day: An Imported Festival Finds Its Roots in China

May 13, 2018
Editor: Liu Yanmei
A boy presents a handkerchief he made for his mother at a kindergarten in Hefei, capital of East China's Anhui province, May 9, 2013. Children made cards, handkerchiefs and other gifts for their mother to celebrate the coming Mother's Day. [Xinhua]

 

Many Chinese people have been pondering over what presents to get for their beloved moms on the Mother's Day, but very few know that Mother's Day is actually a festival bought in from overseas.

The modern version of Mother's Day originated in the United States during the early 20th century, although many other countries hold their own festivals to honor mothers.

With the progress of internationalization, the festival spread to China and became widely accepted and celebrated as early as the 1980s. In recent years, the day has become more commercialized, with e-commerce platforms promoting their special packages and discounts days ahead of the special day.

But how did an imported festival become so accepted in Chinese society?

China's long history of filial piety

In Confucian philosophy, filial piety is the understanding of respect for older people. Traditional Chinese culture has always hailed filial piety as an independent merit. The Chinese philosophies, including the Confucianism and Taoism, either have their own classics on filial piety, or attach great importance to it.

Meanwhile, there are many stories and fables of great mothers throughout the Chinese history. For instance, nearly every Chinese child has heard about Mencius' mother who moved homes three times in order to provide the best living conditions and education for her son, who grew up to become a great Chinese philosopher known by the Chinese as the "second Sage", coming only after Confucius.

The idea of a Mother's selfless love is also a repeated theme in Chinese literature, especially the ancient poems. One of the most famous one is written by Meng Jiao, a poet of the Tang Dynasty (618-907), whose representative work, "Song of the Parting Son", is still a must on the curriculum for Chinese teenagers.

A flower for the Chinese mums

Besides what is engraved in history and culture, China also has its own flower designated for mothers.

Nowadays, carnations are considered as the perfect flowers for mothers across the world, some Chinese people also prefer to buy carnations as presents on Mother's Day. But few know that China has its own preferred flower for mothers – the tiger lily also known as golden needle flower.

In China, it has another nickname, the "Nepenthes", because Chinese people believe that it can cheer people up and rid them of their worries. There used to be a tradition of planting tiger lilies in the backyard before traveling afar, with hopes of relieving a mothers' yearnings for their child.

Should China have its own Mother's Day

In recent years, there have been occasional debates over whether or not China should have its own version of Mother's Day. Some argue that the second day of the fourth lunar month of a year, which is marked as the birthday of Mencius' mother should be designated as the Chinese Mother's Day.

However, there are different voices as well. Many say it is too narrow-minded and limited to reject such an exported festival like Mother's Day.

"Respect and love for parents can have various forms and ways of expression, which is far more profound than what a festival could express," argued opponents, "it is the love that matters, not the festival itself."

Despites the variety of presents and dazzling commercial promotions, what mothers truly want is perhaps just a simple expression of love from their children.

Happy Mother's Day, to all mums!

(Source: China Daily)

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