The Moon Is Not Rounder Elsewhere
I’ve lived in Spain for around four or five years, and truth be told, the Christmas here is very quiet and not how I thought it would be. On December 25, almost every house is shut up, which forms a stark contrast to the New Year’s celebration a week later.
Some people say that westerners are born independent and neither value their family nor give it a high priority in their lives.
Just a few days ago, I came across a middle-aged man at the bus station in front of my house. The man was standing there, looking around in the chill wind. After a while, a young lady came running from the other side of the street, and the old man was hailed with a most enthusiastic shout of “Papá” and a big bear hug from her in front of everyone. And then, the lady took the man by the hand, and both of them got in her car and left happily.
At that moment, it suddenly occurred to me that, ever since I reached manhood, I’ve never addressed my dad that way in public.
When I visited El Escorial, I was impressed by the century- old elaborate drawing of Spain’s Royal Family Tree hanging on the wall, from which every single lineage of the royal clan could be traced back to hundreds of years ago. However, in China, many hectic urban dwellers seem to have forgotten the names of their ancestors that are older than three generations. In Spain, it is common to see handsome young dads wearing a knapsack stuffed with milk bottles on their back, pulling a pram, and carrying their babies in the front, all while shopping with their wives in the street. But in China, most babies seem to be looked after by their moms, grandparents, or nannies.
It seems that Europeans have a unique way of expressing when it comes to family values. I n t h e i r mi n d s , f e s t i v a l s f o r families should never be turned into a public carnival. If coming home is to fulfill your family responsibility, then coming home on Christmas is to fulfill the responsibility in the name of faith. When we communicate with people, everything we do is mundane, but when we communicate with God, everything we do is more like a ritual.
Before this Christmas, our dean had already scheduled to go back to her residence in the north to visit her children, my tutor had already set up a beautiful Christmas tree at home, and the supermarkets were shut early. With fireplaces burning cheerfully in every house, the family members, who are normally busy with their own affairs most of the time, are now sitting around the
dining table, praying earnestly and devoutly in praise of Jesus Christ, and passing merciful blessings to everyone around them.
Festivals are not only a tradition, a custom, a belief, and a spiritual support for us, but also a holiday and a business opportunity. Unlike the peaceful and quiet Christmas in the West, the Christmas in the East is rather boisterous and lively. It is worth contemplating why lots of Chinese people put on such airs in celebrating western festivals, imitating westerners to pray and exchange gifts and so on, without even understanding whether an apple represents peace or desire or who Catholics and Christians worship, God or Jesus Christ.
Yet, the customs of our Spring Festival and many other traditional festivals, with a history of thousands of years, are seldom imitated or much appreciated by young people in the West. Could it be said that foreign customs are trendy and ours are out of fashion?
I remember that a few years ago, I went to Havana to interview a film expert who was over 70 for my dissertation. He lived in a cramped and simply furnished house. After rummaging for some time, he took out a colorful iron box stuffed with all sorts of Chinese tea.
I was a little surprised by it, as Havana was a country under sanctions for several decades and in urgent need of food and sometimes even water and toilet paper. “This is Keemun black tea. This is Tie Guanyin (oolong tea). This is Biluochun ( green tea). This is Pu’er (black tea)…” The old man introduced them to me as if talking about his family treasures. And then, he, full of pride, began to boil water and make tea for me.
Through the lingering vapor in the room, I saw that the old man squinted his eyes and took a sip of his tea. Then he exhaled a puff of warm air, and said to me happily, “I love the tea from your country. When I drink Pu’er, I can conjure up images of the horsedrawn caravans moving through clouds and mist on the Ancient Tea Horse Road, with horse bells ringing along the way. When I drink Tie Guanyin, I can conjure up images of petite young ladies
from the coastland of Fujian, wearing tie-dyed headcloths and big bamboo hats, working in the field…”
Although he never had a chance to visit China, and I don’t know how much effort he spent in collecting those teas or where he got them, everything he said about the hometown of a tea was so vivid that I felt like I was actually there.
Perhaps, distance creates beauty as well as misunderstanding. When we get closer, we’ll find that, the moon is not rounder elsewhere.
( From StayHungry,Stay
Foolish , Guangming Daily Press. Translation: Zhu Yaguang)