When I tell friends my age in Shanghai about how excited I get about Spring Festival, I get the feeling most of them think I'm foolish and childish. "How old are you?" their eyes seem to ask.
I just smile. One of the few things in the world I'm sure of is that my love for the Chinese new year holiday will last forever.
As someone who lives away from home, Spring Festival is closely associated with where I grew up; a place where my dearest family and friends are, where familiar scenes conjure the feeling of leafing through an old photo album.
Many people complain that CCTV's annual Spring Festival Gala is getting boring and have urged audiences to turn their back on the show.
To me, it's not just a television program; it's an event that I enjoy with my entire family on New Year's Eve. It's a vital part of the festival in my heart. I grow with it and I love it. It's how I know I'm living through the last few hours of a long year. I like leaving the television on that channel whatever I'm doing. I love watching the hosts in their extravagant costumes. I love the joyful dancing and singing.
Personal experience tells me even ordinary ceremonies in life can work wonders as long as your heart is in it.
Every year on my birthday, my father insists on giving me a nice card with handwritten blessings, whether I'm at home or abroad. Each time I'm moved to tears. It's a little thing but it means the world to both of us. Words may be forgotten, but the cards will always be there for me to read.
If I'm honest, I'm sometimes hopelessly lazy and have planned to skip making my father's birthday card because I know he won't feel sad if I just call him instead. As the day draws closer, however, I always get upset and eventually make one. It allows me to express my love.
A friend in Shandong province recently told me he felt exhausted after spending the holiday in his hometown because of the constant eating and drinking. Celebrations there abide by tradition, such as the necessary etiquette when someone makes a toast (people must drink more or less depending on how closely related they are, while different words are used for varying ages). I love hearing him explain in fine detail about the atmosphere around the table, as I see how human beings are bound together.
Sadly, however, my friend's story is exceptional rather than the rule. A survey by China Youth Daily online found that three-quarters of 1,621 people feel that the sense of ceremony during Spring Festival is diminishing. About half of the respondents were born in the 1980s, with another 40 percent in 1970s. This tells me that people are becoming more cynical.
I hate to think of those people who don't care about anything, as if nothing can reach their heart. They are interested in nothing but things they can touch and possess.
Such a person will never know the happiness one gains from devoting themselves to a hobby or a special occasion.
I like to think of people who show joy about something that is not material, something spiritual. No one knows how happy I was when I listened to my mother and uncle as they told stories of the games they played and the delicious food they ate as children during Spring Festival. In their expressions, I see life much larger than it is.
So please, don't get too cynical. Everything in this world has a meaning and deserves respect, let alone the most important festival celebrated across this vast and ancient land. Although the world changes quickly, sometimes making us feel humbly uncertain, please just try your best to feel the joy of spending time with family and friends.
Why not make a wish. Perhaps your life or your attitude toward life will be different. It's always worthwhile to hold on to innocence and hope, have respect for heaven and earth, and show gratitude for being alive.
As traditional ceremonies carry cultural messages from our history and define our Chinese identity, ignoring them means forgetting our past. That's how we, the generations born in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, find ourselves spiritually lost in today's world.
Don't let that sense of ceremony die in your hearts.
The author is a reporter for China Daily METRO.
(China Daily 02/24/2011 page)