The Chongyang Festival is celebrated on the ninth day of the ninth month of the lunar calendar every year. It is also known as the Climbing High Festival, the Double Ninth Festival, Chrysanthemum Day or Old People’s Day. With this holiday, children are taught to respect the elderly, and the best way to teach them is to lead by example.
chóng yáng jié
重 阳 节
The story behind why there is a Chrysanthemum Festival comes from a legend that invlolves a monster, magic, and chrysanthemum wine. Long story short, a hero saves the day by riding a crane home from a perilous journey and slaying a monster that was plaguing generations within a town. The significance of the date has to do with the number nine. In Chinese, the number 9 sounds like a word that denotes longevity, thus the Double Ninth Festival has a lot of meaning for people and is a still widely participated festival to this day.
On this day, people often stay at home with the elderly or take them out to enjoy the day. It is common to go hiking, pay respect to ancestors at their graves, enjoy chrysanthemums, eat mochi, chrysanthemum cake, bake fruits, drink chrysanthemum wine, wear dogwood and pin chrysanthemums.
Another activity is looking at old photos of one’s family. It’s a nice family activity to explain “this is when mom and dad were young, this is when your grandparents were young”. Telling children that we were once children, and grandparents were once young gives them a new appreciation and perspective. Life is a continuous process, from grandparents to mom and dad to little baby. Let children know that everyone will grow old, that this is the natural order of life, but that no matter what stage of life you are in, there will always be someone who will love you the same way.
In China, mothers and fathers tell little children to do small things for their elders, such as helping elders clear the table after eating, helping mom clean up the dishes after the meal, saying “good night” to elders before going to bed, greeting elders they meet when going out and about, and when taking the bus, giving up their seat for their elders.
More kind gestures that children are taught to do during this time include massaging grandparent’s backs and legs, asking elders to eat the good food first, helping elders do things such as picking vegetables, carrying newspapers and anything else children are capable of easily doing for grandma and grandpa. These acts of respect for the elderly are not only reserved for Chrysanthemum Day, but also for everyday life.
If you can, you can also make a gift for your grandparents with your children. It doesn’t have to be complicated – a handmade card, origami or a painting or a little dance they learned.
Overall, why do Chinese people feel that the Chrysanthemum Festival is important?
First of all, it is a good opportunity for children to learn about the laws of nature, the cycle of life, and that any life process deserves respect. Secondly, it is not only important for children to know how to love the young, but also how to respect the old. How you treat the elderly now will be how your offspring will treat you when you are old. Lastly, they learn to be grateful. Knowing how to be grateful to grandparents will also allow them to understand how to be grateful to parents as well.
Out of all of these activities which do you think you could manage to participate in this year? Every family, depending on the region, celebrates a little differently so it’s not uncommon to put your own personal touches on the festivities. Feel free to use what you have and make it your own so that your child may have a memorable day.