Describe a tradition of a festival in your country.
You should say:
What it is
Who take part in this tradition
What people do with this tradition
And explain how you feel about this tradition
I’d like to talk about an interesting tradition in the Tibet region of my country. There is a festival called the Butter Lamp Festival, quite unique to that area. It comes at the end of the New Year Festival, and is in celebration of a kind of Buddhist prayer day – I forget the name. Basically, Lamas at the temples, and people in their homes, in fact, make lamps out of a special kind of butter, with a wick in them, like a candle, and light them. What’s special about these lamps is that they are often crafted or sculpted into different animal shapes – into the forms of birds, and sacred animals and things like this. Then the lamps are all lit at a certain time and the lights turned off. This is particularly spectacular in some of the older temples, as you can see all this wonderful flickering candle-light casting shadows across the Buddhist architecture and paintings on the walls. It’s really a special and mysterious kind of occasion. Also, if you visit one of the old temples at this time you hear the monks chanting sacred songs and playing cymbals or drums. So, there are some musical performances that surround the events too. I have only been to that region once, and I was lucky enough to visit a few temples during this part of the New Year Festival season, so I saw it first-hand and really enjoyed it. I like ancient traditions and customs that have a history and I would like to go to more regions of China, where the different ethnic groups have different and quite unique festival traditions. I feel that all traditions have some value, not just to the people who practice them, but for visitors – it’s a great way to get a feel of another culture and learn a bit about how other groups of people in the world celebrate their special occasions.
1. What’s the most important tradition in your country?
I don’t really know, it’s hard to say. There are quite a few traditions in my country, though most mainstream ones I find quite boring to be honest. It seems that over the past generation or so they’ve lost their flavor and aren’t really that exciting. Anyway, I think one of the most important traditions in my country is something quite simple, but meaningful: it’s the tradition of serving people jiao zi, or dumplings, before they go on a long journey, like a plane or train journey to another province or country. At least in my extended family we always follow this tradition and many of my friends do too. Basically, before you set out on your trip you eat lots of dumplings – that’s it! I am not sure why this tradition is a tradition, but it is! It’s meant to be good luck and give you a safe journey. As well, as, of course, filling your stomach so you’re not hungry!
2. Why should children learn about traditions?
It’s quite important that children learn about traditions because that’s one thing that keeps traditions alive for generations to come. That’s what I was alluding to earlier really – the fact that so many traditions are getting diluted these days, as they lose their meaning as they get passed from generation to generation. Young people often have little interest in our own ancient traditions, and as they get older this lack of interest starts to mean that traditions become less meaningful. This is quite a shame. So, I think if children learn about traditions then it’s a good way to keep those traditions alive for the future.
3. Are there any traditions that have already disappeared in your country?
I’m not really sure I know any that have disappeared really, but I am sure there are many. One thing I will say is that traditionally, in history, there were lots of interesting street parades, firework displays and outdoor activities during spring festival. Whereas in the past 30 or so years, people don’t really do much of this – they simply sit and watch a very long gala entertainment show on TV, and that’s about it. Fireworks have now been banned, because they are noisy and pollute the air. Street parades don’t really exist anymore, because basically such gatherings along the roads are not encouraged, and so we are left with a dinner with family and that gala TV show. In a way I think that’s a shame. So, I think some traditions have disappeared, or at least they have got watered down and are not as exciting or meaningful as they used to be.
4. People in China are enthusiastic about Western festivals like Halloween and Christmas. Do you think Western festivals have already replaced traditional festivals or people just celebrate them together?
This is a curious question and there are a few different ways of looking at this. As China has strove to modernize, the country has actually embraced a lot of western ideas from fashions to music, to coffee shops and things like that, and perhaps become excited about these things because everyone likes “new things” – and therefore younger generations have veered away from any real interest in their own traditions. This is what tends to happen – it’s part of human nature. But at the same time, our own festivals have got a bit boring, and so young people have perhaps found that Christmas and Halloween are more fun and exciting, and so they have started to embrace those. It’s a bit of a paradox, really, because at the same time as being proud of our own culture, we have actually shown little real interest in it, and even got bored of all those old-fashioned things and therefore embraced a lot of foreign ideas. You know, this is a natural part of history, and I’ve seen a lot of changes recently, too, and younger generations are starting to show more genuine interest in ancient Chinese traditions and habits and customs. So, in the end, I think we’ll end up with a mixture of different things we can celebrate in one way or another, though I’d say that our own festivals are always going to be the ones that in our hearts we feel closest and most fondest of. Foreign festivals will always be perhaps ‘a bit of fun’, but our own festivals, especially those shared with family, will be the ones that have true inner meaning for us.