Bringing Us All Together

January 26, 2017

Mass Greeting knits together the CAIS CommunityWe are approaching the biggest holiday of the year in China and in many other parts of Asia—the Lunar New Year or Spring Festival, as it is sometimes called. This holiday is steeped in traditions, some hundreds—perhaps thousands—of years old and some more recent.  Many Lunar New Year traditions are tied to different geographical and cultural regions. China is massive and has at times throughout history been divided into separate states and kingdoms, with separate governments, separate languages (sometimes called dialects) and wildly different cultures. In fact, to speak of “Chinese culture”, “Chinese food” or “Chinese language” is a massive oversimplification. China has at times in its history been as varied and diverse as Europe, which also was considered to be a single, unified empire at various times.

If you ever have the chance to converse with two or more CAIS parents who immigrated from different regions of China, ask them to say something in their local dialect, or talk about the differences in food or the way they celebrated holidays in their different regions. You’ll be surprised at the diversity of experiences. Aren’t we lucky, as a school, to have all these different traditions represented among our parent and grandparent body? Thank goodness for immigration; it is one of the things that makes our country strong!

At CAIS, our local tradition for celebrating the Lunar New Year is Mass Greeting or tuánbài 团拜.  I lived in China for 15 years and never once heard of anyone celebrating tuánbài. When I first heard about it at CAIS, I thought, “Oh, that’s our tradition—how nice!” The point is, I think, culture in China or among people who are ethnically Chinese, or like many of us (me, for instance) whose connection to Chinese culture comes from a place of interest and respect, is anything but monolithic. And there are a diversity of ways to celebrate the Lunar New Year—including Mass Greeting. Perhaps the important thing is that as communities—whether in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, Hong Kong, Taipei or Hayes Valley—people have traditions and rituals that are important to them because they bring people together and reinforce their commonality. In our case, this is a commonality that we deliberately seek in each other, even though we come from different places and different backgrounds. Now that is truly worth celebrating.

So whoever you are and wherever you are from, let’s join together and celebrate our commonality our way at Mass Greeting. I look forward to seeing you there.