Mother’s Day in China has not always been as popular as it is the United States. However, it has become more popular in the Asian culture over the past several years because it celebrates one of China’s most important traditions of honoring elders, especially parents. While the celebration has taken on more of an American flavor as Chinese mothers receive cards and gifts on a day set aside to honor them, its roots are distinctly Asian.
Honoring Meng Mu
Rather than honor individual mothers, a concept that some Chinese struggle with due to growing up in a reserved culture where people often don’t express love, some people choose to honor Meng Mu instead. She was the mother of Meng Zi, considered the most important Chinese ruler since Confucius. They appreciate and revere Meng Mu because she placed an extremely high value on education for all.
Other Mother’s Day Traditions in China
Some members of Chinese society have taken it upon themselves to collect funds to give to poor working mothers in some of the most rural areas of the country. Still others use the day to reflect on the ingrained social custom of filial piety. This term refers to the respect, care, and obedience to older family members.
One way for younger people to show their dedication to filial piety is to not miss the opportunity to show honor, love, and respect to their mother on the day set aside to do just that. Confucius himself stated that honoring one’s parents is the most important thing anyone in Chinese culture can do. He also emphasized the importance of never dishonoring parents and being willing to support them in old age.
Honoring Mothers in an Aging Society
In an aging population like China where 16 percent of the population is over age 60, the Mother’s Day holiday is perfect to reassert the wisdom of older people and give them the honor they have earned. By 2050, Chinese citizens over age 60 could make up one-third of the population. The Chinese government is so concerned with the reality of an aging population that it passed a law promoting filial piety. Under the law, the younger generation must listen to and attempt to meet the emotional needs of parents.
Selecting a Mother’s Day gift or card plays right into the culture promoted by filial piety laws. The government is so serious about it that adult children face detention or fines for failing to at least check up on their parents if they don’t live with them. Additionally, children begin learning about the concept early in life starting between the ages of four and six.
Expensive Gifts Are Rare
Besides honoring elders, Chinese culture also place a high emphasis on spending money wisely. Because of this, it is unlikely that adult children will buy extravagant gifts for Mother’s Day. It’s more common to see acts of service by the younger adults such as washing the feet of their mother.
Chinese people living in America have forged their own traditions to show how much their mother means to them. One of these is paying for their mother’s meal at an authentic Chinese restaurant. Getting a break from the daily grind of cooking and cleaning is a welcome gift to any mother.