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This is a part of Cultural Education series for our kids to get socialized. If you missed the other posting, you might visit:
It is not November and it is not Chinese New Year still. Last weekend we went to the Public Christian Cemetery where my father in law was buried 29 years ago. He left one wife, who is my mother in law, and 5 sons with the ages ranged from 6 to 15 years old. Since then, my mother in law brought up her 5 sons by herself until all of them graduated as Bachelor Arts scholars. Well, that is a brief story of my husband’s family. It really inspires me writing this post.
We are a Chinese descendant family living in Indonesia. Although we cannot speak Chinese at all, we still have Chinese cultural value in many aspects of our life. However, we cannot avoid some Javanese cultural value influence in our life. One of the thickest Chinese cultural value in our family that we still conserve and inherit to our children is the commemoration of the ancestors. Here are some cultural values we want our children to maintain:
Commemorate the death of the ancestors in complete sequence:
7 days, 40 days, 100 days, 1 year, 2 years, and 1000 days after death.
We usually do some tradition in the commemoration: either group or individual worship or devotion, spreading the flowers, and greeting the ancestor by folding our hands together like a ball to the death as a symbol of high respect. We do this ritual either in the cemetery where the person is buried or going to the sea where the cremation ash was released to the nature.
Our family has a couple of options to the death. He or she can be buried in the cemetery or cremated in crematorium and get the ash released in the sea. It depends on the choice of the person or the family decision after some discussion.
Well, this is a combination of Javanese, Chinese, and Catholic cultures where we belong to be.
Various Titles to The Elders
In Western culture, all female relatives from both mom and dad sides are called aunty while the male relatives are called uncle. In Javanese culture, there is a difference of title between elder uncle and younger uncle. They are called big uncle and small uncle. In Chinese culture, we have a more complicated titles.
- Uncles from mother side have different name either the younger and the elder than our mother. Uncles from father side have different titles either for the younger and the elder than our father. You see that there have been 4 different titles for aunts and 4 different titles for uncles.
- It is also similar with grandma and grandpa. Grandma from mother has different title from grandma from father and so does grandpa.
- In laws have different titles which are very complicated.
Well, we don’t do the third point as our family education is mostly dominated by Dutch culture rather than Chinese culture. Kids have been taught indirectly to get used to the titles. What happen when we don’t follow? That will be fine, but we will get lost when we talk to others who adopt Chinese culture purely. However, nothing loose too following the cultural things.
Ask Blessings from the Death and from the Life
Asking for blessings from the ancestors and from the elders is a tradition in our culture.
- The main blessing for us is always from God. This is what our religion tradition shows to us. Therefore, the first blessing is always asked from God.
- Commemorate the death as I mentioned previously is one kind of asking blessing from the death. It is a kind of spiritual communication between the life and the death. There isn’t any special things, but we tell kids to talk to their passed away grandpa inside their heart to get blessing from him.
- Before we do some important things, we ask the elder to pray for us and get them bless us. This is something common in a wedding ceremony at church to have a blessing session at the end of the mass. Thus, kids copy what parents have done.
Authority is Usually Determined by Gender and Age
The more senior or the older a person, he or she has more authority and responsibility in managing and protecting the younger ones. This principle is clearly shown in our Chinese society. We don’t adopt the gender difference influence in terms of authority, but we try to emphasize the elder to be responsible to protect and to manage their younger siblings.
There is usually a difference in calling younger and elder sibling or cousins or any relatives in different and similar stages or levels. However, our children calling out names among siblings and cousins at home. It looks rare here, but both of my side and my husband’s side are the same in this case.
Speech and Communication Style Based on The Levels
This is the hardest part to “teach” my kids using different language style towards different age levels. It is very important to be polite here. The way someone behaves and talks will let people judge whose children they are, which family they belong to, and how polite he is or she is. We always give a communication characteristics and limits toward people we are speaking to.
- The highest level is their grandparents’ stage. We suppose not to call the people we are talking to if they are in the level of our grandparents. Even we cannot call ourselves with “I” (we have some levels of “I”). We suppose calling ourselves with our names instead.
- The second higher level is their parents’ stage. This level is almost similar with the previous one, but the kind of “I” is different. However, the level of formality is still maintain usually.
- The same age or level can use informal language and calling names
- The younger age or level might have similar informal language with the same level ones.
Well, We don’t want that people will put stamp to children as impolite or rude most of the time. Therefore, the ability to place themselves in society is much more important rather than having a gang of friends tho whom they cannot learn how to put themselves in the society.