Reunion of ethnic cultures a highlight in Inner Mongolian families during Spring Festival
Published: Feb 20, 2024 06:31 PM
Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

One week before the Spring Festival, I received a WeChat message - a lively video full of laughter and singing, showing my Mongolian friend Batu and his family celebrating the New Year. As I was working alone in Beijing, he hoped that through this video I could get a taste of Inner Mongolia's Lunar New Year celebrations in advance.

Every year on the 23rd day of the 12th lunar month, it is the Mongolian New Year, but this is only the beginning of the Year of the Dragon for Batu's family. As a common Mongolian and Han ethnicity mixed family in North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, Batu's family not only celebrates one Spring Festival - they attach equal importance to the 23rd and the last day of the 12th lunar month.

"Having one more opportunity for reunion every year is great," Batu told me.

After I went back to my home in Ordos, a city in Inner Mongolia, for the 2024 Spring Festival holidays, Batu invited me to participate in the ceremony on the very morning of the first day of the Lunar New Year. With the heavy woolen curtain at the house of Batu's grandma openning, Batu's family greeted their relatives with traditional Mongolian blessings, and went through rituals such as presenting to the guests hada, a traditional Mongolian and Tibetan silk scarf that symbolizes purity and auspiciousness. Batu's 90-year-old grandma personally wrote in Mongolian language long blessings for each of her grandchildren.

"Every year, Grandma's wish is for us to have stable life and be in good health," Batu told me. 

Batu's family is a microcosm of the celebration of the Spring Festival in many Mongolian and Han mixed families in China. In these families, the characteristics of both Mongolian and Han Spring Festivals can be seen everywhere. As a native of Ordos, I have become accustomed to the combination of Mongolian couplets and the Chinese character "Fu," the interweaving of Mongolian and Chinese languages during exchange of greetings, and the round Mongolian pies and plump dumplings in the Lunar New Year's Eve dinner. These all play an important part in the reunion of every Mongolian and Han mixed family.

In Inner Mongolia, some families still maintain the tradition of having an open fire because the blazing flames symbolize good luck and auspiciousness in the coming year. Many herdsmen's homes will also arrange dairy products and candies in the shape of cylinders, symbolizing reunion and auspiciousness. People go to the main streets to see the lanterns, enjoy music and fireworks shows in the city center, and go to the malls to buy New Year goods. Everyone becomes immersed in the strong, festive atmosphere. 

Ordos has also welcomed families from all over the country. During the Spring Festival holidays, the city received a total of 3.35 million tourists, 5.83 times that of 2023, achieving tourism revenue of 2.729 billion yuan ($288.8 million), 9.27 times that of 2023. Not only the Inner Mongolian families but also families from all over the country join in the cheerful atmosphere.

The Spring Festival holidays are the moments of reunion and the most prominent showcase of the integration of Chinese ethnic cultures.

Kashi in Northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region was selected as one of the four sub-venues for this year's China Media Group Spring Festival Gala. This marks the first time that Xinjiang has become a sub-venue for the program that hundreds of millions of Chinese families in and outside China will watch together on the eve of the Chinese Lunar New Year. 

However, some Western media outlets portrayed the meticulous preparations of the people in Kashi and other regions of Xinjiang for this highly anticipated cultural extravaganza as a means by the central government to enhance "ethnic assimilation."

Seeing the lively scene in Kashi that night, my friends from my hometown exchanged messages, recalling the excitement when Hulunbuir became a sub-venue of the Spring Festival Gala in 2016. Hulunbuir, also in Inner Mongolia, is about 2,000 kilometers from Ordos. Mongolian elements shown during the gala became a source of pride for all people of Mongolian ethnicity in China, and this pride we Chinese have of our own culture is not limited to any particular ethnic group. This sense of pride is enough to make the Western smear campaigners feel ashamed.

The West is misguided when it comes to China's approach to ethnic minorities. They turn a blind eye to the scenario of ethnic integration and harmonious development in China but maliciously fabricate lies about the so-called ethnic oppression with ideological bias and the intention to contain China's rise. The integration of Chinese ethnic cultures is not only seen in Mongolian and Han mixed families but also on the performing stages in Kashi as well as along the streets in other parts of the Xinjiang region. This is a completely different world from the false world in the lens of some Western media.

The 56 ethnic groups in China eagerly anticipate the Spring Festival every year, hoping to see ethnic integration and cultural displays.

For the 56 ethnic groups in China, the Spring Festival is not just a festival but a reunion - a reunion of ethnic cultures.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. opinion@globaltimes.com.cn