Father’s Day: Celebrating Together

I could always get a good laugh from my dad with my sisters whenever we attempted a golf swing at the driving range. Swing and a miss. What a whiff. Even when I couldn’t get a good swing at that little pretentious golf ball still standing there, my dad would always try to guide me toward a better swing. On days when my dad only wants to practice his swings and improve his own game, he would always still take the time to help me out with mine. This is what I look up to as my personal role model, always willing to give a helping hand.  

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Some of the sales around Father’s Day. Notice the number 8 being used in some of the deals.

Puns are always “punny” to play around with, but did you ever know that an entire holiday in Taiwan was derived from a play of words? Father’s Day, or 父親節 (also known as 爸爸節 or babajie), is celebrated in Taiwan on August 8th and the date comes from the number 8 in Mandarin, ba (八). 8 and 88 are lucky numbers in the Chinese-speaking world, so it’s indeed a very lucky day as well. Although this is considered an unofficial holiday in Taiwan, it is still celebrated throughout Taiwan.

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A letter which reads: What I would like to say to my daddy: I love making both of us laugh, thank you for washing me, I love you daddy!

This day is a day for families to come together, celebrate, and acknowledge all what fathers do and sacrifice every day to support a family. Even though it is an unofficial holiday, the celebration really stems from Confucian-rooted social structures where males were considered to be the head of the house and had the responsibility to carry on the family name. In that line of logic Father’s Day is much like “Teacher’s Day” where honoring your teacher is customarily observed. Modern influences like the large emphasis placed on Mother’s Day and celebrating mothers may also carry some weight in creating and celebrating a holiday for fathers as well; both sides of a nuclear family deserves commemorating.

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Wordplay on “Baba” or Dad in this example and “Bala” or Taiwanese Guava (芭樂).

The significance of commemorating the “Father” role in the family may have some influence on why Father’s Day is so widely celebrated; the leaders of their households could finally rest from their work and enjoy being with the family. As a family people look up to fathers for advice, guidance, and leadership. They carry a large burden of responsibility for ensuring the status quo is still maintained through any obstacles that might come in their way. And for one day, fathers can take it easy. This isn’t a holiday observed in Taiwan, however; it is observed all over the world.

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A still from a Father’s Day comparison done by a news anchor.

Meanwhile in the United States, Father’s Day falls on the 3rd Sunday of June each year. It is an official holiday recognized by the national government and comes from the paternal bond, the recognition of fatherhood.  Father’s Day is filled with “father” esque gifts, including ties, watches, and whatever you can think of that associates with “dad”. My younger self would always try to find a mug with “#1 dad” on it, because he was always #1 in my heart. For many American families, Father’s Day would complement with an outdoor barbecue or going to see the ballgame. I wasn’t culturally accustomed to those kind of these activities, but we still would go out to a nice restaurant for lunch to have that delicious dim sum or do some family activity like play cards for the day. Regardless, we always had a wonderful time.

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The “family experience” between Asian Americans and other Americans don’t necessarily have the same meanings. Family for Asian Americans consists of the whole gang, with all the relatives and extended family in for the party, whereas an American family may not include everyone. The value of family in Asian cultures has much greater emphasis in everyday lives, and this set of values I grew up with resonates with how we celebrate the holiday in a different way than other people in America. The differences go much further than how we celebrate holidays. Americans and Asians see education and the meaning of success differently. The good ol’ “Tiger dad” versus “chill dad” ideology clearly shows the difference between the two cultures, and for many Taiwanese-Americans, many in addition to seeing one ideology or the other see a hybrid of these two different ideologies. However, the basic family principles are still there across the board, and that’s what matters most.

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Despite what background you come from, or what values you uphold to, Father’s Day is a celebration of these virtues and values with the family, whether if it’s just within the household or large family party size. To all the fathers out there, I say xiexie (謝謝) [Thank you]! For all you do, your efforts deserve celebration and commemoration.

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