China's Only Children: Which Family Reunion Dinner to Attend?

By Zhou Huiying, Central News Agency
February 2, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: February 2, 2006 12:00 am

TAIPEI – Chinese people attach much weight to family reunion for the Chinese New Year (or Chinese Lunar Year). As the first generation of only children has established a home one after another, this tradition has become a source of stress for many young couples during this holiday season as they face up to the dilemma of where to spend their Chinese New Year's Eve—at the home of the wife's parents, or that of the husband's parents?

This modern dilemma is a result of young couples being the only children in their families. On Chinese New Year's Eve, family reunion dinner is of great importance to the Chinese people. All parents look forward to reuniting with their children, and all children wish to take this time to show affection to their parents. Satisfying their own needs, some couples still follow the tradition of attending the family reunion dinner at the home of the husband's parents, and some agree to split up and each visit their own parents. According to a Chinese media report, as the first generation of sons and only daughters has grown up and formed families, the traditional family reunion at the husband's home has become a fading process. These days, the irreconcilable and unavoidable conflict of which parents' dinner to attend is becoming increasingly conspicuous, for these only children of the 70s.

Based on the report, due to a custom favoring male over female, 50 percent of young couples still choose to spend New Year's Eve at the home of the husband's parents and then pay a visit to the wife's parents on the second day of the lunar year. A woman who follows this convention said, “We spend New Year's Eve at the home of my husband's parents every year, and it has become a habit since he is the only son in his family. Besides, his parents strongly insist that we spend New Year's Eve with them every year. Since my parents are quite open-minded, I go along with my husband's decision. But on the second day of the lunar year, we always pay a visit to my parents.”

Though there are more affectionate husbands who are willing to spend New Year's Eve at the home of his wife's parents, some young couples agree to return to their respective homes to accompany their own parents during the Chinese New Year. This way, parents of both sides can be reunited with their own child.

The report said that the number of Chinese families composed of only children is rapidly increasing. Experts predict that in the next 10 years there will have been millions of families formed by single children only or single child with non-single child, and this type of family structure will become a mainstream in Chinese society.

The report also states the Chinese New Year is undergoing social changes. The tradition of large intergenerational dinners is gradually fading as the size and structure of Chinese families continue to change.