Only children face New Year dilemma where to
By Cao Li
An eagerness to reunite in this most precious Chinese holiday
- Spring Festival - is sending people home to their families - but
Li Dan, from Hunan Province, will not be able to spend the upcoming
Spring Festival holiday with his wife Wang Xiaoli, again. Wang from
Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, will go back there to spend
time with her widowed mother.
Both the only child at home, Li and Wang face the same hard choice
of whose home to go to every Spring Festival. They were not together
during the Spring Festival in the first or second year of their
Last year, they made a shift to rush back to the husband's parents
in the short January 1 holiday in order to stay with the wife's
mother during the Spring Festival.
"But my mother was a little unhappy about that," Li said.
Li's parents spent the New Year Eve at his uncle's home. "They
felt lonely without me at what is the most important family gathering
time for Chinese."
China's family planning policy, which started 20 years ago has shrunk
the average family size.
Li's paternal grandmother gave birth to four sons and one daughter.
He spent almost every New Year's Eve at her home with uncles, aunts
and cousins. That was the most exciting time of the year for Li.
"But there have been ever fewer people attending such gatherings
since my grandparents passed away," he said. "My absence
made them feel even more lonely."
The couple finally decided to stay with their own parents this year,
which means they will be far away from each other.
The problem is not restricted to couples with different hometowns.
Lots of other married only-children are affected too.
Chen Min, a married Shanghai woman, will finally be able to stay
at her parents this Chinese New Year's Eve, despite the fact her
in-laws are a little upset about it.
It is a tradition for a married woman to stay with her husband's
family on Chinese New Year's Eve. But as her parents' only child,
Chen hopes to spend this most important time with her parents too,
as she did once before several years ago.
"My husband's parents become unhappy every time," she
Xu, a white collar who was married in 2004, has found a better way
to solve the dilemma. She invited both parents to her home last
"Every one is happy with that arrangement and we are going
to do it again this year."
Like most people under 30 in this country, Xu and her husband are
both the only child at home.
"It is difficult to be filial all the time because the only-children
are the most important part of their families," she said.
Meanwhile, the proportion of senior citizens has increased rapidly
in Shanghai, demanding care from the members of the comparatively
small younger generation.
By the end of 2004, about 20 per cent of Shanghai's 17 million registered
residents were older than 60.
In the downtown East Nanjing Road neighbourhood, nearly 22 per cent
of residents are above 60 and many of them live by themselves, with
few visits from their children.
The committee of the neighbourhood made a decision last month to
publish the names of young people on a bulletin board if they fail
to visit their parents in three months or at important holidays
like the Spring Festival. It withdrew the idea later after receiving
complaints from young people and their parents.
"We were not intending to blame them. We wanted to encourage
them to visit their parents more regularly," said the director
of the committee, Ding Weilong, quoted in the Shanghai Morning Post.
"Being busy is not a proper excuse for not visiting for a long
Ding said they were going to send letters to the young people instead.
The rest home in the Pingliang Neighbourhood of the Yangpu District
will charge an extra 50 yuan (US$6) to people whose parents will
stay in the rest home over Chinese New Year's Eve.
"It is not a punishment, but we hope the seniors will be able
to spend the holiday with their families," said Zhu, the head
of the rest home.
Zhu said that 20 of their 70 residents would be going home this
holiday, more than in recent years.