A wave of silence followed by looks of confusion washed over my students’ faces on that Monday in June. Their questionable stares first focused on me and then they shared several puzzled glances amongst themselves. One student finally broke the silence and bravely spoke up. He confidently informed me that my Father’s Day wishes to my Dad the previous day came two months too early. I proceeded to tell them that, in my home country, Father’s Day is celebrated in June and that Taiwan may very well be the only country that celebrates Father’s Day in August.
Yes, today is Father’s Day in Taiwan and like many other customs, traditions, and beliefs here, it all surrounds a play on words (usually ‘same sound but different tone’ is the common explanation). In Chinese, the word for Dad is ‘Ba Ba’ and is said with a fourth, descending tone. The number 8 is also pronounced as ‘ba’ but is said with a first, even tone. August 8, 8/8, ba ba, is Father’s Day for obvious reasons!!
During the weekends prior to or proceeding this special day, restaurants are usually reserved well in advanced and booked to capacity. Cute tuxedo cakes and round-faced father cakes are displayed at local bakeries. Stores have sales on electronic gadgets and other ‘manly’ items! Red envelopes containing lucky money are presented as gifts!
Close family ties are the norm in Taiwan so it is not surprising to have three, sometimes four generations dining on special occasions. Entire families come together to celebrate and it is not uncommon to see 20, 30, or even more people dining together. One of my students told me that four generations celebrated Father’s Day together last Sunday where her great-grandfather was guest of honor! She told me that red envelopes were given to the fathers and an extravagant meal was cooked at home.
So for all the ‘Ba Ba’s out there, Happy Father’s Day from Taiwan!!
Which reminds me…I need to head to the nearest bookstore to buy a card for my father for next year!!!