Chinese Valentine’s Day

5th February was the 15th and also the last day of lunar new year celebration. It is known as “Yuan Xiao(元宵)” and it was also the Chinese Valentine’s Day.

It is a tradition for the Chinese who are married to give red packets to the children and elderly for blessing and good luck. The red packet is also called the  ‘压岁钱 (ya sui qian)’ which is translated as money to suppress the bad luck. The red packet collected are supposed to be put under the pillow and open only on the 15th day of the lunar new year. However, many are not practicing this tradition these days.

I made it a point for my children to continue with this tradition for two reasons.

One, it is rude to open the red packet to check how was was given in front of the giver. So, I make sure they thank the giver and immediately keep the red packet into their bag or pocket.

Two, to educate them on delayed gratification. The world is becoming so fast pace that we tends to focus on immediate results. Delayed gratification is defined by wikipedia as ‘the resistance to the temptation of an immediate pleasure in the hope of obtaining a valuable and long-lasting reward in the long-term.’ The urge of opening the red packets immediately either to quench the curiosity of knowing how much is in it or just wanting to spend the money is strong. So, by letting them delay the opening of red packets until the last day of lunar new year helps them learn about delay gratification.

A study on delay gratification was done by Stanford University. The study was commonly known as the ‘Marshmallow Test’

In that study, a group of four-year-olds were given a marshmallow. The children had two options: (1) Eat the marshmallow, or (2) wait until the experimenter returned (about 15 minutes later), and earn two marshmallows. The child learns that to obtain that treat, it is necessary to wait for the experimenter to return. The message was: “small reward now, bigger reward later.” Quite obviously, some child ate the marshmallow almost immediately, some tried to distract themselves and not to focus on the marshmallow and some gave up controlling after awhile and ate the marshmallow. There were also children who were able to exercise delay gratification and earn the extra marshmallow.

The children who waited longer, when re-evaluated as teenagers and they had performed better than those who did not wait. They did better in studies, social competence, self-assuredness and self-worth, and were rated by their parents as more mature, better able to cope with stress, more likely to plan ahead, and more likely to use reason.They were less likely to have conduct disorders or high levels of impulsivity, aggressiveness and hyperactivity. As adults, the high delayers were less likely to have drug problems or other addictive behaviors, get divorced, or be overweight.

In a 20-year follow-up of the marshmallow experiment, individuals with strong delay of gratification abilities as preschoolers had higher self-esteem and self-worth and more adaptive coping skills. The ability to resist temptation early in life translates to persistent benefits across settings.

The video below shows the experiment of the ‘Marshmallow Test’ being duplicated.


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