A big part of the Chinatown culture is the banquets. The New Year's banquets and now the August Moon Banquets. But I feel like everyone looks at these banquets differently. There are those who actually go there to eat. If you are one of these types that's sort of the best, because you get a pretty good deal for a lot of food. But you also tend to over eat. Then some people are showing up for social, political, or "face" reasons... which is the worst because then you sort of can't eat anything.
Most people are somewhere in between. I talked to some friends about how they felt about being children who went to these things. These banquets can be community organizations or Family associations or even people bound together by trade or hobby. I went to a Kung Fu Federation yesterday, but there are also banquets for people who sell gold.
I did a lion dace for them as a teen and they had a ritual where they bowed to a specific deity. I think most members were Chinese Vietnamese. As I recall, most of the middle aged women also had breast augmentations, and beer was flying everywhere. That was probably one of the more festive banquets of these types that I had seen.
For those who live outside of Chinatown, but grew up there going to these banquets can be like a reunion and a return to your old stomping grounds. So it is quite enjoyable. Most people who see it this way are older.
But what about kids?
Some friends were telling me how they HATED going up to get the raffle prize. Either mushrooms or a coupon for a TV. The thing is I can imagine older Chinese people giving this job to the young girl or boy at the table thinking that it would be fun. I mean I know that Noah would love doing that. (But there's no way we are staying up that late with him.)
But imagine that you hate it.
So then as an adult you always have an aversion to collecting prizes and maybe even banquets in general. To me that's kind of hilarious.
I tried to think back to banquets I had attended as a kid.
Did I attend any that weren't weddings?
I don't think I did. Maybe some stuff for Kwong Kow. And then it was kids running around everywhere causing mischief, playing with the chicken heads, throwing all the hot sauce and vinegar and tea together in a glass and then daring someone to drink it. The crazy white kid was usually the one most egged on to do this... yes I often did drink it too.
Oh I remember, I was at banquets as a kid but I spent the whole time under the table on the floor messing with people's shoe laces so my mother stopped bringing me. And the floors may have been even dirtier back then then they are now.
But all this because basically, we were bored.
Are banquets a Chinese tradition? Yes and no. I mean there were Chinese banquets and specific rituals and protocol, but the stuff in place now, with old men dressed up in suits and ties... all this stuff is heavily influenced by the west. If not America, than England. I mean I have no exact proof of that other than some Chinese people saying so. But I guess traditions don't have to be ancient, or Chinese, to be a Chinatown tradition.
It would be interesting to throw some other get together event.