In Mandarin, both the character for eight and for father are pronounced “ba”. Also, August is simply the eighth month of the year. So it makes sense that in Taiwan people chose the 8th of August (“baba” means father in informal Chinese) as Father’s Day.
As for ethnic Chinese all over the world food plays such a significant role, they take another chance to indulge in eating and drinking in the company of their loved ones. On this occasion, they might nowadays easily chose foreign, often Western cuisine.
Taiwanese families also share a delicious meal, either at home or at a nice restaurant. Those located in big hotels usually have special menus, which can be quite pricy, as the ones offered on Mother’s Day, marked every year on the second Sunday in May.
Although Taiwan has adopted some Western customs like Valentine’s Day on February 14th, which originally honored three early Christian martyrs named Valentine, to celebrate an adult’s birthdays isn’t that common and is more popular among the younger generation.
Therefore, honoring one’s genitor must be seen as directly linked to Confucianism, considered by some scholars to be a mixture of philosophy and religion. It puts strong emphasis on values like obedience, devotion and care towards older family members, considering them the basis of individual moral conduct and social harmony.
Compared to many Western countries that are losing their identities due to culturally incompatible mass immigration, and despite its technological advancement, Taiwan cherishes traditional cultural values.
Even if the relationship with their father might not be the best, children will make an effort to keep appearances and help everybody save face by seeing him on his day. “Even if he has hurt you, he’s still your father!”
My long-term Taiwanese girlfriend had moved out of her parents’ home when she started attending university and in consequence became rather independent, working at night to pay for her living expenses.
Nevertheless, she visited them quite regularly and sometimes on “Double Eight” I would join her for an early dinner at their home outside of Taipei. As gifts weren’t expected from me and I would have had a hard time anyway trying to find a suitable present for an older Taiwanese man who didn’t talk much, I normally would bring some snacks he liked.
I was never a truly exciting event, but as I had become an integral part of Taiwanese society, once in a while it felt right to show my respects to my potential father-in-law.
The fact that my sweetie didn’t want to marry me anyway, and at the end we split up after 11 years, is a different story. As an acculturated foreigner I had done my duty. I’m not particularly proud of it, though I don’t regret it either.
P. D.: In Communist China, where many traditions have been abandoned, Father’s Day is nowadays celebrated on the third Sunday of June.