In Xiaogan, besides traditional customs such as enjoying the moon and eating mooncakes on Mid-Autumn Festival, the interesting custom of “making fun of sun-in-law” is also popular in some places. In Xiaogan, folk people think that: “Nothing is essential but a good son-in-law”. Thus it can be seen that those fathers-in-law and mothers-in-law are very cautious and careful about selecting son-in-law.
On Mid-Autumn Festival, son-in-law will present gifts to the home of mother-in-law, taking advantage of which, all family members of the mother-in-law and even warm-hearted relatives and neighbors will participate in making fun of the son-in-law.
“Making fun of son-in-law” shows intimacy with the son-in-law and is a test for his ability and intelligence to check whether he complies with standards of “good son-in-law”, and the results will have influences on whether the mother-in-law is willing to betroth her daughter to him.
General form of “making fun of son-in-law” is: burning joss sticks and candles before the son-in-law comes to fill the hall with resplendent and magnificent atmosphere.
The son-in-law shall worship ancestors and bow to parents of the bride after entering the central room. At this time, the cushion used for to worship on bended knees by the son-in-law is filled with hard objects such as stones and firewood, so the son-in-law kneeling down blindly will feel stabbing pain in both knees, but afraid to say a word, while those observers are overwhelmed with laughter. Of course, most sons-in-law know that and kowtow after bending to shake out the stones and firewood. Originally, the son-in-law shall worship ancestors of the bride only, but some masters call the name of nephew of the bride on purpose to make fun of the son-in-law, and the son-in-law not alert will possibly worship the nephew as ancestor, and feel extremely embarrassed when finding the whole room bursting into laughter.
The son-in-law will be entertained to take food then; the mother-in-law boils five eggs to further “make fun of him”: the son-in-law is cursing himself if taking two only, or cursing the bride if taking three – which is dead wrong. The son-in-law takes two to play up to the mother-in-law. If three eggs are beaten, you shall eat all up, four beaten, eat one, and six beaten (the best choice), eat three and leave three. Sometimes, the bride’s older and younger sisters thread the boiled eggs secretly to make fun of their brother-in-law, and the son-in-law will make it messy when picking up with chopsticks, which makes him extremely embarrassed and the girls very happy.
Young people in lake region in southern Xiaogan will put dirty objects such as lake mud and cow dung on body of the son-in-law when he entering the door to make his body full of stains, which can only be accepted while smiling broadly by the son-in-law, just because of a common saying popular in the lake region.
Responding skills of the son-in-law are the key to decide whether the mother-in-law will “employ” him during the play.