April 14, 2013

Chinese birthday traditions

Families are very important to the Chinese. It is considered one's moral responsibility to have children; a common Chinese saying is that "of all who lack filial piety, the worst is he who has no children," according to chinaculture.org. The elderly are considered important and are highly respected. The biggest birthday celebrations in China are those held for infants and for the elderly.

The birth of a child is extremely important in China. Some conservative women try to hide the fact that they are pregnant so that evil spirits cannot kill the baby. Upon being born, the baby will be given a milk name, which is supposed to confuse evil spirits. A child is considered one year old as soon as he or she is born. The Chinese traditionally celebrate birthdays according to the lunar calendar and believe that everyone turns another year on Chinese New Year. Rather than stating his or her age, one will state the animal year of his birth.

Thirty days after a child birthday, a month-old party known as Moon-Yut is thrown and all the relatives are invited. Among Buddhist families, sacrifices are offered to the gods. The child's parents give gifts to guests, and guests bring gifts, often money, for the baby. Gifts are given in even numbers. Red-dyed eggs can always be found at Moon-Yut; another name for Moon-Yut is the "red egg and ginger" party. Eggs symbolize a harmonious life, and red symbolizes happiness. A child's name is often announced at Moon-Yut. (The milk name is only used for the first month.)

 A child's first birthday is very important. It could be celebrated on his or her first birthday according to the yang li, or Western calendar, or according to the ying li, or lunar calendar; the family can choose, according to go.com. A feast is given for friends and relatives. Long noodles, which represent long life, are served. A large number of items are placed in front of the child. The first item that the child grabs is an indication of her future career. For example, a pen indicates that the child will be a great writer, while a stamp means that he or she will become a high ranking official.

Subsequent birthday celebrations are not as elaborate. Long noodles, red-dyed eggs, and dumplings in the shape of peaches, which represent longevity, are always served on one's birthday. Red envelopes containing money are often given as birthday gifts. Clocks are never given, since the Chinese word for clock sounds similar to the word for death. As people get older, they tend to celebrate their birthdays on Chinese New Year rather than on their actual birthday. Every twelve years, one's birthday occurs during the same animal year as one's birth; these are considered important birthdays. 30, 33, and 66 are considered unlucky years for women. On a woman's 33rd birthday, she must chop a piece of meat 33 times and then throw it away; it is believed that this casts evil spirits into the meat. On her 66th birthday, her daughter (or, if she has no daughters, closest female relative,) must chop a piece of meat 66 times. 40 is considered an unlucky age for men.

60 is an extremely important age. At 60, the animal year as well as elemental year (the elemental zodiac is five year cycle, with years representing metal, wood, fire, water, and earth) are the same as one's year of birth. 60 is considered an entire life cycle. Adult children usually throw a large feast for their parents' respective 60th birthdays. Long noodles and peach shaped dumplings are always served, and everyone at the feast eats both as a way of expressing their well-wishes to the birthday person. Gifts include red envelopes containing money, eggs, and more long noodles and peach shaped dumplings. After 60, large birthday feasts are given every ten years.

Birthday shoutouts to Joseph and Magdalen

1 comment:

  1. Grandma Irene always agreed with the Chinese thought that one should always have children. Many interesting birthday customs! I wonder if the long noodles are served some sort of flavoring like soy sauce, or are they eaten plain? Either, they sound good! I wonder what you would have grabbed on your first birthday to help predict your future career? Too bad we didn't know about that custom!