How Are Birthdays Celebrated in China?
In modern times the world seems a smaller place than it actually is. But the truth is different parts of the world have vastly different cultures. For instance, one may be fascinated to discover the interesting ways that birthdays are celebrated and acknowledged in China.
For starters, ages are assigned to babies differently in China. This is based on a traditional system called East Asian Age Reckoning. Under this structure, a child is credited a year from the time he or she is born. In other words, a baby who is considered zero years old in the West may be deemed one year old in the East. Then another year is added to their age once the Chinese New Year rolls around. Thus you can have someone whose spoken age is different than their actual age. As such, the Chinese have a few different methods to count the age of individuals.
Additionally, a baby in China may have its first ‘birthday’ celebration as early as one-month old. This practice is referred to as mun yet. It also occurs around the same time the child’s mother is completing her recovery from birthing. Another distinct feature of the mun yet is the belief that the child’s future can be predicted by surrounding him or her with certain items and seeing which one the baby reaches for first. Also dyed eggs are normally brought to these festivities.
Traditionally, birthday celebrations are not as much of a big deal in China as they are in other parts of the world. To put it differently, such occasions were generally reserved for babies and the elderly. However, due to increasing Western influences, there’s nothing wrong with, for instance, giving a Chinese friend or family member a birthday cake on his or her special day. But tradition still prevails, so they can also be treated with noodles to commemorate the anniversary of their birth, which, according to custom, have to be consumed in an intriguing way in order to induce good luck and longevity.
Being that Chinese culture is still heavily influenced by old world practices, it stands to reason that there would also be taboos associated with birthday celebrations. For instance, due to being pronounced similarly to the word death, it is considered unlucky to give someone a clock for their birthday. Moreover, some people believe that certain birthdays for certain genders are not to be acknowledged (for example 30th birthday, as well as the 33rd and 66th birthday celebrations are skipped for women). But under normal circumstances, there is nothing wrong with recognizing a person’s birthday. And this can be done using the most-basic form of celebratory expression, which would be a good ol’ fashioned “happy birthday” in the form of its Chinese counterpart, “sheng ri kuai le”.
In contrast to the taboos, there are also birthdays that are deemed especially important, such as the aforementioned first birthday. Another anniversary that is considered worthy of special recognition in China is when a person reaches the age of 60. It is during this time that an individual is considered to have completed an entire life cycle.
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