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Culture note: Birthday and Birthday meal in China

Birthday day!! … enh, don’t know if I want to celebrate my birthday any more … one year older…

There is a Chinese saying: “Children’s happy birthday, mothers’ suffering day.”
This saying reminds us that, when we celebrate our own birthday, we should appreciate our parents bringing us to life, especially the pain mum suffered. I would usually get my parents a gift, and they would prepare a big birthday meal for me.

Traditional Chinese Birthday Dishes

In Northern China , before Western birthday cakes were introduced in the country, the traditional birthday meal consisted of Doubao and Baozi .

Doubao and Baozi are both a kind of steamed bread. Doubao are shaped like half of a ball, with red bean mince filling. In contrast, Baozi are typically filled with meat mince or vegetables, and they seal on the top with a beautiful fold.

I am not quite sure why Doubao and Baozi are “a must have” in Chinese birthday meals , but this has been a long-standing tradition in Northern Chinese custom. My parents have been preparing them for everyone’s birthday meal in the family since I recall and until today. (I bet they are making them for me right now as I am writing… but I am not there to have them…:(( )

Chinese baoziChinese DouBao

There is another common birthday dish that is more popular in Southern China — the birthday noodles .

Birthday noodles are normally very slim and very, very long, and they are cooked in soup. The interesting thing about birthday noodles is that, no matter what, they cannot be broken —- birthday noodles represent long life .

How to measure age in China

In China, there are two traditional ways of measuring age: “xu sui’ and “shi sui”. ‘Xu/shi’ in Chinese normally refers to something that is blur / solid (or real). Here, ‘xu sui’ refers to the way of measuring age from the time the baby was conceived; thus, at birth, a baby is almost one year old already. “Shi sui’ is the ‘real’ age, and corresponds to the usual way of measuring age, from the time the baby first sees the world. Although ‘Xu sui’ is less and less used to avoid confusion, you might still find people in China asking “Is it your ‘xu sui’ or your ‘shi sui’?

Celebrating Birth in China

Traditionally, birth is celebrated when the baby is one month old. This is a very important event in China, and coincides with the end of the mother’s one month rest period (zuo yue zi) in which she is not allowed to leave the house. The family would then normally invite many friends and relatives to have a big meal (did I mention Chinese love eating? :)) ) and would receive lots of gifts at the same time.
The second celebration is on the 100th day, and the third one on the first year birthday.

Special Birthdays in China

On the first year birthday, there is a typical game for the baby to play — there will be a pen, a book, a notebook, a pair of chopsticks, doubao and baozi placed on the table, and let baby will grab whichever he likes, the first thing he grabs determines what he will be like in the future, for example, the pen and book means the baby would love to study; if it is the food … ha…

Celebrating the 18th birthday is only a relatively new thing in China. The most important birthdays in China are the 50th, 60th, 70th, 80th … birthdays, in which Chinese people celebrate wisdom and wish for an even longer life.

I got to stop here, coz I am not going to use botox to “reverse” the flow of time, but honestly, I am a tiny little bit scared of having “eye bags and …”

Going to have my nice birthday dream: I am 16 again. Je, je… :)))))

Chinese birthday celebration

Related posts:

Children’s day in China
Culture note: Mid Autumn Day
Chinese Moon Cake with red bean fillings
Culture note: Chinese new year eve celebration --- ‘the Spring festival’ II


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