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How Chinese Birthdays Differ

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Birthday Cake vs. Noodles

No, it’s not another poll.  Sheesh!  Yes, it’s a month of birthday’s… especially as this Mee now nears a very special birthday (read on.  GOSH, what a blatant teaser!).  Not only did me, Mee Magnum, celebrate the 30th anniversary of his 29th birthday recently, but so did Mini Mee, who became a Fountain Pen (if you don’t understand this reference, please ask your father… or Grandfather… Jewish, of course).

Did we have Chinese food?  Shockingly NO!  Did we have cake?  YES!  Carvel Ice Cream Cake of course.  But, what if we were in China.  How would have our birthday celebrations been different?

MM:  Please note, content originally published on https://www.cambridgenetwork.com/ at https://homestay.cambridgenetwork.com/blog/cake-vs-noodles-chinese-birthdays-differ


birthday-cakeIn China, the practice of celebrating one’s birthday is a relatively new phenomenon brought about by Westernization.  Chinese birthday beliefs still remain largely governed by superstition, with very specific traditions assigned to the age of the birthday celebrant.  For much of the population, specifically older generations, only certain birthday ages are celebration-worthy and a few have little significance.  Additionally, for birthdays that are socially acceptable to celebrate, the celebration style leans towards the wants of families and friends rather than one’s own desires and needs.

Traditional Mindset:

In Chinese culture, birthdays dictate new phases in a person’s life and the birthday celebrant is required to properly prepare for upcoming years.  The only birthdays warranting large celebrations are 60 and 80 – both ages are very fortuitous numbers in Chinese culture.  60, especially, is indicative of a full life cycle and family members are expected to throw a large-scale celebration honoring the birthday individual’s life.  Fair Warning:  As of this writing, it’s just 352 days until THAT birthday for this Mee.  So let the preparation commence!!

Prior to 60, each birthday is generally acknowledged, but not celebrated.  

Traditional foods are eaten and appropriate measures are taken to ensure good fortune in upcoming years.  For instance, the 30th birthday is considered unlucky for women and instead of celebrating it, women stay 29 for an additional year (Personally?  I’m going on my 30th renewal!).  For a child, the most important birthday celebration is their one-month birthday.  At the one-month mark, the child is officially ‘locked’ to the world and family and friends provide gifts of silver and money, meant to help with the child’s upbringing.  Each subsequent birthday is a low-key affair until the big 60th birthday celebration.

Traditional Foods:

chinese-birthdayGreat concern is given to the foods eaten on one’s birthday in China.  The most important food item encouraged by everyone to eat is noodles.  Representative of longevity, certain noodles are meant specifically for birthdays.  The “longevity noodles” eaten on one’s birthday consists of a single, long and unbroken strand of noodle, lengthy enough to fill up a bowl.  Special care should be taken while eating and cooking to make sure the long noodle remains unbroken. The long noodles represent long UNBROKEN life.  So, for heavens sake, please do NOT cut them in to shorter lengths!

Other birthday foods include hard-boiled eggs and dumplings wealth and fertility respectively.  Typically, the noodles are eaten at a restaurant with the immediate family and the hardboiled egg is a popular choice for the birthday boy or girl’s breakfast.

Humbly submitted for your approval,

Mee Magnum  (“Chop!  Chop!”)

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