Chinese Birthday Traditions

Many people in the United States hold big celebrations for various milestone birthdays including a sweet sixteen where they can get their driver’s license, a bar crawl when they can legally drink on their 21st birthday, and smaller parties as they get older with their family and close friends. In China though, traditional birthday celebrations differ. Traditionally, Chinese people do not pay much attention to birthday celebrations until a person turns 60 years old. Sixty years is considered a cycle of life in Chinese culture, so the 60th birthday is regarded as very important and is celebrated with a big party. Chinese culture expects a person to have a big family filled with children and grandchildren by 60 years old, and therefore see it as an age to be proud of.

A person’s 61st year is seen as the beginning of a new life cycle. After the 60th birthday, celebrations are held every 10 years up until the person’s death, and generally, the older a person is the grander their birthday celebration is.

Sixtieth birthday parties can be large or small, but no matter the size the celebrations meal always includes peaches and noodles, which are the signs of a long life. When the noodles are cooked they cannot be cut short. Shortened noodles are thought to have bad implications. Although the celebrations are said to include peaches, the peaches, in fact, are not real. Steamed wheaten food with a sweet stuffing are called peaches because they are made in the same shape. Everyone at the party must eat the food as a sign of well wishes to the guest of honor.

If you’re planning on attending a traditional Chinese birthday party typical presents usually include two or four eggs, long noodles, artificial peaches, tonics, wine and money in red paper.

Besides the 60th birthday, some families in China also place importance on celebrating the third and twelfth birthdays for children. A child’s twelfth birthday celebration includes the birthday boy or girls friends and their parents. It is similar to a wedding ceremony with a delicious banquet and speeches by guests at the party.

Although many in China celebrate birthdays with the previously mentioned traditions, many Chinese people now seem to be following American birthday customs. Cakes with candles to represent how old a person is turning are becoming more common, along with making a wish when blowing out the candles. This is quickly becoming regarded as the best part of the birthday party.

What is your favorite birthday tradition? Let us know in the comments below!

Want to know more about birthday traditions around the world? Check out Savoir-Vivre, coming soon to www.scola.org!

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