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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Housing Arrangements in China

Last week we shared with you Dating and Marriage Traditions in China, so it only makes sense that this week we talk to you about what happens after marriage. What are the housing arrangements of the married couple? Who do they live with? Our provider from China shares the following:

            For the CPP-CN-Beijing Parliament Buildinghinese people, family is very sacred, so the Chinese always have their family at the forefront of their mind wherever they go or wherever they are. In the past, Chinese people enjoyed living as one big family, where sometimes even as many as four generations lived together in the same home. Similar to a small community, there were distinct classes in these extended families. The eldest always enjoyed the highest status.

         Just like any other community, these living conditions could not properly function without any discipline. People in China often say “A family has its own rules just as a state has its own laws.” Under these past, traditional housing arrangements some of these laws included the husband being permitted to beat their wives, the father being permitted to beat their sons, and parents were in charge of the daily life of their children, including their marriages. Also, in these small communities each clan had its own ancestral shrine, where their ancestors were offered sacrifices and worshiped. Every member of the family was obligated to honor their ancestors.

            These days, things are quite different. The extended family housing arrangements have been replaced and small/core family housing arrangements have become more mainstream. Correspondingly, the lifestyle of the people has changed greatly, but their sentimental attachment to their family and the importance they place on family has remained unchanged.

Want to know more about housing arrangements in China and other countries? Check out Savoir-Vivre, coming soon to www.scola.org!

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