Chinese Birthday Customs of the Elderly

Traditionally, Chinese people do not pay a lot of attention to birthdays until they are 60 years old.

In Chinese culture, 60 years makes a cycle of a life and 61 is the beginning of a new life cycle. So the 60th birthday is regarded as a very important point of life. Another reason is that when one is 60 years old, he is expected to have a big family with children and grandchildren. It is an age to be proud of. That’s why there is often a big celebration on one’s 60th. After that, a birthday celebration will be held every 10 years, namely the 70th, the 80th, etc. Generally speaking, the older the person is, the greater the celebration occasion will be.

The Chinese traditional way to count the age is different from the western way. In China, people take the first day of the Chinese New Year in lunar calendar as the starting point of a new age. Nomatter in which month a child is born, he is one year old, and one more year will be added to his age as soon as the New Year arrives. So what may puzzle a Westerner is that a so-called two-year-old baby is actually two days old. This is possible if the baby is born on the last day of the past year.

It is often the grownup children who arrange the birthday party for their parents, to show their respect and express their thanks for all the parents have done for the family. And normally the relatives and friends will be invited to the party.

According to the traditional customs, the parents are offered foods with happy symbolic implications. On the birthday the father or mother will have a bowl of long noodles, usually with eggs. In China, long noodles symbolize a long life. When the noodles are cooked, they should not be cut short for the shortened noodles can have a bad implication.

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Peaches are also required since they are also signs of longevity. But interestingly the peaches are not real. They are actually steamed wheaten food with sweet stuff inside. They are called peaches just because they are made in the shape of peaches. Everyone at the birthday party will eat these two foods to extend their best wishes.

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The typical birthday gifts are usually two or four of eggs, long noodles, artificial peaches, wine and money in red envelop.

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