Celebrating Chinese Birthdays
While Westerns celebrate each birthday with a cake and gifts, Chinese birthdays have special traditions and taboos.
How Old Are You?
In the West, when a child is born, he or she is zero years old. In Chinese culture, babies are already one-year-old when they are born. A polite way to figure out a person’s age is to ask a person’s Chinese zodiac sign. There are 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac and knowing a person’s Chinese zodiac sign is an easy way to calculate a person’s age.
When Are Chinese Birthdays Celebrated?
Chinese birthdays must be celebrated before or on the actual birth date. Celebrating a Chinese birthday belatedly is a no-no. There are several birthdays that are not celebrated and they depend on a person’s sex.
Women do not celebrate the following birthdays:
30: The 30th birthday is considered a year of uncertainty and danger, so to avoid bad luck, Chinese women do not celebrate their 30th birthdays. Instead, they remain 29 for an extra year.
33: The 33rd birthday is considered especially troublesome and dangerous. To counteract any bad luck, women turning 33 must buy a piece of meat, hide behind the kitchen door and chop the meat 33 times. It is believed chopping the meat will cast all the evil spirits into the meat. The meat is then thrown away.
66: The 66th birthday is also considered especially troublesome and dangerous. Like the 33rd birthday, a piece of meat must be chopped up. This time, the woman’s daughter, if she has one, or her closest female relative if she does not have a daughter, must buy a piece of meat and chop the meat 66 times so the year can go by smoothly.
Men do not celebrate the following birthdays:
40: The 40th birthday is considered a year of uncertainty and danger, so to avoid bad luck, Chinese men do not celebrate their 40th birthdays. Instead, they remain 39 for an extra year. Some Chinese do not truly celebrate their birthdays until they turn 60.
How Are Chinese Birthdays Celebrated?
It is becoming more and more popular to serve Western-style birthday cakes, but long noodles are traditionally eaten by the person celebrating his or her birthday. Long noodles symbolize long life. The noodles are meant to be slurped until no more can be stuffed into a person’s mouth before they are bitten. Family and close friends who cannot attend the birthday celebration will often eat long noodles to bring longevity to the person celebrating his or her birthday.