|William's first birthday|
Growing up, I didn't get a birthday party every year. In fact, I didn't get a birthday party most years. Now that I'm older, I get why my mom planned it this way. Birthday parties are a ton of work and if you aren't careful you will spend each year trying to outdo your last year's self while your children become less appreciative and more entitled. I've realized it's a slippery slope that may ultimately lead me to a nervous breakdown in a pile of crepe paper. No thanks.
|Would you like some cake?|
First up, today, William's western birthday which I consider his Real Birthday (sssh, don't tell Chinese grandma). That falls, every year, on April 16th. Easy enough. But then there's his "Chinese birthday" which falls on the 17th day of the 3rd lunar month. Good luck figuring out when that is. I know this year it will fall sometime in May.
For his Real Birthday, we (I) decided to do a little East meets West. We were going to incorporate the centuries old Chinese tradition of zhua zhou (抓周, zhuā zhōu, meaning something along the lines of "first birthday grab") with the not-even-decade-old American tradition of the smash cake. Zhua zhou? Smash cake? For those unfamiliar, let me tell you more. . . .
|William taking a break from zhua zhou|
East: Zhua zhou is an ancient Chinese tradition that dates back to, well, I don't remember. As with pretty much everything in China, it has a long history that has evolved. In the past, zhua zhou was a big deal and believed to reveal an infant's personality traits and predict his future career. Today some people still do it, but just for fun. To practice zhua zhou, you set a number of select items in front of the baby, either on a tray or on the floor, and see which one he favors. Each item symbolizes a particular trait or career. William picked up many of the items, but he preferred the mandarin orange and a spoon. Much to his father's disappointment, he showed zero interest in money. But that's okay, because he still made a very wise decision in picking the mandarin. The Chinese word for mandarin orange (橘, jú) is a near-homophone for the word auspicious (吉, jí). Picking the orange is obviously very lucky. The spoon symbolizes a love for food and a possible career as a chef. For more information on zhua zhou, there is short but informative article here.
|Cake and Smash Cake|
William's cakes were made by my incredibly talented friend, Miao Miao, who is the owner of Giraffe Cafe in Chengde. I gave her free creative reign over the cake decorating and she did not disappoint. The big cake (for the grown-ups to eat) features a horse banner, since William was born in the Year of the Horse. She also made a decorative William look-alike surrounded by gold ingots (元宝, yuánbǎo, a symbol of prosperity in China). Miao Miao also served as our photographer.
|William's zhua zhou|
William's Second First Birthday will be, as mentioned, in May. We won't be doing too much, most likely a lunch or dinner with family members which seems to be a pretty standard practice where we live. I hope to post some photos for that as well.
What about you? Do you celebrate any interesting birthday traditions? Have you ever celebrated a birthday in a foreign country?