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Chinese Zhuazhou ritual. Photo source: Flickr
A baby’s first birthday is a special milestone. Parents around the world go to great lengths to celebrate this special day with different traditions.
The Chinese aren’t big on having birthday celebrations every year; instead, they focus on the 1st, 10th, 60th, and 70th. For a child’s first birthday, friends and relatives are invited to come for lunch. Long noodles called “longevity noodles” are served as a wish for the child to have a long life. The tiger is thought to protect children, so friends and family often bring tiger-themed gifts including clothes, toys, and books. Other gifts include money in red envelopes.
Zhuazhou is a first birthday tradition in which many different objects are placed on a cloth in front of the child. Traditionally, Zhuazhou was a specific ceremony where particular objects were used. These objects included stamps, Chinese philosophy books, pen and ink, paper, an inkstone, abacus, coins, jewelry, flowers, food and toys for boys, as well as cooking utensils, ruler, scissors, thread and embroidery items for girls. Now, parents may choose more modern items. Children are put before the items, and it is said that whatever they grab for first will determine their future career and life interests.
Korea also does a ceremony similar to Zhuazhou. In addition, children are dressed up in traditional Korean dress, and guests eat sweet rice cakes.
In Japan, the custom of “isho mochi” involves putting a rice cake (mochi) weighing almost 2 kilos (close to 6 pounds) on the baby’s back and having them carry it around. While baby carries it, parents are supposed to gently push baby down to prepare the baby for going out into the world and to show that life is not easy and has many ups and downs.
Japanese mochi, or rice cakes.
Mexican families serenade babies with lyrics full of blessing on the morning of their first birthday. A piñata full of sweets is hung above the baby’s head and cracked so that the contents fall on the baby to symbolize God’s abundant blessings to the child.
Hindu families shave their babies’ heads on their first birthday to cleanse the child from any past-life wickedness and refresh their souls. Babies are taken to a shrine and prayed over as well as blessed. The birthday meal is curry with chutney, with seasoned rice pudding for dessert.
On the 1st, 5th, 10th and 15th birthdays, a feast is given for everyone the family knows, with an entire roasted pig or cow as the meal. Another special dish that is served is jollof rice, which is made with rice, red peppers, onions, tomatoes, and local sweet potatoes.
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