Our family has embarked on virtual travels to various countries and regions. To explore these countries and their cultures, we have followed along with the festivals, cooked and eaten traditional foods, learned of traditional handicrafts with hands on exploration, along with many activities to immerse ourselves. Chronicled here are some of these activities.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Chinese Celebration: Baby's First Moon

In China, when a baby turns one month old, it is customary to celebrate the baby's first full month (or full moon) of life. In the past, since there was a high infant mortality rate, babies weren't named before this milestone. By living to be one month, the baby was considered likely to survive, and was then named and celebrated. 

This is when a baby is introduced to the extended family and friends. Baby's health is celebrated, and blessings and gifts are offered. Red money envelopes, lai see, are given, as well as jewelry. In the past it was mostly only held for baby boys, but today, both boys and girls are celebrated. 

Photo Credit: Garry Knight
Traditionally, the baby's first moon was the time to shave baby's head. These days, most parents give their baby their first haircut. Those who have shaved baby's head sometimes use the hair to make a special calligraphy brush, engraved with blessings for happiness, health and wisdom. Other parents wrap the bit of hair from the first haircut into red cloth and sew it into baby's pillow to help calm him/her. 

Photo Credit: Alpha
Red eggs are served during the First Moon celebration. Eggs are hard boiled with red money envelopes, which dyes them. Eggs represent fertility and the shape symbolizes harmony. They are dyed red to represent luck and happiness. For boys, an odd number of eggs are given out, and for girls, an even number of eggs are given out.

Red Tortoise Cake
Photo Credit: Christopher Kent
Ang Ku Kueh, or red tortoise cakes, are served during the celebration. These Chinese pastries have a sweet filling, wrapped in glutinous flour, and shaped in a mould to look like tortoise shells. The tortoise shells represent longevity. 
(There's a recipe to make your own here - I would love to find those moulds)

Tiger Head Shoes Elle made for her one month old baby sister
Elle's baby sister turned one month old last week, so she made her baby tiger head shoes (seen above) to celebrate. 

Henry's First-Moon Birthday by Lenore Look is a sweet, colorful picture book to introduce kids to this celebration and Chinese customs.

5 comments:

  1. I remember reading this book with Anna when she was younger. I remember also reading that because of high infant mortality the baby was only considered "fully alive" after this first milestone. I think it's a lovely tradition which also protects newborns from too much exposure to loving relatives' germs.

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    1. Thank you for sharing that- that makes so much sense, especially in areas with high infant mortality rates. It also coincides with the end of the mother's confinement period - enforced rest all new mothers could use!

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  2. It's also sometimes referred to as the Red Egg & Ginger party, but I don't know what the ginger represents.

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    1. I think the ginger refers to the needs of the mother - ginger adding "heat" to the mother's body to strengthen her after giving birth.

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  3. For the convenient busy parents who celebrate Baby Fullmoon in Penang, we usually have Nasi Kunyit(Tumeric Glutinous Rice laced with bits of white peppercorn) and Curry Chicken, Angkoo and Red Eggs. This package brings significant meaning to the giver and receiver. We follow some Nyonya culture with the Nasi Kunyit and Curry Chicken due to Malacca history.

    Rice signifies abundance. Curry chicken signifies wealth, Angkoo signifies longevity and Red Eggs signify good luck and fertility and harmony like what you have mentioned.

    Sometimes the parents would substitute the yellow rice with Fragrance Rice. Check out more here @ http://www.fooktseng.com/full-moon-packages/

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