Whether it’s celebrating the first few months of a child’s life or the first year, there are many ways that Asian communities celebrate these traditions: the red egg ceremony or the zhua zhou or doljanchi, among others.
We asked a few of our friends to share how they celebrated (and in some cases, introduced) these family traditions with their families and young children. Here are their stories!
Esther’s Story: Pippa’s Doljanchi
We had Pippa’s first birthday party at my mother's home in Chicago. We were so lucky to have a lot of family attend including great grandma, grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins. We rented decorations through an independent party planner who brought a small stage with table setting, dol-jabi (grab) items, and a beautiful backdrop. My brother had a hanbok (traditional dress) sent to us from Korea for my daughter to wear. We also had a photographer take pictures for us.
One highlight of the doljanchi was the dol-jabi, where the baby chooses an item that foretells their fortune. We did two dol-jabis. The first was a traditional Korean dol-jabi where my daughter grabbed a white rope, which stands for longevity! Other items out included coins, paintbrush, and scrolls. We also did a dol-jabi for fun, where we laid out items that had some personal meaning to us: violin, violin-making tool, and money. She chose the violin.
I am 100% Korean and we had a doljanchi for me and all of my siblings when we were kids, so it was important to celebrate my daughter's birthday in this way. I don't remember my own celebration, but when I look at the photos, it makes me very proud of my heritage and makes me feel like it was a time when all of my family came together.
The best part of this was that my paternal grandmother, who raised me until I was 5 years old, joined us for the celebration. She lived with my family and was the one responsible for organizing my sister's and my doljanchi when I was a baby. While she sadly developed dementia about 10 years ago, she still remembers and enjoys the tradition of a doljanchi. Last year, between me and my siblings, we hosted three different first birthdays in my family and she was able to join us for all three celebrations!
Emily and Graham’s Story: Juniper’s Red Egg Ceremony
Our Red Egg celebration for Juniper was very casual and relaxed, hosted right in our home. We definitely kept it low key and intimate on purpose, especially as first time parents with limited bandwidth - we were just in survival mode! Our guests included Popo (maternal grandma) and Grandma and Grandpa (paternal grandparents.) Juniper wore her best red outfit for the occasion, a red onesie - which was convenient because her one month birthday is close to Valentine’s Day. Popo made a Chinese brunch with a noodle dish symbolizing longevity and also prepared the red eggs. After that, we hosted a naming ceremony.
It was important to us for Juniper to have the chance to experience traditions especially since she’s biracial. For Graham, his family is white and had never experienced such a tradition, so it was a wonderful way for our collective families to bond with a tradition from Juniper’s heritage. We also liked that my mom took the lead, too! It was also a nice way for me to reconnect with my own heritage through my own family.
The most meaningful part of the celebration was the naming ceremony. Juni’s Popo put a lot of thought and care into selecting Juniper’s Chinese name, and it is something that Juni can learn about when she’s older. We loved my mom’s explanation of Juni’s name; she talked about the literal meaning, and also the sounds and musicality of Juni’s name. The naming ceremony felt like it stretched our experience across three different generations. It was really powerful and special to us and it meant a lot to us to have my mom share that with our family.
Sammy’s Story: Arthur and Josephine's Zhua Zhou ceremonies
We celebrated with zhua zhou ceremonies for both of our children, Arthur and Josephine.
We had hosted 50 to 60 people for a big 1 year birthday party for Arthur the day before, but chose to keep his zhua zhou to just family the following morning. Guests to Arthur’s zhua zhou were my mom, my grandparents, my brother, [my husband] Christophe and baby Arthur.
Arthur grabbed the tennis ball first and then the abacus! We interpreted it as he'd be a money maker and an athlete, haha.
We knew the zhua zhou ceremony was going to be particularly meaningful to my grandmother, who had done one for me when I was little. That was important to us. We asked her to find Arthur a little chinese outfit, which she loved doing. She also loved just being able to be the central point of passing on this cultural tradition.
With Josephine, she didn't get the luxury of a huge first birthday party... as second child, she had no birthday party at all! We had flown to be with my parents, so we ended up doing a casual zhua zhou on a Saturday in my parent's living room.
At first, Josephine didn’t really want to grab anything and she kept crawling away from the yoga mat where we had put everything to grab. Then-- she finally chose the pencil. We interpreted it as she would be.... a scholar? She loves reading and drawing, so we’ll see.
We loved being able to have this tradition for both kids and that they would have photos and videos to remember it. It was meaningful to share these moments with our entire family.
Steph’s Story: Hazel’s Red Egg ceremony
In typical Haus of Hua fashion, we celebrated Hazel's 100 days of life with a big party featuring too much food. Our extended family lives across the country, so we were very happy that Hazel's grandma, aunt and uncle could time a visit here and participate in the festivities.
We wanted to pay homage to our culture so we included a few nods to tradition:
- I attempted to dye some eggs red, but ended up with hot pink eggs, which suited us perfectly, if you know our family :)
- Hazel was gifted some gold bling from family members
- We also revealed Hazel's Chinese name at the party: 華昀昀 (huà yún yún) which means radiant and bright
It's probably no coincidence that 100 days also marks the end of the "fourth trimester." Up until that point, life was kind of an exhausted blur, cocooned at home. This was a great excuse to actually peel off the spit-upped-on clothes and be sociable in the real world again. It really does take a village, and it was so wonderful to see old friends and to introduce Hazel to all the aunties and uncles she'll grow up knowing.
One of said aunties and uncles gifted her an entire leg Iberico ham. That was also pretty darn memorable. And cake. I'm on a mission to make cake a tradition in this family, so I made Hazel a Smith Island style chocolate cake covered in fresh cherries!Photo credits:
Emily's photos courtesy of her family
Sammy's photos courtesy of her family
Esther's photos courtesy of her photographer
Steph's photos taken by Simon Biswas