Chinese Birthday Gifts

Birthdays are special occasions in just about every corner of the world. Traditional Chinese birthdays are celebrated a bit differently from birthdays celebrated in Western culture. Most Chinese adults do not celebrate their birthday until they turn 60 years old, and then celebrate every 10 years after that. Also, birthday gifts for Chinese infants, children and elders are often different from the birthday gifts given in the Western culture.

Gifts for an Infant's Birth Day

When a child is born in the traditional Chinese culture, it’s already considered one year old. The first real birthday celebration for the infant occurs when he or she is a month old. This Moon-Yit celebration is when the infant is given its first bath. If you’re among friends or family invited to this Moon-Yit celebration, it’s appropriate to give money as a gift. Money signifies wealth and good fortune. When you give this gift of money, it’s appropriate to place it in a red envelope or a red wrapping, as red also signifies good fortune and happiness. Further, you should give even amounts of money, as odd amounts are reserved for funerals.

Birthday Gifts for Children

It might seem a bit confusing, but when the child turns one year old, the Chinese celebrate his second birthday. This birthday includes a ritual in which the child is expected to foretell his own future. The child is placed on the floor surrounded by various symbolic objects that include things like Chinese coins, dolls, Buddha statues, books, pens and utensils. The first item the infant touches is thought to foretell his future. If he picks up a coin, it’s thought that he will be blessed with wealth in his future. A doll would signify many children. A book would signify that he will become a very wise and educated person. Appropriate gifts for this birthday celebration again include cash in a red envelope or wrapping, but things such as charms for good luck, toys or clothing featuring tigers (thought to be guardians of safety in Chinese culture), and eggs (a symbol of a change in life and a harmonious life), which are also dyed red for more good fortune, are also common.

Gifts for the Elderly

In traditional China, the birthdays of the elderly are often thought to be more important than the birthdays of the young. This is counter to the Western culture point of view. A 60th birthday celebration is a particularly special celebration in Chinese culture, as it is a time when the astrological cycle of 12 animals and the five elements of wood, fire, earth, metal and water come together. Appropriate gifts for Chinese elders are usually items that signify longevity, including old miniature trees, wine, packages of long noodles and homemade peaches (which aren't really peaches, but steamed wheat shaped like peaches) and, of course, money in red envelopes. These gift items are given in groups of two or four, depending on the wealth of the giver.