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China’s Traditional 满月酒 (mǎnyuèjiǔ) Party: a Baby’s First Month

Apr. 5, 2017

Chinese General Baby Party

Up until the 1960s, China had a birthrate of about six children per woman. Since then, the birthrate has gone down drastically to between one or two per woman. This means that children are receiving extra attention in the family. When children in China turn one month old (their first moon phase), parents want to welcome them and introduce them to friends and family with a grand celebration. We call this party a “满月酒 (mǎnyuèjiǔ)”.

Before I explain more about what exactly a “满月酒 (mǎnyuèjiǔ)” is, let me explain why I enjoy teaching it to my Mandarin Chinese students. This celebration involves many aspects and symbols of Chinese culture that foreigners find peculiar and interesting.

First, why is it called “满月酒 (mǎnyuèjiǔ)”?
满月 (mǎnyuè): full moon; a baby’s completion of its first month of life;

酒 (jiǔ): liquor, spirits, which also represent a celebration in this case.

My students find our discussion of 满月酒 (mǎnyuèjiǔ) so interesting because it shows the Chinese obsession with moon phases. Also, many Chinese superstitions are on display during the 满月酒 (mǎnyuèjiǔ) party. Eggs dyed red “红蛋 (hóngdàn)” are given as gifts, with the egg itself symbolizing fertility, its roundness symbolizing harmony and the red color good fortune and happiness, as seen in the famous Chinese red envelope stuffed with cash on holidays and occasions. Additionally, gifts are given out as an even number (for good luck).

You may overhear:

Jīntiān wǒmen yào qù jiějie jiā hē mǎnyuèjiǔ.
今天    我们     要   去 姐姐 家 喝   满月酒。
Today we will go to my sister’s home for a feast celebrating her newborn baby’s first month.

Nǐmen shì zuótiān bàn de mǎnyuèjiǔ ma?
你们    是   昨天     办  的      满月酒  吗?
Did you celebrate your newborn baby’s first month yesterday?

My students have told me that western countries often celebrate with a “baby shower” (mom is “showered” with gifts!) before the baby is born and that gifts are mostly practical things that the mother can use once the baby is born. The Chinese 满月酒 (mǎnyuèjiǔ) is a bit more symbolic and traditional, with the biggest difference being the “introduction” of the baby to friends and family. It’s a bit of a stepping out party for those than can’t take their own steps yet!

Quiz:

When attending a 满月酒 (mǎnyuèjiǔ) you will see all of the following, except:

A. Eggs dyed red
B. Mooncakes
C. A feast of food for guests
D. Gifts delivered in an even number
See Answer

―Written by Becky Zhang―

Becky Zhang is a teacher at eChineseLearning.com. She has over eight years of experience teaching Mandarin Chinese to foreign students and promoting Chinese culture. She lives in Beijing but loves traveling to ancient Chinese villages. One day she’d like to be a tour guide in China!

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