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How is a Chinese birthday determined differently to a Western one?

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Quick Answer

While it is typical in the West to celebrate infants' first birthdays exactly one year after their emergence from the womb, Chinese people take into account the time an infant spends in the womb and consider newborns to be already 1 year old. Therefore, a Chinese person who has lived for 48 years from the moment of birth will actually celebrate the 49th birthday.

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Full Answer

As in the West, not all birthdays are considered important in China. Except when turning ages that feature either a nine or a zero, birthdays are largely dismissed as "scattered." Unlike in the West, however, birthday parties and celebrations are generally rare, except for the very young and very old.

One of the most important birthdays of all is the first birthday. The celebratory banquet features a variety of symbolic foods, including long noodles to ensure the child's longevity and eggs dyed red to ensure good fortune.

Another important birthday is the 60th. Long noodles make a return for the celebratory banquet, along with steamed dumplings made to resemble peaches.

When a Chinese person dies, 3 years are traditionally added on to the person's age; one from heaven, one from Earth and one from the people. Thus, someone who dies at age 85 will be said to have died at age 88.

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