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Thursday, May 10, 2018

a Taiwanese first birthday tradition

Last weekend, Ruby turned one. We had a casual birthday brunch to celebrate her, and we invited over a bunch of our friends both expat and local. One of my Taiwanese friends brought over a grab bag so we could could partake in a local tradition.

In many Asian cultures, a first birthday gathering includes a fortune telling ceremony; many objects are laid out in front of the baby, and whichever ones he or she chooses are supposed to predict their future lives. This could range anywhere from their future careers, hobbies, abilities, or even looks.

In the kit that our friend brought, there was a tiger costume for Ruby to wear; apparently, it is very common for children turning one to receive tiger related things because the animal is said to protect children. That is why she is wearing a tiger hat in the photos.

According to my online research, the traditional objects that were used during this ceremony were stamps, Chinese philosophy books, pen and ink, paper, an inkstone, coins, jewelry, flowers, food, cooking utensils, scissors, thread, etc. Certain objects would traditionally have been added or omitted depending on the gender of the child.

Our kit came with 51 items! Some of them were really funny like a chicken leg and pork bun, and some were very mystifying because we could not even tell what the item was. Luckily, the kit came with a guide of the 51 items and what each symbolized.

To prepare for the ceremony, you arrange all of the items in a line. Then, you set down the baby and let him or her go towards and play with whichever items attract him or her. My friend who brought the kit has a daughter who turned one just weeks before Ruby, and she said that her family specifies that the child has to show interest in the object for at least 15 seconds for it to count. In total, the child chooses 3 objects.

When we put Ruby down in front of the objects, at first, all she did was play with her tiger head dress. I think she was a little confused; after all, there were 15 people huddled around her waiting to see what her future would bring! That's a lot of eyes and pressure for such a little girl. However, after a minute of rolling around on the floor and trying to eat her tiger head dress, she finally crawled toward the line of waiting objects.

She wasn't sure what to grab at first, but then leaned over to take the sword. Of course, my daughter would grab a sword out of the 50 other items waiting for her. She did not want to put the sword down, and so was her first fortune: she will be our little warrior princess. Our friend said that in today's world, that could mean something like a military official or police officer. I have to admit, these were not future career possibilities I had thought of for her.

She picked up a few other items, but only for a few seconds. The second item she was attracted to for 15+ seconds was an abacus. This represented business and entrepreneurship. We liked this one a little more than the sword. The last object was a comb, which symbolized her beauty. Our friend put it all together and predicted that she would be a beautiful arms dealer and mercenary, but we hope with proper guidance we can steer her down a different path in life.

All jokes aside, some Asian families take this very seriously, and others do the tradition just because; I mean, didn't we all leave milk and cookies out for Santa long after we knew the truth of his existence?

I am so thankful our friend brought over the grab bag so we could have Ruby take part in a tradition of our host country. We are leaving Taiwan so soon after six wonderful years here, and we want to try to make as many memories as possible. This will definitely go up there in our top favorite Taiwan moments!

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  1. This is so sweet - I love the idea of this tradition. It will be so much fun to look back on. Happy birthday to Ruby and hope you enjoy your final weeks in Taiwan to the fullest :)