The “Man Yue”, literally “full moon” is the traditional birth celebration in Chinese culture. According to traditional Chinese customs, a baby’s birth is not celebrated immediately; it is celebrated after a month. This time also marks the end of the confinement period for the mother, during which she and the baby are generally not allowed outside and stay at home. This celebration of the baby’s birth marks the start of the child’s life, the integration of the baby into the family and society, and a celebration of a happy and prosperous future for the child.
Start of Tradition
Some people wonder why in this modern day and age, people still celebrate a child’s birth a full month after it occurs. We might have to go back in time to get an answer to that, this tradition started before the advent of postnatal healthcare and modern medicine, many centuries ago. In those times, mortality rates were high and it was common for babies to die at young ages. The celebration of a baby’s surviving the first month meant that it would have better chances at a happy, healthy and successful life. This custom started off as a way to ensure the health and longevity of the baby, and is now a well followed custom even among urban Chinese and Malaysian people.
Multiple traditions are a part of this Full Moon Celebration, and these are listed below.
Due to the fact that the child has been kept with the mother in confinement for a month, a party is thrown to formally introduce it to the family and friends. This party is an introduction as well as a celebration of life.
Shaving the Baby’s Head
It is customary to shave the baby’s head even though nowadays a lot of parents choose not to do this. They much rather prefer trimming bits of it to abide by the tradition that the ‘hair from the womb’ must be removed.
Special Celebratory food
Traditional food is specifically meant for this occasion. For the party, uncommon yet incredibly traditional foods are cooked and distributed amongst the guests. The main foods are:
➔ Red Eggs
Red colored hard boiled eggs are an important part of Full Moon party foods. These red eggs symbolize fertility and harmony and new life. The color red has significance in Chinese culture and traditions and is associated with good luck.
➔ Pickled Ginger
Pickled ginger is also an important part of Full Moon Party food and is usually served alongside the red hardboiled eggs.
➔ Nasi Kunyit
This is basically yellow glutinous rice, colored with turmeric. This food symbolizes the wish for the baby always to have a full meal i.e. a good healthy life.
➔ Ang Koo Kuih
These are traditional red colored cakes, literally ‘turtle’ cakes, usually in varying shapes of turtles or balls depending on the baby’s gender. If the baby is a girl, you get two turtle shaped cakes, and if it is a boy, then you get two ball shaped cakes without any patterns. These symbolize longevity and good luck as well.
➔ Gift Giving
The parents of the baby present the guests with these foods and sweets, and it is usually responded to by handing the baby an ‘Ang pow’ which is a traditional Chinese red envelope filled with money. Nowadays, toys and clothes, etc. car also gifted.
Like all traditions in the world, this one too is followed by orthodox and unorthodox followers of the culture. To this day, it is a prevalent tradition and has great importance. It may have started as a celebration to mark the baby’s surviving the first month of life, but it is now an important traditional celebration that is embraced by young and old alike.