I’ve always been open to learning whatever I can from different cultures. Sometimes traditions from other places and times can help us see our lives in a whole new light. What I’ve learned about the way birthdays are celebrated in Asia has been very helpful in this regard.
When a baby is born into a Chinese family, he or she is already considered to be a year old. The time of gestation is rounded up from 9 months to one year in an acknowledgement that this little person has not just begun to be at the time of birth. All the time in the mother’s womb is valued and considered important. How have we let this slip away from our consciousness in the West? We all know that we were once a child, an infant, a newborn. We need to remember that every single one of us was also once considered a mere fetus, embryo, a collection of cells. Life is precious at all stages.
In Korea and in at least some parts of China, a celebrant really ponders the day of their birth. People take the time to acknowledge their mothers who gave them life on their birth date. I never recognized before I heard of this practice how Western birthday celebrations completely gloss over the day of one’s birth but focus on the number of years we have progressed since then. In the West, the one who gave the gift of life is often overlooked as gifts are showered on the one who has a birthday. Next month I will be adding this distinctively Asian tradition to my birthday celebration.