Eggs, Babies and Names: A Chinese Trilogy
Posted on November 3, 2011
The Chinese believe that one’s name has a powerful influence over everything that happens in life. Centuries ago, eggs were considered a delicacy in China, and their presence at any ritual immediately elevated it to one of importance and respect.
Eggs symbolize above all other things happiness, fertility and the continuation of life.
The baby-naming ceremony, which is also known as the Red Egg and Ginger Party, is deeply steeped in Chinese tradition. Due to the high infant mortality rate so prevalent before 1900, the baby-naming ceremony was never performed until the infant had reached one month of age.
Guests attending red egg and ginger parties bring gifts. Many choose to bring personalized baby gifts.”
Customarily, the child is given a “milk name” by which he or she will be known by until school age. In an interesting chauvinistic twist, often boys receive girls’ names because it is believed that a male child is particularly vulnerable to evil spirits, which can be tricked by giving the boy a feminine name. Conversely, a female child is often given an animal name as a sort of joke.
Guests attending red egg and ginger parties bring gifts. Red envelopes containing lysee, or “lucky money,” are usually given to boys, while girls sometimes receive expensive jewelry. The guests also receive gifts in the form of red-dyed eggs, doled out by the proud and hopeful parents.
Today, celebrations in the bigger cities of China include brightly colored eggs that are placed on the tables for guests to take home as good luck souvenirs of the occasion. The eggs at the tables are usually duck eggs and are often stamped with pictures of children, and flowers.
They are never white because that is considered by the Chinese to be the color of mourning and sorrow.
Eggs, babies and names are deeply meshed in a charming and ancient ritual that has undergone many changes down through the years.
The baby-naming ceremony, however, remains a quintessential trilogy of Chinese thought and culture.
So the next time you look upon the ubiquitous egg, you may not know exactly what to do.