The Red Egg and Ginger Party tradition began in ancient China to celebrate the birth of a boy, and introduce him to family and friends. Over the years, this has evolved to a special event for baby boys and girls. The baby’s name was announced at the ancient parties by the grandparents and the child was formally accepted into the family. The selection of a name was very important since the name not only served to identify, but also expressed the family’s aspirations and intentions for the child.
The party was traditionally held when the baby turned one month old. The new mother, considered to be in a weakened state, spent the month after giving birth confined at home to protect herself and the baby. Mortality rates were very high for infants prior to the introduction of western medicine, but a baby reaching one month was considered likely to survive. Currently, Red Egg and Ginger parties are thrown anytime between one and three months old. In Korea, a similar 100 day party is observed, and also includes red eggs.
Favors of hard-boiled eggs, dyed red, are given to each guest: red for happiness, eggs for new life and pickled ginger root to represent a family’s long, deep roots. Red pickled ginger doubles the luck. Guest are given an even number of eggs for a baby boy, or an odd number of eggs for a baby girl. Alternate traditional favors include pork biscuits and rice cakes. Ginger is also used in the new mother’s diet during her “sitting” month to “warm” her after being weak from child birth, making it even more fitting for the one month occasion.
Guests normally bring gifts to a Red Egg and Ginger party, mostly “lysee” (lucky money). Lysee is money folded neatly into small red envelopes like the ones shown here, and is also used for weddings and other gifting occasions.) Close family will often give
expensive jewelry to baby girls, but lysee is also appropriate for girls. The lysee is often tucked into baby’s clothing or pinned on. Since tigers are the king of beasts and have special powers for protecting children, some babies are given tiger hats, shoes and bibs.
Red Egg and Ginger parties can be hosted at home, in a large or small fashion. Today, they are commonly held at Chinese restaurants complete with entertainers (acrobats or musicians) and meals fit for a princess or prince.
Much more information, including recipes, and other traditions are included in the wonderful book by Rosemary Gong, The Essential Guide to Chinese American Celebrations and Culture. For another online summary read this Chinese traditions article.
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