Yesterday, while we were having breakfast, Isabel walked out of the restaurant in our hotel (she has become our little explorer-in-chief) and decided to wander out of the main lobby and onto the stairs, which lead to the conference rooms and banquet halls. The stairs were decorated with hundreds of balloons, so she decided to follow their trail upstairs, which lead us to the main banquet hall guarded by two incredible dragons, also made out of balloons. Dozens of people were busily decorating the room for what it was obviously going to be a very lavish celebration. At first, I though it had to be a wedding (the size of the hall, the beautiful flowers, the sound and projector system, etc.), but after asking the man, who, lucky me, turned out to be the person responsible for the event, we found out that they were getting ready to celebrate the 100th day of his son. Now the balloons made sense! I had heard of these celebrations before, but I always thought they were a family affair and not a complex, lavish, expensive celebration that, on this particular occasion, would include over 400 guests.
To be honest, I am not sure why they celebrate a baby’s 100th day (I looked it up online and on some sites it says that this has to do with the idea that the 100th day symbolizes the wish for the baby to reach a hundred years of age, but any comments on this are welcome). I know though that, traditionally, Chinese would celebrate the first month of a baby boy’s life (finally my job at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya supervising the class Chinese Festivals and Traditions is paying off!). The celebration is called manyue 滿月, ,which means something like “full moon,” and signaled the end of seclusion for the mother and the son after what was consider the dangerous process of birth. The head of the baby would be shaved (so the hair would grow stronger), and he would be given different protective talismans against evil spirits. Now it seems that this ceremony has become a great event where family and friends gather to celebrate and bring presents to the newborn. In many ways it reminded me of the baptism ceremony in the Catholic tradition, not in its ritual and religious undertones (which are very different), but in its function of introducing a newborn to family and society, in general.
As you can see from the pictures, the whole family had fun exploring the hall and checking out the various decorations. Too bad we were not invited!
Oh, and you may ask what does Tinker Bell have to do with any of this? This event reminded me that, in traditional China, to celebrate the first year of a baby’s life, there used to be a ceremony where a wide variety of objects, a fan, an abacus, a brush, etc., would put in front of the baby. The baby would then choose one object among the many at the table and this would be a sign of the future profession of the baby. For those who have seen the movie, Tinker Bell, this is exactly the way Tinker Bell gets her name, since she chooses a tool that indicates that she is of the “Tinker” family. I wonder if the writers of that movie were following this Chinese tradition when they created that scene…
P.S. Looking for an explanation of the manyue celebration I found one that is simply hilarious (especially for its lack of self-awareness and bordering offensiveness… you can judge for yourself here.)