My birthday’s coming up shortly and I would be in my mid-20s. Although speaking to a few local friends in Taiwan, I’m actually in my late-20s as they have somehow added an extra year or two to my age. I initially thought maybe because I look or act more mature for my age. However, after some Googling, I came across articles on the traditional practice of East Asian age reckoning.
In East Asian countries like China, Taiwan, Japan and Korea, you actually begin aging when you’re just a tiny fetus. The first day that you’re born, you would already be a year old (rounding off the nine months spent in the womb).
So where does the extra year come from when people claim that I’m two years older than my actual Western age? Surely adding a single one digit can’t be hard.
Well, rather than turning a year older on your birthday, a full year is added to your age at the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year (usually falls in January or February).
So let’s say you’re turning 28 on 1st November. You’re actually already 29 (as Chinese Lunar New Year has passed) and on your birthday, you’d be 30. I think I’m going to stick with Western customs when it comes to ages.
Every year my parents will cook fried noodles on my birthday. I thought it was just a coincidence that they’d be noodles served with my birthday cake. But, according to Chinese birthday customs, long noodles apparently indicate longevity. So devouring a bowl of it is like drinking from the fountain of youth.
Now, we’re not talking about instant noodles here. The keyword here is ‘long’. What you’re looking to consume are egg noodles, rice noodles or wheat flour ones. The longer the noodles, the longer and better of a life you’d have.
If you can’t managed to get your hands on any noodles, then try eating some peaches as they also symbolize longevity and luck. Most Asian pastry shops offer peach-shaped sweet dough to prop on your birthday cake as decorations. Although they’re quite yummy to eat on their own too.