East Asia Age Reckoning & Birthday Foods

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.

Photo thanks to °Florian

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.

Photo thanks to Gwen

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.

Photo thanks to CakewalkBU3

I'm a chronically ill Canadian who has been living in Taiwan since 2006. I'm a bit of a jack of all trades! I love art, gardening, flower arranging, reading (that's an understatement if you've seen my GoodReads profile), and snuggling with my cats. Animal videos make me cry. I hate cooking. Nothing makes me happier than seeing my garden bloom! Learning about new cultures and exploring the world has been my thing since I started traveling at age 19. A self-professed autodidact, I can speak comfortably on many different subjects and hold a special place in my heart for science, technology, law, health and medicine, and history. You can find me nerding out at home most of the time due to being chronically ill and housebound. If I'm not engaged in one of the activities listed above, I'm probably building websites. Check my About page under Carrie Kellenberger to learn why I'm taking you on this journey with me through My Several Worlds. I can't wait to get to know you better!

One Comment

  • sarah

    Hi Carrie, I’m glad I find your blog. It’s so true about the age thing. When I move from Taiwan to the US, I was confused with the age thing (I was only a kid). As I grew up, I’m happy with the western age. 🙂 Great shots and post!

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