Humanities › History & Culture Chinese Birthday Customs for the Elderly Share Flipboard Email Print IMAGEMORE Co, Ltd. / Getty Images History & Culture Asian History East Asia Basics Figures & Events Southeast Asia South Asia Middle East Central Asia Asian Wars and Battles American History African American History African History Ancient History and Culture European History Genealogy Inventions Latin American History Medieval & Renaissance History Military History The 20th Century Women's History View More By Charles Custer Journalist and Documentarian B.A., East Asian Studies, Brown University Charlie Custer is a writer, editor, and video producer focusing on China. He directed a documentary film about human trafficking in China. our editorial process Charles Custer Updated June 20, 2019 Traditionally, Chinese people do not pay a lot of attention to birthdays until they are 60 years old. The 60th birthday is regarded as a very important point of life and there is often a big celebration. After that, a birthday celebration is held every ten years; on the 70th, 80th, 90th, etc, until the person's death. Generally, the older the person is, the greater the celebration occasion is. Counting the Years The traditional Chinese way to count age is different from the Western way. In China, people take the first day of the Chinese New Year in the lunar calendar as the starting point of a new age. No matter in which month a child is born, he is one year old, and one more year is added to his age as soon as he enters the New Year. So what may puzzle a Westerner is that a child is two years old when he is actually two days or two hours old. This is possible when the child is born on the last day or hour of the past year. Celebrating an Elderly Family Member It is often the grown-up sons and daughters who celebrate their elderly parents' birthdays. This shows their respect and expresses their thanks for what their parents have done for them. According to the traditional customs, the parents are offered foods with happy symbolic implications. On the birthday morning, the father or mother will eat a bowl of long "long-life noodles." In China, long noodles symbolize a long life. Eggs are also among the best choices of food taken on a special occasion. To make the occasion grand, other relatives and friends are invited to the celebration. In Chinese culture, 60 years makes a cycle of life and 61 is regarded as the beginning of a new life cycle. When one is 60 years old, he is expected to have a big family filled with children and grandchildren. It is an age to be proud of and celebrated. Traditional Birthday Foods Regardless of the celebration's scale, peaches and noodles--both signs of long life--are required. Interestingly, the peaches are not real, they are actually steamed wheaten food with a sweet filling. They are called peaches because they are made in the shape of peaches. When the noodles are cooked, they should not be cut short, as shortened noodles can have a bad implication. Everyone at the celebration eats the two foods to extend their best wishes to the long-life star. The typical birthday presents are usually two or four eggs, long noodles, artificial peaches, tonics, wine and money in red paper.