Both mainland China and Taiwan are celebrating 60th birthdays in the coming months. Mainland China is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the People’s Republic, with a parade on October 1, along with a special blockbuster movie with over 170 famous Chinese actors to be released on Sept 17, Jian guo da ye , or “The Great Cause of China’s Foundation”. Security has been tightened in mainland China for the parade and coming events. Across the strait, Taiwan is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Republic of China’s transfer of its capital from mainland China to the island of Taiwan To commemorate the occasion the National Museum of History has put together a special exhibition featuring a selection of documents, correspondence, maps and other written and printed materials held by people who were part of the two million who fled to Taiwan as Communist forces took over China.
The reason for these large celebrations is that the 60th birthday is one of the few celebrated in Chinese culture, and comes with much fanfare. Unlike in American culture, birthdays (other than for a newborn at 1 day, 1 month and for someone starting at age 60 and every 10 years after) are largely ignored in Chinese culture. The 60th birthday is celebrated because it means a person has lived a long life. When my parents turned 60 we held big birthday celebrations for them and celebrated their lives and their accomplishments. While a celebration at 60 is certainly something to look forward to, in American culture, it can be a bit traumatic to kids growing up in a Chinese American family not to have a birthday party.
In my case, I had never had a birthday party until I went away to college. I happened to mention the strange fact to a dorm friend my freshman year and my entire dorm floor surprised (and completely floored me) by having a surprise party for my 18th birthday. After that party, my birthday celebrations have remained relatively low key, involving just close friends and family. Recently, birthday parties have returned with a vengeance in my life in recent years, with the birth of my daughter who turned four this year. Unlike my childhood in America, hers is filled with big birthday bashes (not only her own, but her cousins as well), and she’s come to expect a big cake, presents, and lots of people at her party. I think I spoil her, and give her everything I wished I had in a birthday party when I was growing up. I hope she appreciates it when she’s older!