In the summer of 2011, when Eva was four months old, we celebrated her birth at a red egg and ginger party. The party was held in Napa, California, where my parents are from and hosted at the church that my grandparents helped to build.
A red egg and ginger party is a Chinese tradition in which a new baby meets the family and receives a name. Originally, the family didn’t meet and name babies until after the first month because the mortality rate for infants was so high that it wasn’t worth the trouble until they had been around for a while. These days, that cushion of time gives the parents (and grandparents – the traditional hosts) time to plan the party. It also means that you aren’t passing your newborn baby and their underdeveloped immune system around to everyone you know the first week of their life. Since Eva was four months old, she was much more alert and full of personality than she would have been if we had held it earlier, so we’ll probably wait at least that long for baby #2.
The red egg and ginger party was pretty exciting for me, because it’s such a celebration of the addition you’ve made to the family. I suppose it’s probably how other people feel about their baby showers. I didn’t have a baby shower because Eva arrived the week before it was supposed to be held, but showing her off at the red egg party was much more fun than I think a shower would have been (especially for her vaguely socially-anxious mother).
Traditionally, red egg and ginger parties are all about the food. Eggs are boiled and dyed red to symbolize happiness and fertility. Ginger symbolizes both the roots of the family and the energy of life. It was also traditionally given to the mother after the birth to strengthen her, so I got a big helping of most of the ginger dishes. There are other foods that I needed to eat for symbolic reasons, including pigs feet and whiskey chicken, but we didn’t have those at the party since they’re really just for the mama. Instead, we served the traditional favorites that we have at most celebrations: long noodes (long life), shrimp chips, stir-fry, and the barbecued pig that big celebrations demand.
We didn’t have a formal dessert, so I dipped oreos in red candy melts and scattered bowls of red candies on the tables. We also had plates of cupcakes with red frosting and a few red frosted cakes scattered here and there. I really like dessert displays being set out on the dining tables instead of on their own cake tables, because I feel like it makes it feel more like a family party. I also think people are more likely to eat the sweets if they’re right in front of them. Nobody wants to get up to get a second slice of chocolate cake at a party, but if it’s right in front of you and there’s plenty to go around…
Random mom moment: I couldn’t find red sprinkles in July for the cupcakes so I bought a couple of red, white, and blue sprinkle mix and picked out the blue ones by hand. See, you just never know the underlying vein of crazy that might be accompanying the event you’re attending…
I also blew up a bazillion red balloons and created my first balloon arch since we didn’t have much else in the way of decor. It looked a little bit like a car dealership, but people definitely got the red theme and Eva was pretty impressed with them. The red Mickey balloons in the photo at the beginning of this post were from a party pack I received to promote Walt Disney World travel. We threw them in because we like to have at least a little touch of Disney at most of our events. They ended up being sort of fun because everyone wanted their picture taken with them. (Maybe we should just hold the next one at Disneyland…)
One of the best parts of the party was how many people were able to make it. Both sets of parents came out from Utah to be there for the party, so I had members from my mom and dad’s side who were able to meet the baby. Kyle’s parents also flew out and one of Kyle’s uncles drove up from another part of California. Plus, my friend Kate was able to come with her parents, which was amazing because I never get to see her. Kate’s in the army and her parents live in California, so her visits to Utah are brief and far between. Since she’s Eva’s godmother, though, it was wonderful that she could be there to help us officially welcome her into the family.
Eva wore a peach party dress. It was actually a pink party dress that I had attempted to dye red, but my dying skills are pretty lacking. The result was a beautiful peach color – not totally traditional for a red egg and ginger party, but rather becoming on the little peanut. Peaches are a good luck symbol in Chinese culture, because there’s an old folktale where a woman had a garden that grew peaches of immortality and eating one meant that no harm could come to you. So, I suppose that helped me sneak the little peach by tradition.
Overall, the party was lovely and Eva received tons of licee (lucky money) and gifts from party-goers. She also received her Chinese name: “Gam-Sing”. It means golden star, which is touching since we named her after the star Evangeline from Disney’s Princess and the Frog. It was mostly fun just to get face time in with the family I never get to see (especially since a few of them hadn’t even met Kyle before!).
I’m looking forward to the one we’ll have for Baby X this fall. I think we might have it in a slightly smaller space this time, since the hall at the church is pretty overwhelming for casual family gatherings.