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Eva’s Red Egg and Ginger Party – Summer 2011

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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13 Comments

  • Reply J. Humenay

    What a beautiful tradition! (Marking this one down in case we end up adopting a young one from China – I doubt they’ll be at the 4 month old stage, but it would be a cool way to honor their culture and get everyone gathered together. )

    May 18, 2013 at 3:43 pm
    • Reply Carly

      Definitely – I’ve seen them for older kids. You could even do the reverse, since he/she will have a Chinese name and you could give them an American one (even if you never use it)! We don’t ever call Eva Gam-Sing but it’s nice to know that it’s out there somewhere in case she wants to go ethnic and confuse everyone, lol!

      May 18, 2013 at 3:50 pm
  • Reply Hope

    Thank you for taking the time to write this! I hadn’t heard of one before so it was really neat to read all the details. The closest thing I’ve seen in Latin cultures is the baptism and sometimes I know babies get “deer eye” bracelets to ward off “the evil eye”. Most of the people I know having babies now aren’t super cultural so it’s hard to keep up with family traditions like that. I laughed when you wrote how nobody wants to get up for 2nd helpings of chocolate cake. Ummm..have you met me? LOL Also, I second Disneyland! At least that way I could help you eat the left overs (the desserty kind…not the ginger though) 😉

    May 18, 2013 at 5:18 pm
  • Reply Hope

    P.S. Does the Chinese name follow the given birth name? Who decides it? Just curious what mine would be if I had a red egg and ginger party for myself. 🙂

    May 18, 2013 at 5:21 pm
    • Reply Carly

      The Chinese name would theoretically follow the first and middle name, so I would be Carly Allison Gum-Muoy, but nobody in my family actually uses their Chinese name for anything. I think we don’t even remember what my brother’s is and I thought mine was Gum-bi for years (as in Gumby!). It’s really just symbolic. The name comes from the eldest member of the family in the line, so my grandfather named Eva. It’s special because this trip was the last time that we were with him before he passed so it’s a big deal that he named her.

      I’m not sure who will name Baby X – either my grandmother or my grandfather’s sister. At this point, I’m a little worried he won’t even have an American name by next fall!!

      May 18, 2013 at 5:35 pm
      • Reply Hope

        Hehe, “gumby” 😉 I do remember your grandfather getting to meet Eva and I’m glad he got to name her before he had to go.

        Hopefully Baby X will get his name soon, or maybe you could just call him that until he’s old enough to pick for himself? 😉

        May 19, 2013 at 2:25 pm
      • Reply Diana Lane Reed

        Just for clarification – Carly’s Chinese name is Gum Oi (Precious Gold) – my paternal grandmother gave her this Chinese name. Randy’s Chinese name is Lei Guang Yu which translates to Fiery Rockets – my oldest aunt on my dad’s side gave him this name – boy, did she call that one right!

        May 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm
        • Reply Carly

          I was pretty close for a white girl, Mom.

          May 19, 2013 at 3:14 pm
        • Reply Hope

          That’s so cool! I think your relatives picked great names.

          May 20, 2013 at 2:40 pm
    • Reply Christine

      Chinese names usually consist of 3 characters, starting with your last name. The actual naming is mostly random and don’t have to sound like your American name or anything, but some families like to keep a character consistent across all their children. My sisters all have the same 2nd character in our Chinese names, my mom and her 6 siblings all share the same first character. My cousin is engaged to a Caucasian, and my uncle gave him a Chinese name for fun that phonectically matches his American name pretty well, lol

      May 18, 2013 at 7:17 pm
      • Reply Hope

        Thanks for the information. I seriously had no idea, but I think it’s so cool to have a special name on top of the one on your birth certificate. I also like how your relatives share a symbol. That’s too funny about your future cousin-in-law’s “for fun” Chinese name. 😀

        May 19, 2013 at 2:24 pm
  • Reply Wes

    I just came across your post! Thank you for sharing a wonderful story. How familiar were your guests with Red Egg and Ginger Party customs? Did you do much explaining or provide information (maybe at the tables)?

    June 12, 2015 at 3:06 pm
    • Reply Carly Morgan

      All of the guests at our party were in our family, so they were familiar (save maybe for a couple of friends). I love the idea of having the history/info at the tables though!

      June 20, 2015 at 2:48 pm

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