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Birthday Celebrations in the China Essay

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Updated: Mar 25th, 2021


This paper is aimed at discussing a birthday dinner which was held at my friend’s house several days ago. This event was used as the basis for an ethnographic exercise, which was mostly aimed at describing and analyzing people’s behavior at the time when they needed to follow certain conventions, established in a community. This is one of the main goals that had to be accomplished in the course of this study.

On the whole, this party can illustrate the role that cuisine plays in a socio-cultural tradition of a specific group such as the family. Moreover, it is possible to say this example is interesting because it throws light on the way in which cultural norms can affect the interactions between people during social occasions. Furthermore, one can argue that the representatives of different cultures can modify the rules that they usually follow.

In this way, they try to avoid possible misunderstanding or confusion that can often occur when people are placed in an unfamiliar cultural environment. This is one of the tendencies that should not be disregarded. Moreover, this event has demonstrated to me that globalization can easily blur the boundaries between various cultures, and this trend is reflected in the cuisine and people’s food choices. These are the main arguments that should be examined in greater detail. Overall, this analysis can be useful for understanding how cultural performances can differ from one another.

Main Body

It should be noted that the parents of my friend insisted on holding this dinner in their house, instead of going to a restaurant. In their opinion, such events are supposed to increase the unity of a family or its cohesion. This issue was of great priority to them. So, we needed to accept their decision. Therefore, one can say that they initiated this event. At first, this alternative did not seem to be very appealing to me. In my opinion, young people usually feel more comfortable when they do not need to communicate in the presence of parents. So, I did not feel very enthusiastic about this event, at least at the very beginning.

Nevertheless, I can say that my misgivings were not justified because my friend’s parents did not intervene in our conversations. One should take into account that this dinner was attended by six people, apart from me. In particular, I can mention my friend, his parents, his girlfriend, and two of his close friends. On the whole, I can argue that my friend’s mother was mostly responsible for cooking and arrangement of meals.

To a great extent, she was the main coordinator and planner of this party. In my view, she organized this event flawlessly. In part, her husband assisted her with these tasks, and his assistance was very valuable. This is one of the details that immediately attracted my attention. In contrast, other attendees did not have any obvious responsibilities. In other words, they did not have to do any specific tasks. At the beginning of this event, we presented our gifts to our friends. Later, we ate a variety of meals, and some of them were excellent examples of Chinese cuisine. Among them, I can distinguish between extremely delicious noodles.

One should remember that noodles are viewed as the symbol of longevity in China and other Asian countries (Caruso 5). This is one of the reasons why this meal is an inseparable part of many birthday dinners celebrated by people who come from this country (Caruso 5). This information is important for the analysis of this event. It should be noted that the parents did not stay long with us. They were present only during the first forty minutes.

So, we were eventually left to our own devices. As a result, we could freely discuss various issues and make jokes that did not seem appropriate in the presence of parents. Overall, I can say that this event was well-received by the guests, and we had a good time. Moreover, I can say that my apprehensions did not come true since my friend’s parents turned out to be very unobtrusive. These are the main elements that should be distinguished because they will be important for describing the cultural peculiarities of this event.

To a great extent, this event is embedded in the cultural practices of this family. We have been able to taste meals that are usually associated with China. Judging from my observations and the study of Chinese cuisine, I can say that there were some important modifications. To some degree, these modifications were supposed to mitigate the cultural differences between people who attended this dinner.

It should be noted that my friend’s family represents the Chinese culture, while many of us were not closely familiar with it. This is why the parents made some changes. For example, they excluded some of the dishes that were mostly associated with Chinese cuisine. For example, I can mention that watermelon seeds are frequently included in the meals served at birthday dinners, but as far as I remember, this particular ingredient was not present. In addition to that, pizzas are not included in the conventional birthday dinners that are held in China; in contrast, this dish was an important part of this event.

Nevertheless, there are some significant exceptions that should be taken into account. For example, I can speak about Chinese noodles that are usually included in the birthday dinner. My friend’s parents insisted that we should taste them first. Thus, I can say that the cultural legacies of these people played an instrumental role. The main issue is that cultural traditions did not prevent the guests from enjoying this family dinner. This is one of the peculiarities that can be singled out.

Moreover, one should bear in mind that in China, birthday dinners are frequently attended by the members of extended family. This is one of the traditions that are incorporated into this culture in which more importance is attached to collectivism. However, this birthday dinner was mostly oriented toward the needs of my friend and the guests who were invited. This is one of the points that can be singled out since it shows that cultural norms are not rigidly applied because this approach is not always productive. In many cases, people can modify some of the cultural practices, which can be unfamiliar to other people.

To some degree, this trend can be regarded as the result of globalization which affects the representatives of different cultures. In many cases, the cuisine is also a part of intercultural communication, but very often people prefer to avoid situations that lead to confusion and misunderstanding. As a rule, such a strategy is very helpful because the differences between people can be made less significant and noticeable. These are some of the arguments that can be put forward.

Overall, there are several distinctive peculiarities of celebrating a birthday in China. In particular, one can mention that there are many symbolic meals that signify the values of Chinese people. As it has been said before, noodles are frequently associated with longevity. Secondly, I can speak about fish which is viewed as the symbol of prosperity in this country (Caruso 5). Furthermore, sweet rice cakes are often described as a token of abundance (Caruso 5).

This view of food is not widespread in Western cultures. Additionally, food choices are important for Chinese people because, in the past, the cuisine was closely related to medicine (MacLennan 137; Caruso 5). This is one of the differences that should not be overlooked by people who study Chinese culture. Secondly, there are distinct rules that are traditionally followed by Chinese people during such events.

For example, a person should not flip fish while eating since such an action is viewed as a bad omen. Nevertheless, it is critical to remember such these principles are not always adhered followed. This argument is particularly relevant if one speaks about Chinese people, living in Western culture. The birthday dinner which I attended illustrates this trend. As far as I remember we did not follow some of the etiquette rules, incorporated in the Chinese culture.

On the whole, it is possible to relate this event to other cultural performances that are important for Chinese people. Among them, one can distinguish the famous Mid-Autumn Festival which occupies a prominent part in the Chinese and Vietnamese cultures. To a great extent, it is a public celebration that signifies the cohesion of the family and the community, in general. Thus, this festival is similar to birthday celebrations.

The main difference is that this festival is more oriented toward the life of the community, while the birthday is a more private holiday. Furthermore, it is supposed to signify the prosperity of the community. This event may include a variety of dishes as mooncakes, pomegranates, melons, and many other meals. The main issue is that many of these meals have symbolic meaning for Chinese people.

So, this symbolism is one of the similarities between these celebrations. Apart from that, such events are aimed at emphasizing the unity of people. Nevertheless, one should keep in mind that Chinese people, who live abroad, often modify the rules that are set celebrations because, in this way, intercultural contacts can be simplified. These are the main details that can be identified.


Overall, this discussion indicates that the analysis of food events can be interesting from an ethnographic viewpoint since, in this way, one can better examine the way in which the representatives of different cultures interact with one another during social occasions. In particular, the examples described in this paper can show that in many cases, people tend to modify rigid cultural norms in order to facilitate the interactions between people and avoid possible confusion. The birthday dinner that I attended demonstrates that social-cultural traditions influence the cuisine and food choices of people. In many cases, these rules are not flexible. These are the main arguments that can be put forward.

Works Cited

Caruso, Hwa. “Birthday Celebrations in the Ming and Qing Dynasties of China: An Exhibit at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.” International Journal of Multicultural Education 12.1. (2010) 1-8. Print.

MacLennan, Robert. “Cuisine: the concept and its health and nutrition implications – global” Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition 13. 2 (2004): 131-135. Print.

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