May 07, 2007

Vietnamese birthdays, or the lack thereof

I remember growing up wishing that my parents made a bigger deal out of our birthdays. Everyone around us got huge parties and tons of presents while we got my mom's homemade cake and maybe one new Barbie outfit. As an adult it's much easier to understand where my parents are coming from... uh, it's called Vietnam. Which means there are no real birthday celebrations, everyone considers themselves one year older at Tet. My parents don't even know their actual birthdays. There is the đầy tháng at one month old, the tôi nôi at one year and then forget it, no more birthdays until you're 80!
Đầy tháng means you've completed your first month, a very important occasion. In the old days many babies did not make it past this first milestone so when they did reach one month, there was a lot of praying to the ancestors. If you make it to one year old, everyone breathes a sigh of relief, ah finally a real person now. It is at the tôi nôi that you are presented with objects representing different careers, pick one and you could end up a doctor, accountant or artist.

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