Last weekend was my daughter’s birthday.
So how do we celebrate birthdays in Australia? Do I still follow the ritual from my childhood?
It is not possible to do everything the same as I was growing up, but I am going to follow one ritual that my family practiced for every birthday – We are going to enjoy this Nonya Lam Mee/ Seh Jit Mee/ Birthday mee. This is the birthday mee for my family, and I believe the northern part of Malaysia will be familiar with this noodle dish.
Lam Mee/She Jit Mee/ Birthday Mee
Growing up in Malaysia, we have many rituals, and to celebrate birthdays, for example, the birthday ritual varies for different families. For some families, if their grandparents do not celebrate birthdays, no one in the family celebrates. This is out of respect for the elderly. However, for my family we celebrate birthdays… everyone of us, from the youngest to the eldest, we celebrate!
Our birthday celebrations were nothing like the one we have today for our children. We did not have BIG parties with school mates attending, nor activities like bowling, nor MacDonald’s parties. BUT we always had a sumptuous dinner with the family. Sumptuous dinner means a noodle dish (which is a must) plus a few more elaborate dishes that we don’t normally eat, as well as desserts, and oh… a birthday cake!
Customs also influenced who you invited, so who was invited for the occasion depended on your seniority. For my grandmother, for example, she was the most senior member of the family, and we would normally invite all of our immediate families to celebrate her birthday at home, i.e. her siblings and their families.
For the younger generations – the grandchildren, it was with the immediate family at home. We would have birthday mee (lam mee), a cake (depending on who is doing the baking) and a treat – red egg jelly, i.e. jelly in the egg shells, and of course a red packet.
In the Chinese culture, red symbolises good luck and prosperity, so for happy occasions like birthdays, everything has to be red. First, the shredded omelette (for decoration) on the “lam mee” has to be red, then we have red egg jelly and the red packet.
As you may also noticed, I mentioned ‘noodle’ is a must in birthday celebrations, because a noodle symbolises longevity. In some areas of Malaysia, they may have mee snuah instead.
What is your one birthday ‘ritual’ that you still practice in Australia?