Honoring Your Birthday Traditions
By Donna Mischke
Recently, we celebrated my mother-in-law’s 80th Birthday. It was a huge party held at a hotel with lots of family and friends. Relatives arrived from all over to celebrate this fantastic day and to honor this beautiful woman. All four of her children attended, most of the grandkids, cousins, nieces, nephews, and life-long friends. It was a perfect party, complete with cake, food, dancing, singing and presents.
Celebrating and honoring our aging seniors is very important, however, not all birthday celebrations are created equal. Last week, one of my adult family home providers was preparing a big birthday party for one of her senior residents. She wanted to make it special for him. She said he had never had a birthday party. Of course, you can imagine my surprise when she told me she was making noodles and dying eggs. I felt like maybe I needed to educate her on birthday party planning 101. As it turns out, she educated me.
Her resident was Chinese and although she intended to include a birthday cake and ice cream, the main course would be a noodle dish called longevity noodles served with 2 dyed red eggs. According to Chinese beliefs, the long noodles symbolize many more years to come and red eggs symbolize birth, good luck and fortune. Typically, Chinese do not celebrate or acknowledge their birthday until the later years and then it is only celebrated in decades. She was working hard to honor his Chinese heritage.
Birthday traditions and celebrations can widely vary depending on the culture, region and individual family preferences. The Western idea of celebrating with cake and candles has certainly caught on in other parts of the world, but many people, including our aging seniors have long-standing traditional ways to celebrate that are very individual and unique. Here are just a few:
Koreans tend to celebrate only one birthday a year together on the Lunar New Year. Then, their actual day of birth is celebrated in decades. They call the 60th birthday “hwan-gap” and it is usually the most important. The 70th birthday is called “kohCui” which means old and rare.
Vietnamese tradition is to only celebrate their birthdays on New Year’s Day. They refer to this day as “tet”. Vietnamese do not acknowledge or celebrate on their actual day of birth, they just all turn a year older on New Year’s Day.
The Greek really embrace the aging process. The birthday celebration is a much more serious event and is one to honor and respect the wisdom acquired over the years. It’s considered bad luck to celebrate before the actual day of birth and if your Greek, you might also celebrate your Name Day which is a day to honor the Saint in which you were named after.
A Jewish man might celebrate a second Bar Mitzvah when he reaches the age of 83. The Jewish consider 70 years old to be a normal lifespan, so reaching 83 is like being 13 a second time around.
These are just a few examples of how people may celebrate depending on their culture, personal background, traditions and beliefs.
I love how my Adult Family Homes respect the older traditions of their residents and go out of their way to cater to them. Honoring heritage, traditions and cultures are very important to our aging seniors.
At Concierge Care Advisors, we specialize in finding the “right” fit for your seniors next adventure in life. Whether it’s a sugar rush or a bowl of life long noodles, we will find the senior living option that will celebrate and honor your family’s personal preference, heritage and culture.
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