China’s tradition of having a second ‘baby shower’ called manyuejiu puts some adults in a financial bind

By Global Times - Agencies Source:Global Times Published: 2018/6/13 15:13:39

The relaxation of the one-child policy has unforeseen consequences for friends and colleagues of parents who hold one-month milestone parties for their second child.Photo: IC

Emma Wang's wallet has been getting thinner and thinner lately. As the 30-something-year-old Beijinger puts it, almost half of her monthly salary was spent giving hongbao (red envelopes) at "baby showers."

"Giving red envelopes to my friends or colleagues for their is OK. But having to give a hongbao for their second child's second 'baby shower' is a bit much," said Wang in a recent report by the Beijing Morning Post.

Traditionally, Chinese families will hold a dinner party for their baby when the child is 1-month-old to celebrate its first month of life. The celebration is called a manyuejiu party and is seen as a baby shower in China. During the manyuejiu party, friends and relatives of the new parents will give a hongbao to the baby to express their good wishes and greetings.

With the relaxing of China's one-child policy, more Chinese families have started to have a second child, which means that more manyuejiu parties are being held.

Since May, Wang has received and accepted numerous invitations to manyuejiu parties for her friends' or colleagues' second baby. Such parties are supposed to be filled with joy and laughter. However, more and more people are unwilling to give a hongbao a second time.

Wang roughly calculated that over the past two years, she has spent about 20,000 yuan ($3,124) attending manyuejiu parties for families celebrating their second child's first month.

"I am an ordinary white-collar worker and will consider both the friendship and my financial status when giving red envelopes," she said.

Wang has already given three red envelopes to second-born children since May, and she doesn't think her wallet can take anymore.

She said not all families will send out invitations for their second child's manyuejiu party. Some families only have a dinner with their family members to celebrate the day.

"Some families do not even hold a manyuejiu ceremony for their first child. But as their friend, if I know that their baby is one-month-old, I will buy a gift to give my blessings," she said.

Although Wang is not yet a mother, she has already decided that she will not throw a big party when the time comes. Instead, she will invite her close friends for dinner, and she will not accept red envelopes.

Wang is not alone in worrying about a second child's manyuejiu red envelop. On Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter, many web users said that their biggest worry after the relaxing of the one-child policy is that some families hold a manyuejiu party for each of their children.

"I think that some people hold the manyuejiu party not to celebrate but to collect money," one web user was quoted as saying in the Beijing Morning Post report.

A woman surnamed Feng, who is the mother of two children, said the reason she held a manyuejiu party for her second child is that she kept one for her first child and she feels it not fair if she doesn't have one for her second child. "The manyuejiu party is a traditional ceremony which aims to bless the child to grow up healthy. So, we want to invite friends and relatives to come and share our happiness," said Feng in the report.

Another mother, who wants to remain anonymous, said she doesn't want to hold a manyuejiu party for her second child, but the elders in her family do not agree.

"We give red envelopes to the second child in other families. I feel entangled," said the mother.

Gao Wei, a folk custom expert, said in the report that on such occasions, people should keep the original meaning of a manyuejiu party in mind, which is to give a blessing and good wishes, and not to earn money.

"There are lots of ways for guests to express their good wishes. In the past, people would make a pair of shoes or a hat with the image of a cute mascot tiger. Nowadays, guests can make DIY gifts by themselves and not feel obligated to send money," said Wei. "Parents can also be innovative in celebrating the day and not aim to collect money by sending out invitations."

Some Chinese become conflicted when trying to balance between honoring the manyuejiu tradition of giving a red envelope and managing their pocketbook. Photo: IC

Photo: IC

Newspaper headline: Breaking the bank


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