April 2, 2013

60th Birthday - an Important Chinese Milestone

In the earlier years in Sibu, and definitely in the early days in China, the 60th Birthday or "Sek" was a very significant milestone in one's life.

The children who by then would be parents themselves would be bringing special 60th birthday gifts to the mother or father .

In the traditions of the Sibu Foochow Culture , gifts would be pork legs with gold bracelet or rings from the married daughters, another alternative would be a framed ceramic painted picture of the celebrant. The sons would be paying for the lunch or dinner. The dinner could be a free dinner for all the invited guests because it would be a milestone and joyous celebration. Special peach shaped baos would be ordered and displayed and later eaten.

Red candles would be lighted and the Christians would have a prayer said. Sometimes a reverend would be invited to preach a special short sermon. Other eloquent guests would be invited to make speeches on the achievements of not only the celebrant but the children and grandchildren.

Most women would not be celebrating a 60th birthday grandly. Especially those whose husband had already passed on and those with children who were poor. Such humble would just have a bowl of noodles for herself and her loved ones at home. Just one table, she would say. She might call her neighbours to come and join her. My own grandmother when she reached her 60th birthday did not have a big do. Later when one or two of my uncles prospered they gave her a good celebration from time to time to mark 70th and 80th I remember. By my mother and aunts would always give pork legs.

Today, children and grand children are more affluent than before and so birthday parties are very common place. People do not have to reach 60 to get a good celebration.

In olden day Sibu, one of the grandest 60th birthday celebration was that of Mrs. Goh, the mother of Goh Kok Leong who then chairman of the Heng Hua Putien Association. Few people could forget that celebration.

60th GRand Birthday celebration of mother of Chairman Goh Kuok Leong. *Heng HuA Putien Association" (translation of the banner)

The celebration would be both a sombre recognition of the life of a person, and in this occasion, the life of a mother (and a grandmother) who had been playing a low keyed role. In actual fact, many women I know of from Sibu had played very important roles in the upbringing of children and the growth of prosperity in the family.

The westerners have a saying, "Behind every successful man is a worthy woman."

What was your 60th Birthday celebration like? What's your 60th going to be like?


p/s Sibu was a very cool place in those days. Men wearing suits did not sweat at all. I know this for a fact because my father often came back with his suit and my mum did not have to wash it. No dry cleaners in those days too. Mum said, "Cool day, no sweat". Double meaning there in English.



Anonymous said...

if it is her birthday how come she is not in the photo ? !

Sarawakiana@2 said...

That's exactly my point. I think the photographer took a photo of the organizing committee with the chairman....I will try to find a photo of the birthday girl ..

wenn said...

I hv celebrated 60th birthday for my mum years ago.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Wenn, you are a good daughter. What was it like? In West Malaysia is the 60th still a great milestone?

Anonymous said...

I think Chinese society discriminated the women. They typically did not go to celebrate the birthday

Sarawakiana@2 said...

However I think it is between the children and the mother. If the mother has brought up the children well, the mother will be blessed . It also depends on the financial situation of the family. I remember a few good 60th birthdays myself, big and small but the mothers were very touched by the kind gestures of friends, neighbours and children of course. In spite of all the discrimination, which is still there. There could be possible a difference, Dad's birthday in a restaurant with pomp and splendour and mum's a quieter one, because she doesn't want to spend????

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