Aside from being the birthday weekend of yours truly, this weekend marked a special celebration for friends of Mr. and Mrs. ShellHawk.
A Red Egg and Ginger Party.
If you've not heard of this tradition, don't feel badly. We were in the dark, too. We got the invitation from our friends a few weeks ago, and had some time to do a little research on the topic (so we didn't look too ignorant!).
A Chinese tradition, the Red Egg and Ginger celebration marks the end of the first month of life for their new baby. Traditionally, the baby wasn't named until this time because of the high infant mortality rate. At one month, it was a safe bet the child would live, so the baby was brought out into the community to be named.
The child was either given a "milk name," (a temporary name used to fool evil spirits until the child started school or was married) or a formal name. The grandparents were often given the honor of naming the child, though sometimes the task was given to a fortune-teller. Remember that many cultures hold that a name means something and can bring that person luck, and that to know someone's true-name was to have power over them.
Traditionally, the child's head was shaven at this time; girls in front of an image of the Goddess of Children, the boys in front of the family altar. It was a symbolic shedding of dependence, and for girls it was believed the shaving would bring more lustrous hair.
It should come as no surprise to our pagan brethren that the red egg symbolizes fertility (that's also where dyeing Easter eggs had its start), and the color itself represents happiness and good luck. Red eggs are given by the family to the guests, as well as ginger. The ginger (yang, which is warm) adds a touch of "hotness" to the new mother's diet, who is weak (too yin, or cold) after the birth of the child. Traditional gifts to give are lucky money or clothing. I had knitted a little hat for the baby girl, so we were covered.
It was a great honor for us to be a part of the celebration, and we wish the happy couple and their new little one happiness, health, and prosperity!