The seventh day of Spring Festival is known as 人日(renri) the common man’s birthday. This is the day when everyone grows one year older and milestone birthdays of the elderly are celebrated in restaurants. It is also the day when tossed fish salad, yusheng, is eaten. People get together to toss the colorful salad and make wishes for continued wealth and prosperity in the new year.
East Asian age reckoning is a concept and practice that originated in China. Newborns start at one year old, and each passing of a Lunar New Year, rather than the birthday, adds one year to the person’s age. In other words, the first year of life is counted as one instead of zero, so that a person is two years old in his or her second year, three years old in his or her third, and so on. Since age is incremented on the Lunar New Year rather than on a birthday, people may be one or two years older in Asia. That is why if you want to really know their age you ask what year they were born, not how old they are.
Happy Birthday to the over 1.35 billion people in China. Now that’s a lot of Birthday cake!