Have you noticed so far that at a lot of the birthday celebrations in our family, we wear red clothes? And there is a certain shade of red that is acceptable. As the kids grow bigger and taller, I make sure that they have at least one red dress and a red shirt each, for a birthday celebration in the family. Read more about why Chinese people wear red during birthdays.
The Symbolism of the Color Red
In the Chinese culture, the color red [Hokkien: Áng-sek (红色)] symbolizes joy, and of course, good fortune.
And why is that?
Aside from being a very bright and vibrant color that is the same color as our blood that brings life, there is a legend behind that.
According to ancient stories, a monster called “Nian” (年 = year) would come out on Chinese New Year’s Eve. It would devour villagers, crops, and livestock. The villagers were afraid but they eventually discovered that this beast has a weakness – it was afraid of firelights, very loud sounds, and the color red.
So every Chinese New Year’s Eve, the people would wear red, paste red spring couplets on their doors, and play the drums. And most of all, the loudest firecrackers are lighted to scare off the monster. That way, the people could start the Chinese New Year in peace and happiness while looking forward to good fortune for the rest of the year.
Why the Chinese People Wear Red During Birthdays
With all the good meanings attached to the color red in the Chinese culture, it is not surprising that red is the preferred color for birthdays.
The auspicious color red is worn, used in decors, table cloth, and even on the birthday cake.
Additionally, it is just a vibrant color that speaks of celebration and life.
Who Wears Red
When there is a birthday celebration in the Chinese family, whoever is younger than the celebrator wears red.
Meanwhile, the birthday boy or girl just wears whatever they want – but still usually in a bright color.
For example, if it is my father-in-law’s birthday, we all wear red. If it’s the eldest son’s birthday (my husband), everybody else younger than him should wear red. However, hubby’s parents are not required to do so.
In some families, the elders would give ang pao (red envelope with money) to the grandchildren who wear red to the party.
Do Not Ever Wear Black During Birthdays
Modern people who are not Chinese prefer to wear black during birthday celebrations because black clothes are elegant, especially at night. Moreover, it makes the wearer look slim, which is why those on the heavy side prefer this hue for their outfits.
But do not ever wear black to a Chinese birthday party. It is the symbol for death and bad luck—the opposites of the color red. The host will be greatly offended and it might be interpreted that you mean the celebrator harm.
Many in the younger Chinese generation are no longer practicing this, so if you get a wedding invitation that says you should wear black, do follow it. Otherwise, you will stick out like a sore thumb.
However, if the celebration is for a Chinese elder, always wear a bright red outfit, or at least a light shade, in order to be safe.
The Good Fortune of the Chinese
If you know many Chinese people, even those who are already born in the Philippines, you will see that they are into charms and other symbolisms that bring good luck and fortune. These are often featured in TV shows and publications when the lunar New Year draws near.
The good fortune of Chinese businessmen comes from being very industrious, shrewd, wise, and thrifty. But some Filipinos might believe that good luck charms are the reason why.
Let’s remember that while the Chinese seem to have a lot of superstitions that are believed to bring good luck and fortune, they are also very enterprising.
Depending on their capacities and personalities, they would usually engage in business. Even while some of the younger Chinese people might get employed, you will notice that they engage in side hustles.
Plus, they save wherever they can and try to avoid luxury.
For me, I put my hope and faith in God and work my *ss off. It has been 20 years since I left the corporate world. Working freelance sometimes allowed me to earn a lot but there were weeks with zero income. So I save, live simply, and keep working.
God bless us all!