A friend of ours recently had a baby, and my wife and I were invited to a Red Egg and Ginger Banquet to officially welcome the little one. We had given the parents a gift shortly after the birth, but I did some research online to find out if there were any customary gifts or tokens that one brings to such a celebration. It turns out that lycee, the little red envelopes of lucky money aren’t just for Chinese New Year!
We arrived at the restaurant a little early. Because we were the only people there who weren’t Chinese Canadian and who didn’t speak Cantonese, our friend took care to ensure that we sat with some of her friends who spoke English. We recognized one woman from our friend’s wedding a few years back, and got to know the other couples at our table. Then the food began.
We started with the aforementioned red eggs and ginger. The red colour obviously symbolizes good fortune, but I learned from one of the people at the table that the egg represents harmony and the ginger is intended to bring balance. These offerings were followed by no fewer than eight to ten courses, including such luxuries as barbecued duck, lobster, a fish I could not identify, and goose feet (anything once!). We finished it all off with steaming bowls of red bean soup.
Beverage wise, we had our choice of green tea or a floral tea that was incredibly soothing. I was also offered a clear, grain liqueur that one of our companions told me was the finest that China had to offer. It was powerful stuff, and most probably flammable! After my glass was filled up for the third time in spite of my protests, I decided to let it sit full so that it could not be refilled yet again.
Throughout the evening, the proud parents brought their new baby around to say hello to each and every guest. I am sure they barely had a moment to sit down at all! The whole event was slightly more casual than I had expected, but better to be over rather than underdressed. All in all, the banquet was an excellent opportunity for cultural learning and a great way to celebrate the next adventure in the life of a family.