Chinese Birthday Parties: What Filipinos Should Expect
It was my first time to attend a Chinese birthday party a month ago. I was slightly culture-shocked; there were a few things I did not expect. Perhaps I’m not the only Pinoy who went through the same thing. Based on my experience, here are a few things you should expect when attending a Chinese birthday party:
Expect your meals to be served in several courses. I was surprised that the food was not served on a buffet table; instead, food was served one at a time. My Chinese friend told me that meals were usually served in a series. After a plate of food has been served for an amount of time, it is replaced by the next plate of food, and so on. The food is usually served in the middle of the table for everyone to share. I couldn’t pace how I ate because I had no idea how many more plates were coming, and which ones I would actually want to eat more. Below are some of the food options served at the Chinese birthday party I attended:
Peking Duck or Pigeon
Do not think that the person seated next to you will understand English or Tagalog. Some Chinese birthday parties have guests who speak Chinese alone. No worries; smiling and other universal hand gestures will do.
If you want to finish your dinner, expect to stay for about two hours. Unlike most Pinoy parties where guests are immediately invited to enjoy the food, there is usually a program to be followed in Chinese birthday parties. Food will not be served immediately. If you haven’t eaten before the party, I suggest a light snack before you head off to the party.
Bring a companion because the hosts will be too busy entertaining hundreds of guests. Chinese birthday parties can get really big, almost as if a celebrity or a politician is hosting it. The last one I attended was the birthday party of a one-year-old boy, but it looked even bigger than some wedding receptions I’ve been to. If you don’t want to get bored, bring someone along to chat with – your friends who have also been invited might already be seated in other tables.
Do not wear black if you do not want to be kicked out of a Chinese party. The Chinese believe that wearing black during a birthday party is bad luck – and even bad manners. You can wear other colors, or wear red instead if you want to impress the host.
There is usually a puppeteer or a magician. Yes, Chinese birthday parties usually hire performers to entertain guests.
These are, of course, generalities. Other Chinese birthday parties will seem not to share the above descriptions. I could only hope that my experience, coupled with my Chinese friends’ advice, will be enough to help prepare you as to what you should expect in a Chinese party. If you feel that the above expectations are inaccurate or if you have tasted other Chinese birthday party food, I am more than happy to hear you share your stories and comments!