There are fewer than 1,000 last names in China. 2 billion people. You do the math.
Traditionally the Chinese normally celebrate only "important" or big birthdays. These are the 30 days old, 1st (called the second), 10th, 60th and every 10 years thereafter. The first is important because a person has survived the first year of life. The 60th birthday is considered the most important as it marks the completion of a phase of life and the successful navigation through the full circle of the zodiac - 5 times (5 X12 = 60)
Young people in China are starting to celebrate more themes like 5, 12, 18 and 21 and seem to view it in the western way - as a celebration of being special. Many are now even celebrating the "small" birthdays on a yearly basis, although typically these celebrations are smaller and involve only the immediate family and close friends.
Red is the happy color for Chinese and gifts of money in a red envelope is always a welcome idea. Other popular gifts for older people include health tonics, wines, crafts, paintings, cakes, clothing and flowers.
Historically, long-life noodles red dyed eggs are served on birthdays- the noodles are very long and very obviously represent the birthday wish of long life. Peaches are also a symbol for long life and many foods (such as dumplings) can be made in the shape of a peach on your birthday. However, the younger generation seems inlined to party more with a birthday cake.
Traditionally, it is more common to celebrate the birthdays of older people like grandparents than those of the younger children. Rather than a celebration of the person being viewed as special for the day, it is a sign of respect to celebrate an older person's birthday and thank them for what they have done. After you get married you send gifts to your parents. Is that different from the western tradition or what?
A clock is not given as gift since the Mandarin word for clock (zhong1) sounds like "song4zhong1" which means "to arrange for the burial of a deceased parent or older relative." And believe me, nobody wants that for their birthday present!
Traditionally every birthday that is celebrated involves a bowl or plate of "long-life noodles".
When is you birthday in China and how old are you? First age: the Chinese count the number of lunar years that you live in. Consequently, you are 1 when you are born since you have lived in 1 year. You add another year on the next lunar New Year -which, unless you were born on the lunar new year, is always less than 1 (solar) year away. Now when is your birthday? Well, you get a year older on New Year's Day, so that is a birthday right? Or you can celebrate according to the day and month in a Western style. Or you can count how many day's after the lunar New Year you were born and add that to the date for the lunar New Year in the current year and celebrate that date. People that really enjoy our birthday song can celebrate all of these.
Zhu - wish
Ni - you
Sheng ri - birthday
Kuai le - happy
If you are Chinese please contact us - we are interested in doing a Chinese version of our Happy Birthday song.