Last year, I made a special point to make a note of Ayi’s birthday. She’s been a part of our family for over three years now and I did NOT want to forget her birthday. To be honest, I’m always kind of at a loss when it comes to Ayi’s birthday, because I never know what to get her. Flowers? A fruit basket? The Chinese don’t make nearly as big of a deal of birthdays as we do – so while I never want to overdo it, I definitely don’t want her to think that we’ve forgotten.
This year, I decided that we’d get her a cake. I figured we could sing to her, let her blow out the candles, and then she could take the cake home and let her family share it with her. So Macy and I talked about it all day yesterday and went together to the bakery to pick one out. Macy was very excited and sang “happy birthday” the whole way there and back. I told the bakery I’d be back the next day around 11 to pick up the cake.
So today came and Ayi knocked on the door. Macy and Jeff had gone out to get noodles for breakfast (ah, my little Chinese family), but Selah and I were ready.
“Happy birthday!” I said with a big smile on my face. Selah squealed. She already LOVES Ayi.
“Hmm?” she said. “Today’s not my birthday.”
“Really?! Oh, I’m so embarrassed!” I said. In my head, I was like – Oh, no. I went out and ordered a cake. I must have written it down wrong.
She laughed. “No, no. Don’t be embarrassed! It’s because I know my birthday by the lunar calendar. It’s always two days after Mid-Autumn Festival!”
The lunar calendar. Ah, the joy of living in an Asian culture. I didn’t even know there were two calendars until we moved here. Most Chinese holidays do not go by “our” calendar, but by the lunar one. Therefore, the “dates” of these major holidays – Spring Festival (Chinese New Year), Mid-Autumn Festival, Gravesweeping, etc. change every year.
Mid-Autumn Festival last year must have been sometime around September 12. This year, it’s September 30. Not even close.
I’m not sure I could have felt any sillier.
We kept talking. She was genuinely touched that I thought I had remembered her birthday. I still hadn’t told her about the cake.
“I’m so sorry,” I said, “I really thought I had remembered it right. I didn’t think about the lunar calendar.”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter,” she kept smiling, “that’s just the way that I know it’s my birthday. Two days after Mid-Autumn Festival.”
Guess I’d better make a note.
So, anyone want some cake?