Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Everybody’s Birthday


On the 7th day of the first Chinese lunar month, the Chinese celebrate the People’s Day Festival (人日節 Renri Jie). The day is also known by other names such as Festival of the People’s Victory (人勝節 Rensheng Jie), Festival of the People’s Celebration (人慶節 Renxing Jie), Day of the Human Population (人口日 Renkou Ri), and Day of the People on the Seventh (人七日 Renqi Ri). It is also known informally as Everybody’s Birthday (人人生日 Renren Shengri). The day is still officially considered a part of the 15-day Chinese new year celebrations. The festival has its origins in an ancient creation myth that says the goddess Nuwa (女媧) created all the animals and humans of the world.

A modern picture depicting the ancient myth Nuwa Creates Humankind

According to a text written during the Jin dynasty (3rd to 5th century CE) called Questions and Answers on Rites and Customs (答問禮俗 Dawen Lisu Shuo), chickens were created on the first day, dogs were created on the second day, pigs were created on the third day, sheep were created on the fourth day, oxen were created on the fifth day, horses were created on the sixth day, and humans were created on the seventh day. Therefore, the seventh day of the first month is observed to be the birthday of mankind and every person’s common birthday.

Nuwa creates all the animals and humankind
(Image: Hillfox Art Series)

In pre-modern China, everyone was considered to be another year older on the People’s Day Festival. On the days leading up to People’s Day, the slaughter of animals was avoided on their respective “birthdays” and on the seventh day, even prisoners were spared punishment. Fireworks were lit in revelry and special foods were traditionally eaten to celebrate the day.

Happy birthday to everybody on the People's Day Festival!

Text © 2011 Harry Leong

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