Please Note: As this is one of my MOST POPULAR blog posts, it is being reviewed and edited periodically for relevance and details are added as necessary. Last edit date: 1/2016.
If there’s one thing that’s always been a fixture in the Vietnamese community, it has got to be the One Month Celebration. Every baby gets to have this event, obviously, one month after they’re born. Not only is it a time to celebrate the baby’s birth and actually see the baby, this is when people give gifts. Traditional Vietnamese tend not to have baby showers, as is custom in America, because they’ve always done this event, which is kind of like the same thing – only after the baby is born, and with money.
Yes, Viets prefer giving and receiving money, because that’s just how we roll.
Anyways, the basics of it is this, at least from a Buddhist’s perspective, which is the culture I grew up in (although we’re raising our family as Atheists):
– A roasted pig is ordered, eggs are boiled and dyed red (for good luck), rice is cooked and molded into a particular shape of choice, fruits and other snacks are bought, and a certain soup is made (all of this is by preference of the host).
– All of that is prepared and placed together at an alter along with some incense as an offering to the Buddhist gods to watch over the baby, keeping them safe and in good health.
– The baby also has to be there, of course.
– After the incense finally burns out, you can clear away all the food and serve it up for everyone to eat and enjoy.
Next, is the party which doesn’t have any rules so no worries there.
The big thing though is everyone gives the parents money in traditional lucky Red Envelopes and the parents basically show off the baby and celebrate the birth. In a modernized, American world, it is totally acceptable for guests to bring gifts if that is what they’re comfortable with. If you do decide to go the route of the red envelopes, the amount given is usually based on how close you are to the parents.
– If you’re family, distant or otherwise, it’s assumed you would give more than others (typically anywhere from $50-$100 and up)
– If you’re a close friend, you can give around the same amount, say $50, more or less
– If you’re a co-worker, acquaintance, etc – any amount is perfectly acceptable based on your comfort level ($20-$40 has been the norm from what I’ve experienced)
Since it is Vietnamese tradition to perform a “month-long in-house cleansing ritual“ where you and the baby are basically on lockdown for the entire month, no one usually sees the baby until this event.
Overall, it’s a fairly simple ritual and a very fun event. My mom is very traditional and makes sure she does all these things right and since this is how I grew up, I can’t wait to pass on this tradition when my kids start having kids.
ICYMI: Read about how the Vietnamese like to pierce their daughter’s ears at an early age.