My birthday was different this year: there was no party and no birthday cake.
Every year on the very day, our family would gather together to celebrate. We would order a freshly-made cake with real cream, decorated with fruits and words of best wishes. I would cook delicious dishes catering to everyone’s tastes.
But this did not happen this year. We could not meet, could not party, could not even buy a birthday cake because we were afraid of the coronavirus which seemed to be everywhere. COVID-19 changed our life so much!
However, it could not change my mind about celebrating. With two small pieces of home-made plain cake, yogurt, chocolate and gummi, I made my own birthday cake.
Sitting with the cake and a coffee, I thought of my birthday celebration in the old days.
At that time, we celebrated with a red egg and a simple family dinner of noodles. My mom boiled an egg and dyed the shell red, a color representing happiness and celebration in the Chinese culture. Noodles, with the long shape, meant longevity. The whole family wished me all the best. Then I ate the red egg. And then we ate noodles together.
Actually, every Chinese has two birthdays in a year. One is the date in the Gregorian calendar which is universal in today’s world. The other is the date in the Chinese lunar calendar, which seems to be gradually fading from daily life except for a couple of important traditional events like the Spring Festival.
The Spring Festival is really worth mentioning here. It falls on the first day of the Chinese lunar year. My birth date in the lunar calendar! So, unlike most other people who celebrate only one birthday, I celebrate two.
In my home, besides “Happy Spring Festival!”, everyone wished me a happy birthday at the same time. My dad would say to me, “Today is a big day. The whole country is celebrating for you!” The words made me feel proud and special as a child although there were no special treats or gifts at all and the whole country was not really celebrating for me.
My dad left this world more than 10 years ago. But every Spring Festival, his words continue to warm my heart. Also, text and voice messages of “Happy Birthday” pour into my cell phone from my family, making me the happiest person in the world.
Now, putting this “birthday cake” in my mouth, I chew on the simple and joyful happiness of long ago.
In the quiet, peaceful home time that COVID-19 has brought about, it is good to think of the many things that might have been forgotten or been hidden deep in memory: to enjoy their beauty again.