Chinese Tradition, or You Have to Drink What?

What the mother is supposed to do during the first month after having given birth.

According to Chinese tradition, once a baby reaches one month of age, that baby and mother have recovered from the birthing process enough to be presented to the world.  A party is held in honor of the baby, a Red Egg and Ginger party.  I have an invitation to a Red Egg and Ginger party that describes it as follows

In China of old, it was customary for mother and child to be homebound for a full month.  This is the time for both to gain strength and health.  After this critical period is over, the occasion of this blessed event can then be celebrated.

The red egg symbolizes good luck and the ginger (yang) serves a dual purpose (to ward off evil spirits and to equalize the cold (yin) of the new mother).

The traditional diet of the new mother is chicken whiskey soup and pickled pigs feet.  Both dishes are nutritious and have medicinal value because they provide a source of protein and calcium, act as a purifier and blood thinner, and also rid the body of cold air in the system.

My wife’s mother honors this tradition, and kicks it up a notch.  After Lillian gave birth to Maddie, Lillian was indeed homebound for a month.  Lillian’s mother stayed with us off and on to help out with the new baby, and to ensure tradition was followed.

She made sure to combat the cold yin with everything she had.  Lillian wasn’t allowed to have any cold liquids.  Any water she drank had to have been boiled and had to still be hot.  (Lillian’s mom asked me to bring some boiled water directly to her in the hospital right after Maddie was born.)  Cold water wasn’t allowed near Lillian, for that matter.  Lillian wasn’t allowed to bathe or to wash her hair.  (Wet hair gets cold before it dries completely.)  Imagine giving birth, and not being allowed to bathe for a month.

Then Lillian’s mom made sure that Lillian ate enough of the chicken whiskey soup.  (Which we call, “Alcohol Soup” because Lillian’s mom doesn’t cook away much of the whiskey.)  To complement the chicken whiskey soup, Lillian also had to drink vinegar soup, which was mostly vinegar and eggs, and maybe some meat.

Lillian had to have a couple of bowls of soup every day.  She wasn’t allowed to have any fruit.  Maybe there’s something yinny about fruit too, I don’t know.  She was allowed to have some vegetables, but just a minimum.  I actually don’t remember Lillian having to have much pickled pigs feet.  Which is fine by me.

Who We Were Then
  • David
  • Lillian
  • Maddie (1 years old)