Some weeks before I did my blog-comeback I celebrated my bday in Shanghai. Keen to have a party as always (there’s no better excuse!?) I was scribbling down “birthday drinks” the Friday following my birthday (as my actual birthday took place on the Sunday before) in my calendar. A Chinese colleague walked in as I did so, curiously peeking at what I was writing.
-Next Friday’s your birthday? She said.
-Oh no, it’s actually this Sunday, but I’m going to celebrate it next wknd because this wknd doesn’t work for various reasons.
-Oh… but… like.. how can you celebrate it afterwards?
-Well, it’s not a big deal when you celebrate it, it’s more of an excuse to go out and have fun.
I could tell from my colleague’s facial expression that she did not agree with me.
-So what are you going to do on Sunday?
-I don’t know. Eat some cake and take it easy I suppose?! I said.
-OK, I see…
My colleague left my room, only to come back, 5 minutes later, dragging another 2 of my other Chinese colleagues.
-Is it true that this Sunday’s your birthday?! One of them said, wide-eyed.
-It sure is!
-And you are not going to celebrate it until next Friday?!
-Eh… that was my thought (was there a hint of accusation in her voice?!)
-That’s not good!! You must celebrate it this Sunday!
-Eh… but I…
-Look, we have been talking. And we have decided that if you allow it, we will all come over to your house this Sunday to celebrate. The Chinese way.
-Yes, we will eat some Chinese food together! How big is your kitchen?
-Eh… not so big.
-Oh… OK. Well then we will make food in advance and come over. Is that OK? Can we come?
-Eh… of course you can come! You are super welcome, but it’s like… you don’t have to go through too much trouble…
I stopped short as I saw the confused expressions on my 3 workmate’s faces.
-Sure! Come! Bring all the food you want!
And boy, did they do so!
At 10.55am (the time we had decided on was 11am) they knocked on my door and stumbled inside my tiny little apartment. Someone brought her son, someone brought cake, and all of the others brought copious amounts of food. The table filled up. The stove and microwave were working overtime, people were scattered around on the floor (I didn’t have enough chairs), and we ate and ate and ate.
After dinner, a Chinese version of “happy birthday” (yes, I got to blow candles and everything) was sung. Then someone managed to pull my deck of UNO out of a drawer. The discovery of the deck resulted in excited roars, and we ended up playing UNO for about 3 hours. Then they all left.
I was left with no mess (not only did they all cook for me, but they also cleaned up every single little kitchen device they used, even though I told them just to leave it) and a table full of food.
Although it was nothing “super special” I still think it was one of my best birthdays ever, and I can just tell you all –if you ever get a chance to celebrate yours with Chinese people, make sure you grab that chance!