|Special Sixty - The most important birthday in Taiwan.|
| [03.10.2011, 09:12pm, Mon. GMT]|
|As in Norway, young people in Taiwan celebrate their birthday each year according to the Western calendar. In the most recent issue of Centered in Taipei, Amy Liu says the older Taiwanese generation continues to mark their birthday as it appears on the lunar calendar. Traditionally, Taiwanese people do not celebrate their birthdays until they reach the age of sixty.The sixtieth birthday is regarded as a very important point of life. It is also the first year when both the animal and the element symbol of the Chinese (Lunar) calendar are precisely the same as the year of birth.|
The sixtieth birthday is very elaborate. After that landmark event, a birthday celebration is customarily held every ten years until the person's death.
Norwegians celebrating 60 years of age in Taiwan, especially within one family, are very rare. In 1965, my father, Dr. Kristoffer Fotland, a Norwegian missionary surgeon, turned 60 in Taiwan. He received a brand new deluxe bicycle 'Made in Taiwan' from his missionary colleagues at Pingtung Christian Hospital. It was the best gift, possible. The bike was heavy. At that time, aluminum and carbon bikes (even bikes with gears) had not yet been invented.
This particular birthday gift did not last long but biking kept my father in good health for 41 additional years. The photo of my father is from 1965. Today, Taiwan export bikes across the globe. Even Norwegian DBS bikes are made in Taiwan. Their deluxe bikes weigh 9 kg and have 27 gears.
My father’s Taiwanese friends gave my father money stuffed into a traditional red envelope. This is a more common present than the giving of gifts. The money may only consist of even numbers such as 200 $, 360 $ or 600 $. The amount may never include the number 4, i.e. 240 $ or 400 $, because Taiwanese people consider the number 4 unlucky, suggesting death. In the Chinese language 'death' and 'four' have the same pronunciation.
I was "Made in Taiwan" 60 years ago, in 1951. This might be the first time two Norwegians, father and son, have celebrated their 60th birthday in Taiwan. Although I am European, I followed the ancient Asian custom of celebrating an elder's birthday. I ordered foods with happy symbolic associations. A bowl of mian xian, 'long-life' noodles, symbolizes a long life. The noodles must not be cut or broken because this implies cutting life short. Zhu jiao, pig knuckles, represent power and energy. Shou tao, peach bun, is a steamed bun in the shape of a peach with sweet bean paste inside and symbolizes long life.
Time will reveal whether I live as long a life as my father. He lived to be 101 years old and was physically fit until his passing.
(Geir Yeh Fotland from Taiwan)