In ancient times when medical science was not as developed as what is available today, infants failing to survive their first year of life was a common occurrence.
There were no pediatricians or GPs you can run to within half an hour to check on a crying baby’s condition. There were no vaccinations and no magic pills to alleviate dangerous symptoms. So the health of a new born child was given a lot of attention in the initial days and months of life.
And if a child manages to survive the initial months after birth, it was believed that he or she would have safely navigated through their most vulnerable periods of life. And therefore, should be an event worth celebrating.
The 100 days baby celebration is one of those events that mark a milestone to an infant’s life. The general belief is that if a baby is able to get to this stage, it has already gone through one of the most vulnerable periods of his or her life. Thus, the odds of growing into adulthood are considerably much higher.
During the Song and Ming dynasties, well-known respected scholars and poets also made public remarks about why this is a significant day for parents to celebrate. These were done in both public speech and written text.
What happens on a baby’s 100th day
Like the full moon ceremony or baby shower, relatives and friends of the family are invited for the event.
The most significant and unique activity that takes place during the 100-days celebration is the baby donning an apparel called the 100-family clothing (百家衣) and a pendant called the 100-family lock (百家锁). The latter also going aliases such as 100-year-old lock or longevity lock (百岁锁).
The 100-family shirt or dress is made with cloth prints collected from every family member, sewn together creating a patch design made up of a diverse set of prints. It does not refer to a design with 100 families depicted on it like the concept of the 100 birds.
It was said that the more variety of colors the final clothing was, the more life blessings the baby would receive.
In fact, the popularity of such designs can be found in Chinese households for blankets and things like table cloth without people knowing that the origins of this design concept coming from the baby 100 day festivities.
Purple is deemed the most auspicious color on the clothing as the Mandarin word for purple is pronounced zi (紫) which sounds the same as zi (子) which means child. However, it can be difficult to obtain this contentious color from family members as giving away a purple fabric design meant for someone else’s child is like giving away their own child.
The 100-family lock is a pendant that is crafted like an ancient lock with auspicious Chinese verses on it. These wordings are usually meant to convey longevity and leading a righteous life. Money is collected from 100 family members and friends to pay the metalsmith who forged it.
This pendant lock is traditionally offered as a gift by the maternal grandmother and would be worn on the infant’s neck during the event.
Deeply cultural families would insist that this pendant is worn by the child until he or she reaches at least the age of 12.
In other areas of Northern China, this event would include deeply symbolic foodstuff like 50 buns and dumplings, or even items like what is called a 5-poison shirt (五毒衣).
Other than the main activity of presenting these gifts and having the baby don them, the rest of the 100 day celebration would involve everone feasting on the food that has been cooked by the host and brought along by the guests.