Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The 50/80 Celebration in San Francisco

This past weekend was the celebration of James' parents 50th Wedding Anniversary and his Dad's 80th birthday. The photo above is the Head Table where James' parents sat with their siblings and spouses. In Chinese culture, the birthday celebration is a far more auspicious event than the Golden Anniversary. I gleaned quite a bit of information and instruction from this book:

Planning for the event started way back in July 2009 with the selection of a 'Lucky Day'. There are only certain days of the calendar year that are considered 'lucky days'. These dates are when weddings, Red Egg & Ginger parties and Anniversary celebrations are held. Dad's actual birthday was in February, but it is considered 'bad luck' to have a celebration before then. That left us with only two more 'lucky days' that fell on a weekend. One of these dates was July 3rd, which fell within the month of Mom & Dad's wedding anniversary.

The party was held at Mom's sister's restaurant in San Francisco's famous Chinatown. There were 152 guests in attendance. The event was kicked-off with speeches by James and his brothers, Rich and Ken. James' speech focused on his Dad's early life and career. Rich spoke of Dad's life and accomplishments from age 30 to his retirement from the Rocket Lab at Edwards Air Base. Ken then spoke of Dad's retirement years. He described Dad's second 'career' of managing the 11 properties they owned in the Lancaster, CA area, marrying off his sons, and becoming a Grandparent. All the speeches recalled humorous events and challenges faced during Dad's 80 years.

Grandsons Alex and Brandon (sons of Ken and his wife, Agnes) then presented a speech honoring their Grandparent's 50 years of marriage. Brandon (age 10) read his speech in English then Alex (age 12) translated it to Chinese, which he is currently studying. All of Mom and Dad's grandchildren took part in the event: Josie, Alicia and Zoe (daughters of Rich and his wife, Ivy) entertained the family with an impromptu ballet performance at a dinner on Friday evening in San Jose.

(l-r) Alicia, Josie and Zoe

Maddie and (honorary third daughter/granddaughter) Hailey greeted the guests, handed out table assignments and manned the guest book.

Brandon even helped serve the dessert!

Instead of traditional table numbers, we used photos from the past to identify each table. Guests needed only to find the corresponding photo on their table assignment card to find their seats. This eliminated any language challenges and provided a lot of fun conversation topics for the guests.

The dinner featured the traditional 9-course (9 is a lucky number) menu for such events: An appetizer of cold meats and jellyfish; Sharks Fin soup; Roasted whole chicken; Sauteed vegetables (black mushrooms and bok choy); Peking Duck with steamed buns; Honey glazed prawns with walnuts; Sauteed beef with Chinese broccoli; Steamed whole fish in green onion and ginger sauce; and steamed Long-life birthday noodles. All courses were served 'family style'. The tables also included a bottle of sparkling cider, a bottle of brandy or cognac and a soft drink mixer. In a nod to our more modern ways, we also set up a small bar with juice boxes for the kids, sodas and bottled beer.

One of the most 'controversial' decisions we made during the planning process was the cake selection. The traditional Chinese cake for an event like this one is a yellow sponge cake with sliced fruit filling decorated with the 'Longevity' symbol and other symbols of the 80th birthday (peaches - symbolizing a 'sweet life' and longevity, and peach blossoms - representative of Dad's birthday month of February). In addition, a peach shaped steamed bun with sweet bean paste inside called shau toh is served.

There was just one small problem: My Father-In-Law LOVES chocolate. I lobbied hard for Dad to get the cake he wanted. After all, if you're turning 80 years old you've earned the right to have any darn cake that you want!! The brothers finally gave in. I'll call this next photo 'Victory'!

During the evening, traditional gifts were presented to Mom and Dad. Below is a photo of Mom receiving a golden plaque from her brother.

Of course, no family gathering is complete without the 'little red envelopes' being handed out to all the children by their Grandparents, Parents, Aunts, and Uncles. Hailey was overheard saying, "Man, I LOVE being Chinese!"

Here are some more photos from the evening:

Mom & Dad's wedding portrait

50 years later!

Please notice the height difference! (I was in flats, Mom & Maddie in heels!

Hailey, Cousin Philip and Maddie

It was truly a wonderful evening. Mom & Dad were very happy with the celebration, which brought family and friends from West Virginia, Oregon, Texas and even China. The event was best summed up by my Father-In-Law in his remarks to the guests, "I am honored that my family has celebrated our past, but I am looking to the future. I look forward to celebrating my 90th birthday with all of you and many more years of marriage!"

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting entry especially with all the info about the Chinese culture. I wouldn't mind getting red envelopes either! *grin*

    Love the photos. James' parents don't look much older than their wedding photo.

    Glad all went well. I know how much work went into planning this event.