Zhuazhou is one of the most important traditional customs on a child's first birthday anniversary in China. It is a ceremony that parents place an assortment of articles in front of their child, and the child is to choose from the articles. What the child has chosen is said to determine his or her future inclination and capabilities.
The earliest written record of Zhuazhou can be traced back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). In the late Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), this custom prevailed in Beijing. Zhuazhou is not an occasion for grand feasts and elaborate gifts. The idea is that relatives show up to celebrate the child's first birthday. Gifts from relatives on this day do not include costly items as golden or silver jewelry. Instead, dim sum or toys are presented to the child.
The Zhuazhou ceremony usually takes place before the longevity noodle at lunchtime. The family will install a table on the bed where stamps, classic Confucian, Buddhist and Taoist books, a Chinese brush pen, ink, paper, an ink stone, abacus, coins, an accounting book, jewelry, flowers, food and toys are placed. If there is a baby girl, a scoop, spoon (representing cooking utensils), scissors, ruler (representing sewing items), thread and a design book (representing embroidery) will be added. The parents then seat the baby in front of the table or the tray. Without help or guidance from anyone, the baby is then free to choose anything in front of them. The selected items he or she chooses are used to foretell the child's interests, career and inclination in the future.
Selecting the stamp means the child will be an officer in the future; if the baby chooses the stationery, the baby will be industrious and endowed with great literary talents; the abacus suggests a penchant for statistics and financing. A girl baby who first grabs a sewing item or cooking utensil will be a good housewife. On the other hand, when the child picks a cake or a toy, he or she will know how to enjoy the pleasures in life.
All in all, parents and relatives give high hope on the future of their children, and the custom of Zhuazhou is a method of expressing their good wishes. It reflects how the parents and relatives will encourage the child, and how they will conduct enlightenment education. Therefore, even though some parents may not be superstitious, they will still carry out the custom to express their wish for the next generation.