Man Yue Cakes and the Chinese Confinement Month

Recently, a dear friend of mine delivered her adorable baby girl and after the customary 1 month confinement, celebrated her baby’s 1st month birthday (and her freedom from confinement)! She kindly delivered these lovely cakes:

Guess which two have already been eaten by B!

Aren’t they adorable?

So cute I couldn’t bear to eat them!

In Singapore, most Chinese women go through a one-month confinement period to recover from childbirth. We’re expected to do nothing but rest, eat a lot and nurse the baby. Usually, a confinement nanny helps to do the household chores, cook confinement food and take care of the baby. B and I tried to be more hands-on though, cos we knew we’d better learn as much as we could from our nanny before she left us all alone!

Most Chinese women have a whole long list of Do’s and Don’ts to follow during the Confinement period.
E.g.
– no washing of hair for 1 month
– no bathing with water, especially cold water. Instead you bathe in some herbal brew (it’s very fragrant, actually)
– no drinking of cold drinks or consumption of cooling food
– eat plenty of ginger, wine, and other nutritious confinement food like chicken with sesame oil, pig’s liver, pig’s trotters, fish papaya soup, kidney soup
– wear long sleeves and long pants
– no drinking of plain water; instead drink a longan and red dates concoction
– don’t go out on windy days or allow the fan to blow at you directly
– don’t step on the cold floor with your bare feet

There’s still quite a long list, actually. You can imagine why we feel so liberated after one month. Actually, I didn’t follow strictly to all of the above. I mean, how not to wash your hair FOR ONE WHOLE MONTH in hot and sunny Singapore?? Thankfully, I had this during my confinement:

What a lifesaver. Just sprinkle it on, give the hair a few good brushes and the greasy strands turn soft as silk and smell like flowers. Wow. But there’s a limit to how much of this miracle powder you can sprinkle on. So I still washed my hair with water and normal shampoo twice a week. But back to the Man Yue Cakes.

For the celebration of the baby’s first month, it’s customary to give red eggs (the red symbolises good luck; the eggs, fertility and the rounded shape, harmony)…

…and Ang Ku Kueh (the literal translation is Red Turtle Cake and it symbolises good luck and longevity)

It’s also customary to shave your baby bald after the first month. But we couldn’t bear to do that to Little B, so we just trimmed her longer strands. Look at how fine each strand is against 0.5mm pen lines.

Wish I had trimmed more then! I could have made a pretty ‘fine’ collage of it! Her hair is slightly thicker now. Maybe I’ll try that the next time I cut her hair.

Anyway, these lovely cakes brought back the

Thank you, E & C, and congratulations, once again on the birth of baby D.:)

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