A new baby is cause for celebration in every culture, but especially so among the Chinese for whom family plays such an important role in the social fabric. Here in the United States, new Chinese American parents, along with their relatives and friends, face the unique challenge of choosing which Chinese traditions to preserve while living in this country.
A great Chinese baby gift combines the contemporary with the traditional, the practical with the aspirational. Diapers, board books and swaddle blankets meet tiger shoes, pieces of jade and red envelopes. This is the great opportunity for gift givers — to beautifully balance the Chinese and the American in a gift’s design, materials or sensibility.
Here are our best Chinese baby gift ideas, along with etiquette tips for navigating the most common baby gift giving situations.
Lucky money in a Chinese red envelope is the easiest, most traditional gift when meeting a baby for the first time, whether at home or at a red egg and ginger party. Pick a design below that conveys the sentiment you wish to send.
These red envelopes wish the baby a life filled with happiness. Script characters, oranges and a traditional longevity knot express the hope that all of the baby’s wishes come true.
These red envelopes wish the baby prosperity as springtime blossoms bloom. The decorations include good luck symbols like the Chinese character for good fortune, springtime blossoms and gold coins.
These red envelopes wish the baby a life filled with abundance. The decorations include good luck symbols like the Chinese character for good fortune, gold coins and swimming fish.
Luck and Riches
These red envelopes wish the baby enduring luck and prosperity. The decorations include good luck symbols like the Chinese character for good fortune, oranges and gold ingots.
Joy and Prosperity
These red envelopes wish the baby good fortune and prosperity. The decorations include the Chinese character for good fortune above an image of the Chinese God of Wealth bearing a tray of gold ingots.
These red envelopes wish the baby a life filled with good luck. The decorations include a garland of blossoms and many different variations of the Chinese character for good fortune.
All parents need baby gear from swaddling blankets to bibs, table utensils to nursery decorations. Choosing the right items can add a distinctly Chinese touch to the baby’s nursery.
Muslin Swaddle Blankets
These swaddle blankets let parents gently wrap the baby in red, the classic Chinese color for good luck. Choosing a red palette is an easy way to add a Chinese feel to a conventional baby gift.
Organic Baby Blanket
This wonderful organic merino wool baby blanket from Disana features a beautiful weave in red, the Chinese color symbolizing good luck. It’s ideal in any season and looks as good as new even after frequent washes.
Every baby needs a WubbaNub, the combination pacifier and stuffed companion. And in Chinese mythology, a tiger is believed to protect babies and keep them from harm, making this gift another wonderful blend of old and new.
Dream Nursery Wall Art
Brighten a nursery with this fine watercolor print that encourages the baby to dream big. A simple idea to create a vivid, welcoming and inspirational environment in the home.
Chinese Numbers Wall Cards
Adorable woodland and nature-themed counting wall cards that include the numbers 1-10 in Chinese. A great gift for eco-conscious parents — printed on recycled card stock with Earth-friendly inks.
Baby clothing can be dressed up in a Chinese style by choosing designs incorporating the color red for good luck, tigers for protection from harm and zodiac animals for their mythical powers. You can choose clothes in the traditional Chinese style or common Western baby clothes like onesies, shirts and pajamas.
Handmade Tiger Head Shoes
These tiger head shoes are completely hand crafted and made from soft materials in bold, bright colors. They’re sized to fit baby boys and girls from 1-12 months old.
2017 Year Of The Rooster Shirt
2017 is the Year of the Rooster. This contemporary design celebrates the baby’s birth year with a cute cartoon rooster fashioned into a 2017 to commemorate the year.
3 Piece Newborn Tiger Set
This newborn clothing set is a whimsical take on the traditional belief that tigers protect babies from harm. It comes with pants, a onesie and a long-sleeve play suit.
These adorable baby cheongsams for little girls are decorated with lotus flowers, roses and lilies symbolizing beauty, elegance and innocence. A surefire hit.
Red Rooster Onesie
Here’s another way to celebrate a baby born in the 2017 Year of the Rooster without going completely over the top. This is a versatile onesie with a playful rooster illustration.
Toys & Games
These toys help kids build Chinese culture into playtime in fun and engaging ways. From bilingual building blocks to Chinese cooking sets, you can help the parents naturally and positively incorporate Chinese culture into their child’s everyday routines.
Chinese Character Blocks
This 32 block set features Mandarin simplified Chinese characters, their English equivalents, a stroke grid, numbers and a puzzle featuring a map of China, the Chinese flag and yellow dragon.
The Buddha Board
The perfect paint set for toddlers. Young artists use a calligraphy brush to paint on the Buddha Board with water and then the images fades as the water evaporates, setting the stage for a new creative effort.
Count Your Chickens
A perfect first board game for a baby born in the 2017 Year of the Rooster. Help bring the chicks back to the coop in this silly cooperative game from the award winning gamemaker Peaceable Kingdom.
Stuffed Rooster Plush Toy
This playful 6″ rooster plush toy is is perfect for playtime, bedtime snuggles or as a fun nursery decoration. It’s sure to become an adorable keepsake for babies born in the 2017 Year of the Rooster.
Bilingual Domino Set
This 100 piece domino play set provides a wonderful way for children to learn a basic Chinese vocabulary. Each domino contains a picture of a familiar object like a fruit, animal or household item with its English name, Chinese character and phonetic pronunciation.
This wonderful collection of children’s picture books is perfect for Chinese American kids. They feature universal storytelling that anyone can access, meaningful themes that will resonate with parents and children and inspiring characters. Include a note about story times to come and you have a terrific gift.
This charming board book from Newbery Medal winning author Neil Gaiman is about a panda named Chu who learns that even young children are capable of big things. Bundle this book up with other bedtime favorites like Goodnight Moon and Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? for a great multicultural gift.
Dim Sum for Everyone!
Using beautiful illustrations and an economy of words, this book shares the spirit and energy of a dim sum meal. On a visit to a bustling dim sum restaurant, a family picks their favorite little dishes from the steaming trolleys filled with dumplings, cakes, buns and tarts.
Many early children’s books deal with the basics of colors, shapes and sounds. In English and Mandarin Chinese, Belle Yang’s bilingual book of colors celebrates the natural world with simple concepts and beautiful, bold illustrations.
Chinese and English Nursery Rhymes
This lovely multicultural book for kids pairs classic English-language nursery rhymes, stories and songs with their counterparts from China, organized into themes like Inside, Outside, Party and Play.
Goldy Luck and the Three Pandas
In this clever retelling of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” a careless Goldy Luck wreaks havoc on the home of a family of panda bears. When Goldy takes responsibility for her actions, she makes a new friend just in time for Chinese New Year. Totally adorable.
Silver, Gold and Jade Jewelry
Silver, gold and jade jewelry, typically in the form of bracelets or pendants are a popular gift from immediate family or close friends. The jewelry commonly features good luck characters and charms that jingle pleasantly to keep bad spirits away.
Sterling Silver Jade Double Drop Necklace
A simple and elegant jade pendant hung from a sterling silver chain. It’s made with a small, thin pendant that’s perfectly-sized for a child.
Gold Rooster Pendant Necklace
A contemporary take on the classic jewelry gift. Celebrate a baby born in the 2017 Year of the Rooster with a gold pendant that carries a vibrant sparkle.
Jade Good Fortune Pendant Necklace
A stunning necklace featuring a carved green jade pendant encircling a yellow gold Chinese good fortune symbol.
Jade Peace Button Pendant Necklace
A light green jade peace button, symbolizing perfection and nobility, hung from an 18-inch cotton cord. It’s a necklace with a simple design that focuses attention on the beautiful peace of jade at its center.
Jade Rooster Pendant Necklace
This delightful jade rooster necklace is an instant keepsake that can be worn for years to come. The hand-carved rooster strikes a confident pose, head thrown back in celebration.
Baby Shower Gifts for Moms
It’s believed that whatever the mother experiences during pregnancy is passed on directly to the child. As a result, it’s most appropriate to choose a baby shower gift that bestows good luck on the mother, rather than the baby. These baby shower gift ideas are meant to improve the mother’s surroundings and bring her good luck.
Book of Poetry
Books of poetry that provide a mental escape or bring up fond memories, such as this collection from Edward Thomas, are a favorite Chinese gift for expecting mothers.
Soothing music, such as this album of piano pieces by classical composer Johannes Brahms, can create a calming environment for mother and baby.
Pleasing fragrances, such as this natural orchid soy candle from Fragrant Harbor, can help create a welcoming, intimate atmosphere around the house.
Gift Giving Etiquette Tips
Baby Shower Gifts
Traditionally, it would be considered bad luck to hold a shower before the baby’s birth, a natural response to high infant mortality rates in the past. These days, however, baby showers are increasingly common among contemporary mothers, so don’t be surprised if you find an invitation in your mailbox.
Bear in mind that a Chinese family’s focus during pregnancy is on caring for the mother, to ensure a healthy birth. While any of the baby essentials above are appropriate gifts, in the spirit of a Western baby shower, consider instead to choose a baby shower gift that bestows good luck on the mother, rather than the baby. Soothing music, comforting books or sweetly-scented candles would reflect this sensibility.
Red Egg and Ginger Party Gifts
According to custom, mother and baby spend the first month following birth at home to rest and recuperate. It’s after these 30 days are up that you may be invited to meet the new baby along with other family and friends at a traditional celebration called a red egg and ginger party.
Guests receive red eggs, representing luck and unity, and pickled ginger, which rebalances the body after childbirth. In return, the most appropriate gift to bring is a Chinese red envelope filled with lucky money that bestows prosperity on the new baby. Most guests combine a red envelope with a physical baby item to make their gift feel more fun and substantial.
Meet the Baby Gifts
You know this get together, right? Good friends invite you over to meet the 6 week old baby and the door opens to reveal two exhausted parents with tales of late night feedings and spit ups. This is “meeting the baby” in the era of harried dual income families and minimal parental leave.
As a gesture of support to the new parents, it’s still appropriate to bring a Chinese red envelope filled with lucky money, along with a physical baby gift. As is the custom here in the United States, a frozen casserole to save the couple from cooking is also welcome.
Do you have a favorite baby gift? Please let me know in the comments section below!