The seventh day of the Chinese New Year, traditionally known as Rénrì (人日, the common man’s birthday), is the day when everyone grows one year older. In some overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, such as Malaysia and Singapore, it is also the day when tossed raw fish salad, yusheng, is eaten for continued wealth and prosperity.
This day is filled with omens about human fate. For example, any person or animal born on this day is considered doubly blessed and destined for prosperity. So, consider taking out a divination tool today and seeing what fate holds for you.
In Chinese mythology, Nüwa (女媧) is the goddess who created the world. She created the animals on different days, and human beings on the seventh day after the creation of the world. The order of creation is as follows:
- First of zhengyue: Chicken
- Second of zhengyue: Dog
- Third of zhengyue: Boar
- Fourth of zhengyue: Sheep
- Fifth of zhengyue: Cow
- Sixth of zhengyue: Horse
- Seventh of zhengyue: Human.
Hence, Chinese tradition has set the first day of zhengyue as the “birthday” of the chicken, the second day of zhengyue as the “birthday” of the dog, etc. And the seventh day of zhengyue is viewed as the common “birthday” of all human beings.
To generate Nüwa’s luck or organizational skills in your life, make and carry a clay Nüwa charm. Get some modeling clay from a toy store (if possible, choose a color that suits your goal, like green for money). If you can’t get clay, bubblegum will work, too. Shape this into a symbol of your goal, saying:
From Nüwa blessings poured,
Luck and order be restored.
Renri is the day, when all common men are growing a year older and the day is celebrated with certain foods according to the origin of the people. The ingredients of the dishes have a symbolic meaning and they should enhance health.
To honour Nüwa’s creation of animals either vegetable dishes will be eaten or a raw fish and vegetable salad called yusheng. Yusheng literally means “raw fish” but since “fish (鱼)” is commonly conflated with its homophone “abundance (余)”, Yúshēng (鱼生) is interpreted as a homonym for Yúshēng (余升) meaning an increase in abundance. Therefore, yusheng is considered a symbol of abundance, prosperity and vigor.
Almost no Chinese celebrate on this day. Some people just eat potatoes with angel hair noodle. The long noodle stands for longevity. In the past, seven vegetables which can repel the evil spirits and sickness away were eaten. They are as follows:
- Celery, Shepherd’s Purse Spinach, Green Onion, Garlic, Mugwort and Colewort
Ancient Chinese had a tradition of wearing head ornaments called rensheng (人勝), which were made of ribbon or gold and represented humans. People also climbed mountains and composed poems. Emperors after the Tang dynasty granted ribbon rensheng to their subjects and held festivities with them. If there were good weather on Renri, it was considered that people will have a year of peace and prosperity.
Fireworks and huapao (花炮) are lit, so Renri celebrates the “birthday” of fire as well.
Since the first days of zhengyue are considered “birthdays” of different animals, Chinese people avoid killing the animals on their respective birthdays and punishing prisoners on Renri.
Nowadays in zhengyue, Renri is celebrated as part of the Chinese New Year. Chinese people prepare lucky food in the new year, where the “seven vegetable soup” (七菜羹), “seven vegetable congee” (七菜粥) and “jidi congee” (及第粥) are specially prepared for Renri. Malaysian and Singaporean Chinese use the “seven-coloured raw fish” (七彩魚生) instead of the “seven vegetable soup”.
In Japan, Renri is called Jinjitsu (人日). It is one of the five seasonal festivals (五節句). It is celebrated on January 7. It is also known as Nanakusa no sekku (七草の節句), “the feast of seven herbs”, from the custom of eating seven-herb kayu (七草粥) to ensure good health for the coming year.
The celebration of the feast in Japan was moved from the seventh day of the first lunar month to the seventh day of January during the Meiji period, when Japan adopted the Gregorian calendar.