“Man Yue” for Baby Alben Dyson

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Celebrating the cross cultural nature of their own relationship, Gerald and Aurelia Dyson were recently joined by family and friends to celebrate a traditional “First Moon” or Full Month party in Grayson.

“It’s like a ‘Happy Month Old’ party for the baby,” baby Alben’s Aunt Erica Ang explained, noting the tradition follows the Chinese lunar calendar. “Man Yue means ‘Full Month’ or ‘Full Moon.'”

Technically speaking, the timing was not exact, but with the baby coming a week late and family members with flights scheduled for Singapore, it was well within range. Gerald and Aurelia were joined by his parents, Lillian and Stuart Dyson, as well as her parents, Steven Ang and Mui Geok Ou, as well as her sister, Erica, and brother, Jairus Ang.

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Her mother was able to join them to serve as an extra set of helping hands during the baby’s first days, and she also prepared most of the special foods to be served during the Man Yue party. Each of the foods served had a special meaning or connection to the baby and family. 

“This is especially for a baby boy,” Erica Ang said as she unveiled a plate of bright red “Ang Ku Kueh,” made of glutinous rice filled with sweet bean paste. The version for boys is domed to represent a tortoise and a wish for longevity, she said, while the same food is served in a flatter version for a baby girl.

The red color used in a couple of the dishes is also symbolic. “Red is an auspicious color in Chinese culture,” Ang said. Other foods served Saturday were brought in from specific Chinese provinces where her ancestors lived.  “Both of my parents are from Singapore, but their parents were from China,” Ang explained.

Members of Gerald Dyson’s rock band, Not One Is Upright, sympathetically joked about the lack of sleep he has experienced since his son was born. “He doesn’t do well with little sleep,” one said, and another added “He gets a certain ‘glare’ if he’s awakened early.”

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Baby Alben Gregory Dyson takes his first name from Gerald’s great-great uncle Alben Barkley, who was Vice President of the United States behind President Harry Truman, his historian father explained.

“If you Google a picture of him, he has the same ears as I do,” Dyson said with a chuckle. The baby’s middle name also has a historical connection. “It’s nerdy – Pope Gregory the Great. One of the greatest Popes in history,” he said as he provided a quick lesson in Pope Gregory’s legacy.

20 days into their journey, he said fatherhood has been a restless and rewarding endeavor. “I did not enter into it lightly and I never thought it would be easy. There has been a lot of joy, and a lot of sleepless nights.”

Dyson said he personally appreciated the idea of a cross cultural celebration for the baby due largely because it reflects the spirit and history of their family. “We came from two different culture but we connected as Christians. Our values were very similar because we are both believers,” he said, later adding “We sing the same hymns, but they sing them in Chinese when we are in Singapore.”

Smiling, Dyson recalled his mother-in-law singing a familiar melody as she lulled the baby to sleep. “It was ‘Jesus Loves Me,’ but she was singing it in Chinese,” he said.

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