The first family of Facebook just rang in the Chinese New Year in a very special and completely adorable way — Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, revealed their daughter Max’s Chinese name. In a video that features the proud parents holding squirmy, gold-and-red-bedecked cutie Max, the pair explain how they chose their daughter’s name and the hopes they have for the new year and for their family.
The two can barely keep a straight face as little Max giggles, coos and wriggles on their laps while they attempt to wish Facebook a happy Chinese New Year and talk about what the Year of the Monkey has in store for their family. Chief among their celebrations? Choosing a Chinese name for their daughter, who is already carrying a pretty meaningful moniker: The pair named her Maxima when she was born last year, which can mean “the greatest.”
Her Chinese name is Chen Mingyu, which adheres to Chinese naming conventions by putting the baby’s family name first but breaks tradition from there with the name Mingyu. That name means “bright” or “jade” and is perfectly in keeping with little Max’s parents’ hopes that their daughter will be part of a brighter future. What makes it special is that — like her English name — Mingyu has been traditionally a more masculine name. Either way, it sure suits sweet little Max perfectly. Especially considering that Max’s parents chose that name, according to Zuckerberg, because it “represents [their] hope for a brighter tomorrow for the world.”
Certainly a number of other babies who are born into families that straddle both American and Chinese culture like little Max does will also receive new names as we bid adieu to the Year of the Sheep and usher in the Year of the Monkey.
It isn’t uncommon in Chinese culture to hold off on naming a baby: While American parents start the name hunt early on in pregnancy, Chinese parents will sometimes give an unborn baby a false name, sometimes called a “milk name,” to trick evil spirits, and hold off on revealing the main event until the baby finally arrives.
Certainly the practice of giving children multiple names isn’t limited to Chinese culture alone. Sometimes it’s rooted in religion, with sects of Christianity, Judaism and Hinduism all having traditions that allow for a naming ceremony to take place weeks and sometimes even months after a little one is born. Yoruba babies from Nigerian culture often have two names — one that describes their birth, and one that describes their personalities — while some Native American babies won’t learn their “true” name until they reach puberty and their parents divulge it.
More than that, though, the modern family can look like anything these days, and it’s hardly rare to see one where the parents come from two different cultures with their own special traditions, which of course extends to baby names!
Giving a baby two names just makes sense; it keeps them connected to the heritages of both their parents as a point of pride and culture, and in cases like little Chen Mingyu, it gives her parents an opportunity to choose a name that best reflects what they hope the future will look like for their daughter.