Drawing lots is a traditional Chinese birth celebration. It is held on a baby's 1st birthday to predict the baby's future, career and interests. It is also a way to express good wishes for a baby's prosperity. As a kind of family game, drawing lots is a way to exam if infants are well educated by their mothers.
On that day, parents put some goodies in a row or in a circle in front of a baby. Goodies usually include a pen, a dictionary, a ruler, money a seal, a counting frame, a soccer ball, among other things. Each object has different meanings. A pen is believed to be related to a writing career. A ruler represents a lawyer. Money represents wealth. A seal is the symbol of an official or civil servant. A counting frame (abacas) represents a businessman.
It is generally believed that the items the baby grasps indicate his interest. For example, what Qian Zhongshu, the great Chinese scholar and writer of Fortress Besieged, grasped on his first birthday was a book. So his father named him Zhongshu, which means love for books. And coincidentally he read countless books all his life. In a book called Guanzhuibian he quoted more than 10,000 books, 2,000 of which were written in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian and Latin.
While drawing lots, attention must be given to some things. First, items for the baby to grasp must be of similar size and color so that the baby will not be disturbed. Second, parents must not guide the baby. In other words, what the baby grasps should be of his own free will. Third, the baby can only grasp twice and the items should all be new to the baby. They can't be familiar things. Fourth, the celebration should begin before lunch; and usually consist of noodles, which means living a long life in China.
In ancient times, people regarded this tradition as a prediction of the baby's future; perhaps because people believed that one's interests lead to what one will be. Nowadays, people just do it for fun to celebrate baby's first birthday. It has gradually become a tradition for Chinese people.