I spent my weekend attending birthday parties for one-year-olds, thinking about what I’ll do for Olive’s first birthday, which is in exactly 2 weeks. Joel and I have been re-watching all the videos we took in her first 7 months of life (haven’t taken one in awhile!), enjoying looking back on when she communicated mostly in little squeaks, grunts, and looks. This year has been a whirlwind for me — so much fricken change I don’t know where to even begin reviewing it, nevermind commemorating it with my community. Well, Winston Churchill said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”, so I guess I’ve got even more change to come in the future.
One year old birthday parties are simple affairs — play space for the babes, food & drinks for all and some kind of cake with a single candle. Or, if you are a super awesome SF family like the one who hosted one of the parties this weekend, you have a pastry chef friend who makes you red velvet donuts:
So, for Olive, we will certainly have a sweet little party such as the ones we enjoyed this past weekend, but I find myself wanting to do something deeper, to commemorate the inner change that has gone on for us as well. In the calendar of the Church year, which I have been immersing myself in since joining the Episcopal Church, birthdays are not celebrated in any special way. We will sing a little song for her in church and have a special prayer, but really it will be a Sunday like any Sunday, a feast day in and of itself. Her birthday falls on the day the church venerates Theodore of Tarsus, which means nothing to me, except that it sounds suspiciously like he was connected to getting the Celtic peoples to obey Christianity. I suppose I’ll have to do more research, but I can’t imagine that was done with the greatest of care to their beliefs and traditions.
In some other cultures of the world, birthday celebrations are deeper, more spiritual affairs than just gifts and sweets. “The Asante people in Ghana celebrate ‘krada’ (which means ‘Soul Day’) on the day of their birth.” (1) I like the idea of this being a day to honor Olive’s soul, even though I don’t think I can call this her soul’s birthday, since I believe her soul was created long before she was birthed here on Earth. “On a Hindu child’s first birthday, his or her head is shaved while being held by a special fire. Removal of the hair cleanses the child of any evil in past lives, symbolizing a renewal of the soul.” Well, I don’t believe in the evil of past lives, but I like the idea of shedding the year’s happenings and having a renewal of the soul. I’m not cutting Olive’s amazing fro though — it’s just getting really nappy and great.
Right now I’m just planning on doing some damage at Casa Bonampak and tricking out the church basement with colorful decorations for the babe. I’ll have a cupcake master friend of mine try to recreate this cake of rainbow cupcakes:
I put it out to some of Joel’s relations but I’ll ask here as well: does anyone have stories of meaningful birthday commemorations they have been a part of in some way? I’d love to be able to have a fun little celebration but also do something deeper, even something we could build on from year to year to give Olive a thread to weave through her life.