Last month, amidst a difficult season of loss in our family, our beautiful, little flower, Violet Rae, turned one year old. Like all milestones, it’s a special one, but the change from a newborn to a one year old is arguably the most significant of any single year. The first birthday has taken on special significance since in years past. When infant mortality rates were high, babies who made it to their first birthday were much more likely to survive – great cause for celebration! The first birthday became a significant milestone in many cultures, representative of passing an important hurdle in life’s journey.
Do you have cultural, religious, or family traditions for acknowledging the milestone of turning one year old? Do you know the history behind the traditions? Embracing tradition is a special way to connect us to our history and bring the child into the circle of community and belonging, while honoring their unique place in that circle. Molding traditions to make them our own can also help us create our own family identity within the larger community. Family gatherings, gifts to or from guests, games, hats, songs, cakes, cards, banners, colors, balloons, coins, rings, special clothes and food… there are all sorts of traditions that help us celebrate birth and birthdays together. Focus on the heart, not the commercialism or comparisons.
Of course, Violet will have many important hurdles to come in her life. Pausing on her first birthday to reflect on where she’s been, where she is, and where she’s headed can make it more meaningful and generate a lot of gratitude.
Where she’s been: I scanned back over pictures and facebook posts, reviewing our first year with this little human. It’s gratifying and sobering. It took me back to her very first hurdle, being born! And to a facebook post I wrote the first week she was born, after a bumpy start and some fearful moments- she jumped that hurdle, too. She got sick- she jumped that hurdle. She learned to sit, stand, crawl, walk, climb, and run- more hurdles jumped! Reflecting on her journey and her successes nourishes all kinds of gratitude and hope.
Where she is: She’s healthy and growing in a happy tribe within a loving community.
Where she’s headed: I believe that Violet’s life is eternal, but I know that we will have lapses in our enjoyment of life together. Future birthdays can be an annual celebration of her and the gift of her life touching ours. A celebration of life together… love, family, endurance, hope… and a recognition that every day with her is a gift and another lovely milestone has been reached.
Commemorating the milestone of the first birthday need not include a lavish, expensive party that costs a ton of money and stresses you out. What’s important is to celebrate the blessing of having this child in your life, in your family, and in the world- in a way that feels good to you, your child, and your family. That may mean a big party, or not. It will probably feel good to you all if you thoughtfully choose the traditions that mean something to you and if you take a few moments to reflect with gratitude on how far your child has come and where you are headed together. Happy birthday… and our wishes for many returns of the day!
Photography: Susanna Safrany Photography