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How Do You Celebrate Your Baby’s First Birthday?

I was cleaning up the cellar the other day and found some boxes of photos from the pre-digital era, including photos from my sons’ first birthday. The photos brought back some memories of that special day.

A colleague asked me once whether she should take a day off on her son’s first birthday and I answered “yes” without any hesitation. Another colleague, however, was of the opinion that it wasn’t necessary. One can always celebrate on weekends.

The importance of a child’s first birthday varies from country to country, from culture to culture. I come from a culture where the first birthday calls for a big celebration. Over the years, I have learned from friends from the world over why is the first birthday so important and how do they mark the event.

How Other Cultures Celebrate the 1st Birthday

  • My friend from Hawaii told me that babies are not considered fully part of the family until they turn 1. My family and I were privileged to be present during her twin girls’ first birthday party, a ceremony where the girls were officially “welcomed” into the family fold.
  • In China and many countries in Asia, an important milestone occurs 100 days after delivery. This is when the big celebration happens, traditionally with rice cakes shared among 100 people. I was present on the 100th day party of my Chinese friend’s son but she had to make do with less than 100 guests.
  • My Greek friend told me that a child in Greece is not called by his/her real name until he or she celebrates his/her 1st birthday. During the first 12 months, the child is simply known and addressed by the generic term “little boy” or “little girl.”
  • In the Philippines where I grew up, the first birthday is celebrated big style and a must in the menu is a long noodle dish to symbolize “long life.” Also, one is not allowed to cut a child’s hair before his or her first birthday as this will lead to loss of wisdom. My husband who is German of course scoffed at my preparations for my twin sons’ first birthday 6 years ago, calling me “superstitious.” Maybe I am.

There is probably a medical reason for many of these traditions. During the early days when infant mortality was high due to limited medical care, the first 100 days or the first birthday was the milestone when the child has probably had most of the childhood diseases and was likely to survive and grow into adulthood.

Many people I know also celebrate their child’s first birthday but for different reasons. A friend told me it is more about the parents celebrating the fact that they have survived 12 months of parenthood!

So what about you? How important is your child’s first birthday for you? Do you have any special family traditions to observe this event?

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