By Guest Blogger Amber Schmida Greene of Mama Moontime
Celebrating a birthday is a time-honoured ritual. It is a day to recognise our birth, and the ongoing biographical journey we undertake. It can be a time for reflection on the growth and change we have experienced over the past 365 days and perhaps, to make adjustments to our course. It can be a time to peer through the looking glass into the future. A birthday can act as our own personal ‘New Year’; a time to set goals for our dreams, quietly and unobtrusively. A birthday also offers our closest family and friends an opportunity to acknowledge the important role we play in their lives. They are given a chance to spoil and share with us. It is a time to gratefully receive nourishment and nurturing on our own significant day in the year. We too, can do the same for others.
Yet today, many of us find that a birthday celebration is not what we had hoped for or doesn’t meet our expectations. Sometimes, birthdays pass by with a token Happy Birthday song and perhaps a cake. A recent phenomenon is a birthday wish through Facebook or via email. Kind, yet slightly impersonal for such a momentous day. Children fare better. Parents continue to make the effort, even if it involves packet mix or pre-bought cakes or a drop and run” party at the home of the yellow arches for less than $10 a child. Birthday parties at home are often becoming a chance for families to out-do one another with the latest jumping castle clown show or fairy make up party extravaganza. Budget blowouts are common and the material spend on a child enormous as they receive commercial toy after toy after toy…
It seems that something had been lost in the translation. Inspired to create something more meaningful for my own children I reminisced on my childhood to find that the gifts are long forgotten but the experiences linger. Inviting my best group of girls over for my first slumber party wearing my favourite blue striped dress on my 8th birthday get together eating fairy bread (o00hhh yum!) playing pass the parcel and going with the family to my favourite Spaghetti restaurant as a treat; these were good days.
Steiner Birthday Ceremonies
Alongside my quest to return to simple values and long held traditions I discovered through my involvement with Steiner education that a Birthday Ceremony could be SO MUCH MORE than I had ever dreamed! In this place I found people truly honouring the individual spirit of each birthday girl or boy child or adult in a multitude of ways. The common thread in every celebration was a chance to honour the individual birthright and destiny path of that child or adult in a multitude of ways. The common thread in every celebration was a chance to honour the individual birthright and destiny path of that child or adult with beauty and simplicity.
A Steiner-inspired birthday celebration acknowledges that the child has willingly entered into this life contract with a preconceived purpose. It is the task of the child/adult to unravel that mystery as they set foot upon the path of life. A birthday then becomes a chance to give support to and give gratitude to this brave individual as they navigate through the ups and downs of life. It is also a chance for us to see beyond the outer exterior of a person and fish a little deeper.
How Steiner celebrates birthdays
As an early-childhood teacher I was involved in the creation of celebrations for 4, 5 and 6 year olds. The celebratory aspect of the birthday would depend upon the age and maturity of the child their attention span and their ability to join in the celebration. One celebration from Steiner folk-lore was an imaginary boat journey to the Birthday Island where the class group sat alongside the fairy and elf folk peering in through the ‘windows’ of the castle as the child travelled over land and sea to reach their destination. Another celebration invited parents to bring along a photo of the child at every age of life to this day and share a story of significant moments during each years passing. Each of us who listened to these stories forged a deeper understanding and love of the Birthday child through this process. A Six year old celebration involved every class member having to think of a ‘wish’ gift they would like to bestow on the Birthday child. In return the Birthday One gifted each member of their class with a pre-prepared birthday token made in the weeks leading up to their celebration at home in conjunction with their parents.
Each child received an gift- a handmade drawing, a seedpod bracelet or a banana leaf basket of flowers- something individual and truly reminiscent. The gift giving was a chance for some mutual nurturing and a reminder of the delightful celebration they shared with their birthday friend that day. In every way the celebrations were a simple recognition of our ‘birth-to-earth’ day and the fact that we all as spiritual beings with an individual soul
"come from the stars”. A simple crown and cape worn by the child for the entire morning highlighted the fact that the child was King or Queen for the day. It is hard to believe that children could long all year to receive their crown and sit on their ‘golden throne’ but it truly was a highlight making a fond memory of their time in kindergarten. At the completion of a ceremony the birthday child would receive a simple gift such as a silver paper box or a tiny doll brooch made by the loving hands of the teacher. These often became monumental treasures guarded and respected for years to come.
A simple meal offering was shared among friends. Sometimes the children and teachers prepared fruit and nut platters or muffins for one another. At other times parents provided the treat. The birthday child was encouraged to share out the offerings friend by friend. In this simple exchange two children could meet for a instant and share a heartfelt greeting of joy and congratulations. I am in big favour of simple nutritious but well-presented foods for birthdays. Dried and sweet fruit can be arranged so artfully and a cheese platter is a real treat. A big bowl of fruit punch or homemade lemonade quenches the thirst too. Of course at home I do love a bit of fairy bread too!
The simplicity of the celebration enhanced the significance of the birthday event and it is the paring back and storytelling aspects that have influenced my homelife the most. My children receive one main gift such as a fishing game or a handmade doll or a bike. Where possible this item has received the loving creative touch of a close family member or friend. At times the gift has been accompanied by a handmade pictorial book a treasure hunt or has been the impetus for a story. In preparation for Ned’s first birthday I enrolled in a cake decorating course to gain the skills I needed to make his "African animals” cake to tie in with the images on the party invitation. This was my heartfelt contribution. It is our family tradition that the Birthday One chooses their favourite meal and dessert and I prepare this for dinner. A handmade Happy Birthday bunting appears on the morn of every person’s special day. A special birthday candle different to our daily one is lit for the meal blessing too.
Simple traditions that flow over the years building life long memories are the support act to the events of a Birthday day. I wish you many heartfelt birthday celebrations in years to come!