Rafa has a vibrant mixture of cultural heritage that we’re keen on incorporating into everyday life. In addition to cultural heritage, there’s also a variety of religious influences, variety in family lifestyles and languages (we speak three different ones in our home). We’re doing our best to make as much of it accessible to him as we can.

For Rafa’s first birthday we tried to incorporate a few different elements of culture and new activities that we hope will become tradition over the years.

Clothing Rafa’s auntie and god mother sent him the traditional masi pieces to wear, and my mum sent him the traditional garland salusalu. Rafa managed the masi for a few minutes but wouldn’t let us get the salusalu on him. For his party in Fiji he wore the traditional Fijian sulu vakatanga (skirt with pockets – pictured here).

Candles The priest who baptized Rafa suggested that we light his baptismal candle every year on his birthday. We loved that idea, it would be such a wonderful way to actually use the candle. We took his candle to Fiji and had it lit next to his birthday cake. The other new tradition we’ve added is to keep and re-use his birthday candle. I bought 100% New Zealand beeswax (non-drip) candles from here for this purpose. We have decided not to have a party for him every birthday, but it’ll be nice to bring the candle out each year and put it on a muffin or a slice of cake.

Gifts and Giving This year instead of gifts we asked friends to contribute a book to the children’s reading space we support in Fiji. Each year for Rafa’s birthday we hope to help Rafa contribute to community projects and to embrace the spirit of giving. Obviously we aim to do this throughout the year, but we want to move the focus from receiving on his birthday to giving and helping him see the value in that.

Words I’ve been writing to Rafa since he was Peanut, just a little wriggly baby in my tummy. Patrick and I each contribute a letter to his box of special things for him to read when he’s older. From his first birthday party there are notes for him to read when he’s 18. There’s a letter from me for him to read when he’s 21. And a letter from Patrick describing the day Rafa came into the world.

It is quite early to say which will become traditions. Time will influence these, as well as Rafa’s personality and interests. And of course where we’re living. Introducing elements of culture, religion, language and creating traditions need not be complicated. They might include a certain cultural dish, happy birthday sung in the vernacular or the presence of a special object placed on the table as you share a family meal.

Patrick and I thought a lot about throwing Rafa this birthday party. We tend not to celebrate birthdays, choosing instead to try to make each day special. By finding meaningful activities to incorporate into the day we were able to create something that was truly special to us as parents and helped us create a gathering that went beyond a ‘birthday party’. We were able to create a celebration that encompassed our family values.

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