No.191 (7/8/11)

Tankah Iwai : One-year-old birthday party in Okinawa

By Ryoko Uechi
Guest Writer

Every birthday is important, but in Okinawa there are certain ages where birthdays are very special. For instance, a child’s one-year-old birthday is a fun and big event. Family and relatives usually get together and wish the child excellent health and growth and also have a feast with the child and their family. A traditional fun ritual is held at the birthday party. Certain items are put on the table and then family members wait and see what the birthday child will pick up first. It is said that it depends on the item a child holds, in terms of how the child will grow up in the future and what kind of occupation he or she will have. Traditionally, a brush and ink stone, an abacus, money, and Sekihan (which is rice with red bean and eaten for the auspicious occasion). It is said that if a child takes the brush and ink stone, the child will be a writer or an artist. If a child takes the abacus, the child will be working in the business field. If a child takes money, the child will be rich. If a child takes the cooked rice, the child will have an affluent life. At the present, some of the items which are now put on a table are a pencil and notebook, a calculator, and regular cooked rice or a rice ball.

In Okinawa we have a local proverb about children. The proverb says that having a lot of money will not make you happy, but if you are surrounded by children and grandchildren you will be happy. People in Okinawa are very close to each other and they cherish children for the future. That is why it is important to have the first year birthday celebration and to wish the child happiness and to share in the happiness with the entire family.

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