A Multicultural Celebration
Sam’s parents wanted to celebrate the birth of their new son. He was gorgeous after all! And they wanted the world to know.
Given their multicultural backgrounds – Dad is from Greece, Mum is from Indonesia – they wished to draw not on just one culture, but hint at a few different cultures, including the Australian outdoors lifestyle.
They wanted a fun day for family, friends and their new neighbours. It was important to introduce Sam to families in the street. He will play with these children one day.
According to Indonesian tradition, a baby’s feet don’t touch the ground until 7 months of age. According to Greek tradition, a baby is passed from Aunt to Uncle to Grandma and back, and kissed a lot!
In both cultures the birth of new children is a very important occasion, to be celebrated with food, especially goat meat.
Sam’s parents wanted to honour both cultures without excluding either, so needed a ceremony reminiscent of both, but not exactly one or the other. And neither wanted to celebrate this in a church.
I assisted them to design their own.
Family and friends were invited to a Sunday afternoon BBQ. Three weeks before the party, Sam’s parents knocked on the doors of their new neighbours to introduce themselves and deliver invitations: “We want our neighbours to know who Sam is, and we’d like you to share in a BBQ. Please come at 3. And please bring with you an object of significance to you for our ceremony, NOT as a gift, you will take it home again.”
A Sunday BBQ
On the chosen Sunday, guests milled in the back garden holding drinks on ice, getting to know each other. Just before 4pm, Kari, the celebrant, called everyone to gather in a circle and welcomed all. She introduced the parents of Sam, the uncle, and aunts, grandma and 3 godparents, indicated a couple of close family friends who had assisted the family move to the area, and finally Sam, who was held by his big cousin Rani. At 7 months he was smiling at everyone!
The Sand Ceremony
When everyone had settled in a circle, Kari asked the godparents to step forward. Each had a paper bag of sand, coloured with food colouring. Kari mentioned that the colours were chosen by the godparents. One by one they stepped forward, showed their choice of colour and gave an explanation of what gift the colour represented for Sam’s life; wisdom, love, peace, joy, prosperity, confidence, happiness. Some read poems, one sang a song about Blue, others were funny.
As each person completed their explanation they poured the sand into a glass bowl. Sam was captivated. Once all the sand had been poured Sam reached out and put his hands into the bowl, mixing the colours, absorbing their intent. All the children were invited to have a go at playing with the sand. Sam shared his colours and his gifts.
The Circle Ceremony
Kari then requested that each person lay their chosen object of significance in a circle on the grass. She asked each guest to explain to the group why it was chosen, why it is significant in that person’s life, what it represents. When the circle was complete, Kari explained the Indonesian tradition of a child’s feet touching the ground at 7 months. It is believed that before this age they are too tender to touch the ground, and must be carried or laid on a clean mat. Hopwever at 7 months are ready for the challenge of the earth and the excitement of freedom on the ground.
She also explained that the objects symbolise opportunities in Sam’s life; opportunities that his community have given him. “Today the first thing he chooses indicates a significant symbol in his life, something he has chosen.”
Sam was handed to Mum who removed his little socks and gently lowered him to the grass in the centre of the circle. Sam was captivated by the feel of the grass on his soft feet. He touched it with his hands and wrinkled his toes in delight. Then he looked up at us all around him; his community, his family.
He realised he was surrounded by a ring of objects. He gazed around at them. One caught his eye. No, another seemed more appealing. Suddenly he reached out and grabbed at a bunch of native flowers; banksias, ferns & kangaroo paw. We all cheered as he pulled it towards him. And we spent the rest of the afternoon discussing what the flowers could symbolise in his future!
A feast followed. Sam’s parents had prepared goat & lamb saté, herbed & spiced sausages and curried vegetarian patties to represent different foods from their origins. The gathering lasted well into the evening, as people found new friends and cemented relationships.
Sam feels very welcome in his community,
And we all had fun.