Sunday, July 26, 2009

Marshall Island Birthday Celebration

We were invited guests at our friend Alice's 1st birthday. Alice is from the Marshall Islands and was adopted by our dear friends. They want to make sure that she is raised knowing about her birth family's heritage and have become close friends with members of the Marshall Island community in our town. Together they threw the most incredible party I have ever attended. I have never experienced anything like it. It was an honor for our family to be included. There were over 200 guests. Most of the guests were also from the Marshall Islands. They had come from many states. There were just a few families, like ours, who were not.

There were several tables laden with food. Guests had a choice of either take out boxes or gigantic serving platters (like the kind you make a fruit tray on) as their dinner plates. Chad and I thought the platters were for important guests of honor, but they really were for anyone who wanted a giant plate. Guests filled them with lobster, pork, fish, fruits and more. I didn't know the names of most of the dishes, but everything I ate was delicious. Especially the pork. (I know I will probably be thrown out of the south for saying so, but it was far superior to Lexington or Texas BBQ). Ryan was also a fan of the food. He started eating and didn't stop for 2 hours! Ryan just kept shoving it in while he watched the dancing, his eyes never leaving the entertainment.

He tried everything on his plate (and his neighbor's). She was very sweet to him, and tickled by how much he ate. He even tried bread fruit.

That was the only thing that didn't impress him.

Andrew was impressed by the music and dancing. He wanted to dance with the performers, and was a little frustrated that we didn't let him. When I asked him if he enjoyed himself he replied, "Yes, but I could never learn their language. I couldn't figure it out!" Most of the music and speaking were not English. I loved that he thought if he just listened hard enough he could learn a new language in one night.

Chad and I were impressed with many aspects of the evening. We were impressed at the inclusion of all generations. The teenagers were involved in serving and performing with grandparents, parents, and younger siblings. There were no teens skulking in corners texting their buddies, no eye rolling. There was a place for everyone. I think our culture tends to leave out our teenagers, assuming they wouldn't want to be involved, and I think our teenagers think that it is strange or wrong to want to be involved. (I am generalizing here).

We were also greatly impressed by the joy, laughter, and celebration through their native song and dance. Again, my own culture lacks that sort of celebration, where most other cultures have this. We have no equivalent.

But the most impressive part of the party was the generosity of our hosts. Not only were we fed more food then we could ever eat (though Ryan attempted), in the middle of the incredible entertainment, gifts were passed out. And not the traditional American gift bags given to children as they leave the party. No... gifts were given to all in attendance, with adult women receiving the most. (That never happens in our culture, moms seem to get shortchanged usually). Some gifts were handed to us as individuals, and some were thrown in the air like a parade for guests to catch. We were also given this lovely table centerpiece. Each of these flowers are handmade. ( I didn't know they were a gift and I think I almost offended one of the hostesses by asking where to place it when I was trying to help clean up. "You don't want it?" she asked. I assured her I did).

But like I was saying, we received an abundance. Most of what we received was handmade. We included pictures so that you could appreciate the beauty, time and sacrifice that went into these gifts. The remarkable thing is that many were made by Alice's birth mother and family in the Mashall Islands and sent here for her 1st birthday party. Isn't that beautiful. I tear up, just picturing her birth mom, who loved her enough to make the sacrifice of adoption, hand weaving these beautiful flowers and beading these necklaces as gifts for her child's celebration.

Besides the centerpiece.....

we received a unicorn angora queen sized blanket

a chief's medallion

a dress

a pot holder

a necklace, 2 pairs of earrings, and a hair slide
and a box of chocolate covered macadamia nuts.

Jessica also told us that part of a traditional 1st birthday party is that guests who come from out of town can take anything from the home that they like home with them as a gift.

Thank you again, Matt and Jessica, for the honor of being there to celebrate with your family. I was awed by the beauty of it all. It was an evening we will not soon forget.

1 comment:

CR said...

What gorgeous gifts, and what a neat culture. It is amazing that so much generosity is so freely given. Matt and Jessica are so wonderful, we are thrilled for them. And Alice is adorable, what a pretty girl. I'm sure she felt very loved.