First birthdays here in the US are often accompanied by a big party to celebrate not just baby’s first year of life but a Mom and Dad’s first year as parents. We cast invitations far and wide, blow out a single candle and sing. We let babies eat cake, cheering wildly as they make a frosting frenzy high chair mess before whisking them off to the bath.
I hadn’t given much thought to what the first year celebration looks like through the eyes of another culture until recently, when invited to shoot a first birthday party for a Japanese family. I learned that there is a tradition in Japan of letting babies carry “Isshoumochi”, or one to two round shaped rice cakes weighing 4 pounds total, on their backs! Babies most likely fall down because the rice cakes are heavy but that’s a-okay: it implies the baby will have more food (and health and happiness) than they are able to carry throughout their life.
We started with a few more conventional portraits, playing outside at the nursery before the festivities began.
Then it was time to tie up two impressively large rice cakes (I’m including a picture of one of them) and see what this little girl could do!
Tying a heavy package to the back of a relatively new biped seems a bit unfair given that balance is a challenge on a normal day. Predictably she was frustrated but remember – this is a good thing – to be given such abundance! The more she fell and cried in anger the more joyous the rest of us became! Our laughter and cheers could have appeared cruel from a different perspective. It was all there for her and she has a lifetime to figure out what to do with it.
Abundance is something I’ve been reflecting on in my own life and I find that children of all ages are the most wonderful teachers. Its all there for us, everything we need, if we can just figure out how to pick it up and run with it! It takes time, strength, wisdom and encouragement the sidelines.