My daughter turning 1 is a big deal in our culture. My parents are very traditional and helped us prepare a morning tea for the occasion. The Vietnamese word for first birthday is “Thôi Nôi”. “Thôi” means to leave or stop whilst “Nôi” means baby cradle. Figuratively, this marks a new chapter in the baby’s life. Passing the 1 year mark and entering a new period – Becoming a Toddler.
Turning 1 was of great significance in the past, there was a lack of knowledge regarding hygiene and difficulty in accessing food. The mortality rate of babies in their first year was a lot higher than it is today. Therefore, the first birthday was seen as a major milestone. While other birthdays are also celebrated, the first birthday represented a strong indication that the child was doing well.
This tradition involved 4 different parts:
- We had 2 ceremonial altar tables to prepare morning tea to ask the “God Mothers” and our ancestors to support and look over the baby during their childhood. The whole family took turns to pray so that Madeleine will have a good future. Around midday, once we have said our prayers, the food is then taken off the altar and lunch is then served . This was my favourite part. There was quite a feast!
- The second part is picking 12 or so different objects and placing them in front of her. She is then to pick one item. This is used to predict the child’s future profession or future personality. Some of the common objects and their associations are:
- Paint brushes are for an artist
- Pen and paper are for a writer
- Book is for an educator
- A book or calculator represents an academically-gifted child
- There is an optional 3rd part (which we did not participate in): this is the shaving of the child’s hair. This is done so that we cleanse all the bad energy and allows for new, fuller and thicker hair to grow through.
- The last part is for gifts and presents. Our family exchanged a few words to my daughter and wished her a very happy first birthday!
We had an absolute ball. It marked a huge milestone not only for Madeleine but also for my husband and I. It still hasn’t hit us that she’s 1 already! My parents are amazing. I don’t know what I’d do without them. My mum’s an ex-chef which means we always get amazing food prepared for us. And my dad’s a huge fan of celebrating birthdays so this was big for them to be organising their first grandchild’s birthday.
It was a lovely ceremony. It’s time to put our feet up for a few days before we have a massive first birthday celebration over the weekend! (Yep, 2nd birthday party! Whoop Whoop!)