It seems the older I get the more I have a soft spot for the traditions in my life. Not all the traditions, but many of them. Maybe it is a reflection on getting older, wiser. Maybe it is a way of having a tighter grip on a life that feels like it is moving too fast. Either way something tugs at the heart strings lately when I think about some of these traditions.
We have just returned from celebrating our godson’s first birthday in Sydney over the weekend. First birthdays are a big deal in my life. They always have been. Yes, I know that the one year old will not remember or understand the fanfare and yes I know they would be just as happy with a cupcake and a cardboard box to play with. But first birthdays are so much more than a cake, a candle and fanfare.
When my boys turned one I planned a huge first birthday for each of them. Invited all our friends and family, captured every moment, indulged in a big cake and cherished every single minute. Maybe it was because I wanted a celebration to mark surviving that huge first year, maybe I wanted everyone to see how important these boys were in our lives or maybe it was tradition.
Tradition did play a role in their first birthday celebrations, a very important and special role. My boys celebrated their quccija on their first birthday.
The quccija is an age old Maltese tradition celebrated on the child’s first birthday. Quccija means choosing. The choice the baby makes on this occasion is believed, according to Maltese notions, to give an idea of the child’s future disposition or the profession the child will follow. On the child’s first birthday, a basket is filled with various objects to represent different professions and richness in life. The objects in the basket are laid out and the child placed on the floor in front of them. Whichever object the child crawls to first and holds is supposed to show the child’s future.
On my first birthday my parents sat me down to celebrate my quccijia and on each of their first birthdays my boys celebrated their quccijia. For my boys we placed out the following objects. A hard-boiled egg: to signify a house and life full of richness and all the things they want. A soccer ball: for a future in sport. A stethoscope: for a future in the medical professions. A hammer: for a profession in the trades. A paint brush: for an artistic future. A pen: to signify a life of academia and study. A coin: to signify a wealthy future and profession. A keyboard: to signify a musical profession. Rosary beads: to signify a future with God in their life.
When I was one, I chose the hard-boiled egg. AJ chose the keyboard and PJ chose a hard-boiled egg. Nothing makes me happier than these memories from their first birthdays. I almost cried with happiness when PJ chose the egg. Something took over me in that moment. But I guess that is what tradition does. It takes over you and drags you back into time where things are much harder to explain and perhaps do not need to be defined.
The quccija is a Maltese tradition dating back as far as the 18th century. Celebrating first birthdays is a tradition as old as time. The memories we make celebrating the first birthdays that are special in our lives, well I guess those memories can last forever and however we choose to make those memories, as long as we make them with the ones we love, that is all that matters.
Do you have any special first birthday traditions in your family?