Journey of Belonging: My Son's First Birthday Celebration In Germany

I delve into the story of my son's first birthday celebration in Germany, showcasing the newfound joy and a sense of belonging surrounding this special occasion. I hope this blog inspires others to embrace diversity, celebrate cultural fusion, and build bridges between communities.

Journey of Belonging: My Son's First Birthday Celebration In Germany
Photo by Thanh Tran / Unsplash

We often find joy in celebrating our children's milestones as a family. Birthdays hold a special place in our hearts, filled with laughter, love, and cherished memories. However, a unique challenge presented this year as we contemplated celebrating our son's second birthday in a foreign country. My family migrated from the colorful land of India to embark on a new chapter in our lives. Today, I delve into the story of my son's first birthday celebration in Germany, showcasing the newfound joy surrounding this special occasion.

How I Imagined The Celebration In India

I always imagined my son's birthday celebration in a NGO dedicated to kids, forgoing a lavish party. Celebrating my son's special day by giving back to those less fortunate would instill empathy and compassion within him, fostering a heightened awareness of the world around him.

I avoided crowds during my son's first birthday because of the pandemic. The celebration was limited to the parents and the birthday boy. However, before his second birthday, we moved to Germany.

Leading to the Celebration

As the date of the second birthday approached, it brought a whirlwind of concerns and fears. Doubts about unfamiliar traditions and customs plagued my thoughts, leaving me hesitant to take the plunge into celebration. But my wife inspired courage. She wanted our son to feel special on his special day, which seemed reasonable.

The project kicked off with many telephone calls. My wife gathered information on the German birthday rituals by talking to the parents of our son's playdate partners. We made two plans: (a) a celebration in my son's kindergarten and (b) a weekend celebration with friends and their kids.

Preparing for the celebration at kindergarten was relatively easy. We noticed that parents bring food for the kids in the group on the day of their children's birthdays. The caregivers distribute the food during afternoon snack time (known as Vesper in German, which means having a snack between main meals).

But what about the celebration with friends and their kids? To our surprise, our friends convinced us that the party could be planned without hassle. How? Having a birthday during the German summer is a blessing. One can celebrate outdoors. Pick a park, bring some food, and carry a mat - and just like that, you have a picnic party.

A side note on German park life:

Park visits are a summer staple. Germans barely wait for the frost to leave the grass before they roll out their blankets, ready for the sun's rays to touch their sun-starved skin.

My wife and I were excited about the idea. We discussed and agreed on the birthday celebration plan. A sneak peek into the details,

  • Whom to invite? Two couples and their kids with whom my son goes out to playdate. A short list but well thought-out to optimize for engagement among kids and adults during the party.
  • What food to buy for the kindergarten? Fruits and homemade kid-friendly cake.
  • What food to buy for the picnic? Chips and soda - the usual
  • What food to bake/cook? Kid-friendly cake, savory (two versions - one for kids and the other for adults), sweets (two versions again), Indian dessert (Gajar ka Halwa) for adults - Is that a short menu!?
  • What is the party destination? Friedenspark, Leipzig
  • When to start and when to wrap up? Preferably morning.
  • Do we need return gifts? Oh yes! If we don't do that, then the guest kids will cry their lungs out.

The D-Day

Something had to go wrong, and so it did. Was I suffering from a negativity bias? On the day of the celebration at kindergarten, a thought consumed me. What if a child is allergic to an ingredient we add to the cake? What if a child suffers from an allergic reaction such as a feeling of warmth, flushing, itchy rash, or diarrhea? That would be catastrophic. I rushed to my wife to tell her not to bake a cake. That broke her heart, and I could see it. But I was adamant that we couldn't risk our child's integration, even by taking the slightest risks. Sounds stupid - isn't it? My German immigration brought hope and anticipation, but these feelings were mixed with a deep sentiment of risk aversion and sometimes fear.

So, We skipped the cake and instead bought several varieties of fruits for the kids. We handed them over to the educators.

I was curious to know how my son's birthday was celebrated in kindergarten. If I could improvise, I would say that the group assembled for Obst (fruit meal after breakfast) at the table. The caregivers distributed the fruits, announcing that they were my son's birthday present. The group might have sung "Happy Birthday" (or attempted to sing). It was a simple and sweet celebration.

My son returned home with a beaming smile, having received a birthday present from kindergarten - a cute wooden picture puzzle.

Weekend Celebration

The preparation for the celebration in the kindergarten was a nerve-racking ordeal. I was optimistic that the next installment would not cause similar anxiety. The guest list was short. We invited two families - a German couple and a mixed couple. Both families had kids who were less than two years old, and had played with my son in the local Spielplatz (German for playground) many times.

My wife put a lot of effort into cooking and organizing the party food in the morning. We had separate menus for kids and adults. I managed the logistics, which was the easy part. We reached the venue at 09:30 on a glorious sunny morning. The park looked gorgeous, with beautifully sculpted lawns and cascades of flowers.

The next two hours were filled with fun. We picked a spot beside the children's play area in the park. The two families arrived soon, bringing a little something to share and contribute to the leisurely affair. We sat on the grass, blew up balloons, enjoyed German and Indian dishes, had engaging conversations, played with the kids, and exchanged gifts. The picnic became a melting pot of cultures.

In retrospect, the birthday celebration was one of the coolest I have ever attended or hosted. I could have never imagined celebrating a birthday in this fashion in India. I perceive birthday celebrations in India as "putting up a show" that sometimes loses the true spirit of celebration. In contrast, the birthday I celebrated in Germany held a deeper meaning.

Takeaway: The Essence of Belonging

Reflecting on the journey, I realize that celebrating my son's birthday in Germany has reinforced my sense of belonging. I have discovered that stepping out of our comfort zones enriches our lives. I hope this blog inspires others to embrace diversity, celebrate cultural fusion, and build bridges between communities. It serves as a reminder that, regardless of our backgrounds, we can find solace and happiness when celebrating life's precious moments on foreign soil.