Marshallese students celebrate family

First birthday celebration takes the whole family

A Marshallese tradition has a very special big tradition for first babies birthday parties. Its known as the big celebration so they throw a big party for the baby. Also called “kemem” and everyone who has been there knows it’s going to be big and fun to attend.

“It’s a tradition to come together and celebrate with our own kind,” junior Bonju Bulles said.

Not only family attends, but they invite those who want to come and attend the fun and celebrate the baby together. Families from other states come as well so the parties are mostly held on saturday to give them days to come and show up on time.

“Seeing families from other states is such a good feeling because knowing they travel far to attend the party shows they care,” junior Mia Rax said.

The party is planned a month ahead because family members have to get everything prepare. Family who hosts the event travel mostly to Hawaii or the Marshall Islands to get blankets or necklaces to give out. They throw them during parties to share with those who attend.

Also the family who is hosting the event wrap leis around the people to thank them for coming and showing appreciation of them.

“It’s like a good time to reunite and see family from afar and finally be with them,” Rax said.

Family comes from far and reunites with the loved ones and not only comes with presents but also to perform biit, meaning marching and singing. They perform dances and sing more than one song in their language. Different group of families sing “Happy Birthday” in their own way because the Islands have different ways of singing the song.

“I’ve performed so much since I was young,” Bonju said. “It just runs in the tradition to have a performance.”

Performing has to do with like hulaing which girls performed swaying their hips. The hula movements has a story behind it. It’s like a peace offering, which shows people peace and love with the movements. Also they sing multiple songs that they sing to others from their island.

“Hulaing is like showing that the tradition is still alive and that it will always be with us even when there is a different generation,” junior Sappina Aloka said.

Elders in the family are really strict on carrying the tradition and keeping it alive. They been through so much that they say they at least deserve the kids respect and have them carry it on and pass it on to their next family.

“My jimma (grandpa) always said that they worked hard and went through so much that they just want us to succeed in life,” Maria said.