{Photo by Tela Cche}

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I remember one of the first birthday parties I attended after I moved to Florida from Puerto Rico. I was taken aback by how laid back it was. I was so used to the celebrations we had in Puerto Rico that it took me some time to get used to the differences.

One thing I remember most about birthday parties growing up is how festive they were. There was music, food, games, and lots of people. Always. Parties were full of friends and family, with plenty of adults present. They normally lasted quite a few hours and were mostly held at our home.

Now, as a mother myself, I tend to host similar birthday parties for our baby girl and still see differences from the parties we attend for her school friends. We’ve never hosted a birthday party for her that wasn’t held at either our home or abuela’s. On the other hand, every single birthday party we’ve attended for her friends has been at a Chuck E Cheese’s or a similar venue.

bicultural birthdays celebration latinoFor food, we serve full meals: chicken or pork with arroz con gandules (or another variety of yellow rice). Additionally, music is always playing in the background at our parties and it’s not uncommon for the adults to get up and start dancing. These two things are also quite different at the parties we attend, since normally the food served is pizza or sandwiches, and music is not commonly a part of the party, unless there’s a game of musical chairs.

In Puerto Rico, when it was time to sing to the birthday girl/boy, we normally would sing Happy Birthday in Spanish, with our version being:

Cumpleaños feliz, te deseamos a ti, cumpleaños a {insert name}, cumpleaños feliz!

Immediately after that song, we’d sing:

¡Feliz, feliz en tu día! ¡Amiguita(o) qué Dios te bendiga! ¡Qué reine la paz en tu día…y qué cumplas muchos más!

And then sometimes, just for fun, we’d add: “Te estás poniendo vieja(o)…con cara de coneja(o)!”

Though now we sing Happy Birthday in English, we do still sing the second song in Spanish. It’s just another layer of keeping birthday traditions from Puerto Rico alive for our children, even though we don’t live en la Isla del Encanto.

I enjoy our birthday parties and though they take a lot of work, I always look forward to them. I love that we are able to celebrate alongside so many friends and extended family and that my baby girl has so much fun. As a plus, I’m able to keep a piece of my childhood alive and pass down a bit of Puerto Rico to my children.

Melanie Edwards is the founder and editor of ModernMami™.com, a lifestyle blog from the perspective of a Latina working mother, and owner of Ella Media. Married 8 years, she is the proud mother of an energized 5-year-old girl and newborn boy, and is raising them in a bilingual, multicultural environment. Originally from Puerto Rico, Melanie now resides in Orlando, Florida. Connect with Melanie on Twitter, Facebook, and 40weeks Plus.

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