ACTIVITY: Birthdays at the Middle Way School

ACTIVITY: Birthdays at the Middle Way School

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Summary At MWS, we are experimenting with birthday celebrations as a time to celebrate precious human birth. Here is a run-down of our current birthday ceremony.
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Note from MWS Director, Noa Jones:
Since there aren’t many child-centric Buddhist rituals and celebrations, our guide, Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, encouraged us to create our own. We are experimenting with birthday celebrations as a time to celebrate precious human birth. Here is what we send out to families at the school to prep them for the special day. We also created the Paramita cards, which you can download here or view below. The children pick from these cards as a sort of “mo” or tarot card-type reading, helping the child set an intention and reflect on their strengths and challenges.
Eventually we will write our own song. Another activity you could add to this is the precious human birth game with the turtle toss from Bodhi Kids. One thing we don’t do is blow out candles, since candles are an auspicious offering, we let the candle stay lit in a lotus shaped votive holder in the classroom. We trust our children to be safe with things like fire.
During the more intimate time with the head of school and family, we also help the child prepare tea for the parents, in little cups that look like moons, and we explain that while they have travelled around the sun 6 or 7 (or however old they are) times, their parents have been circulated around them, caring for them day and night every single day. We have a sun platter that is prepared in the classroom on a table and the child walks around it while the parents tell their stories. The teacher helps the child prepare a gift for the parents the day before and it will be hidden in the room so at the end of the ceremony, the child will fetch it and give to the parent.
This is a work in progress and we’d love to hear from other parents and Buddhist schools. If you have an interesting element or a song to add to or help shape our ceremony, please share by emailing noa@middlewayeducation.org.
Birthdays at Middle Way School

Birthdays are a special day to celebrate precious human birth. At MWS we acknowledge the miracle of life with a short celebration on the morning of (or closest to) your child’s birthday. For children born in summer, we celebrate half birthdays, so mark your calendars for 6 months from the birth date and we will do the celebration then.

On that date, parents and/or guardians should plan to come no later than 8:45 a.m. and to stay until about 9:10 a.m. Instead of regular drop off, we’ll meet in the Welcome Center, where we have a cozy and practice lighting a candle. You can prepare your child at home with match safety and candle lighting, and/or we can do it together on this morning. Your child will decorate their birthday crown and also select a paramita card, which will have one of the Buddhist paramitas on it, to help them set aspirations for the year.

The paramitas are qualities that manifest for the benefit of all beings:

  1. Dana: generosity, giving of oneself
  2. Shila: discipline
  3. Nekkhama: renunciation, non-grasping
  4. Virya: energy, diligence, effort
  5. Ksanti: patience, tolerance, acceptance
  6. Metta: goodwill, friendliness, loving-kindness
  7. Sacca: honesty
  8. Adhittana: tenacity, determination
  9. Upekkha: equanimity, serenity
  10. Prajna: wisdom, insight, discernment

What to bring:

  • Wishing Stone: Your child can choose from our wishing stones or bring a favorite stone, they will get it back.
  • Snack: It’s up to parents if they wish to prepare snack for the entire school or just the class. Snack is for all 29 students total. Snack should be vegetarian and low sugar. No candy please. Two students are vegan and two are gluten free so please consider them. Low sugar muffins or cookies are good, as are fruits. If you have any questions about what’s appropriate, please ask Grace. The snack will be served at 10 a.m. snack time.
  • Crown Centerpiece: Your child can also bring something small to add to the crown centerpiece. Something like a feather or a flower or a small figurine would work.
  • Three anecdotes: Please be prepared to tell three very short anecdotes, one when your child was a baby, one from a few years ago, and one from recent times, that show a progression in this world.
  • Please do not bring cameras, iPads, or other devices. We will take photos and send them to you.

We will head into the classroom to join the morning circle. Classmates and teachers will infuse the wishing stone with our best wishes for the year. We close with a song customized for the season:

Autumn, winter, summer, spring
Birthdays are a time to sing
No matter the season rain or shine
it’s a very special time

AUTUMN: Now the autumn leaves spin down, weave a gold one for your crown

WINTER: Since you are a winter child, catch a snowflake blowing wild

SPRING: Pick a violet small and fair in the spring to deck your hair

SUMMER: Since you are a summer child, wander meadows warm and wild

And we will all join in to say …have a birthday glad and gay!

The stone is offered to the child at the end and then parents can depart for the day. ❤

Paramita cards

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