(l-r) Heidi, Bre’Anna and Deandre Lewis of Frazier Park are from the Marshall Islands. They held a traditional kemem celebration for one-year-old BreAnna on Saturday, Feb. 26 with 100 guests from as far away as Arkansas, Hawaii and the Marshall Islands at the Crazy Duck Chinese Restaurant banquet hall. Tropical fruit, dancing, gifts and feasting marked the Kemem party.
One-year-old Bre’Anna Lewis was the focus of a large, traditional Marshal Islands celebration Saturday, Feb. 26 in Frazier Park. Over 100 people came from faraway places such as Hawaii, Arkansas, Sacramento, Porterville, Costa Mesa and the Marshall Islands, to celebrate Bre’Anna’s first year of life.
In Marshallese culture, the first birthday is very important because thousands of years ago, when Asian peoples first migrated to the Marshall Islands, many babies did not live to see their first year and died due to sickness, according to Bre’Anna’s mother Heidi.
Deandre says the historical belief is that if the child can make it for one year, then he or she will be able to make it in life.
He says 2,000 people sometimes show up for a Kemem celebration.
It is customary for every person arriving at the Kemem to receive a gift. This reporter received a box of chocolate-covered macadamia nuts and is devouring them now so he doesn’t get into trouble for bringing them home.
Deandre Lewis, Bre’Anna’s father, explained that if you see something you like from among the many gifts assembled, you must dance up to the parents of the one-yearold and they will present you with that gift.
The Lewis family moved to Frazier Park almost a year ago. “We love it here,” said Heidi.
On this day, about 25 children were outside having a snowball fight after the feast, catered in the Crazy Duck Chinese Restaurant’s downstairs meeting room.
Lewis says the celebration typically includes traditional dancing, singing and a lot of eating.
This is part of the March 04, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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