What does your birthday mean to you? Why is it such an important day? What makes us so eager to celebrate and have others celebrate with us? Why is it so important to us that people remember that day?
My birthday was 3 weeks ago (and not today as the title of this blog would have you believe…) and I have been thinking about it quite a bit. It seemed a significant birthday to me, 25, quarter of a century old, but I went into it with low expectations. You see, I had deleted my Facebook account about a month before and I hardly thought that without that reminder anyone would remember. Surprisingly, many of my friends did. Even friends I wasn’t that close with texted or called me with happy wishes. More surprising than that was the fact that my very best friend in the entire world completely forgot. Forgot, and didn’t seem to be that fussed about forgetting. I’m telling you all of this so that you can understand a bit about why my thoughts have turned to birthdays recently. Feeling hurt about my best friend forgetting my birthday led me to question why it was I was so gutted that she forgot. What does a birthday really mean and why do people celebrate them ? When did we, as human beings, begin commemorating our day of birth, and why?
So, I did some research. I love research! It seems that for many cultures the idea of celebrating birthdays with family and friends began as a superstition that evil spirits, demons, etc. were more likely to target you on the anniversary of your birth and so family and friends would gather around you bringing with them all their happy thoughts and well wishes to protect you from the evil things. Due to this, many religions including Judaism and Christianity refrained from celebrating birthdays for centuries because they viewed it as a pagan practice. How far we have come from that, eh? In fact, today very few religious groups hold any particular stance on birthdays, preferring to leave it up to the individuals. That’s it. That’s how birthdays began. Obviously, like Christmas, Christians took a popular pagan practice and morphed it into a tradition based on their own beliefs and values and that is how most of us come to celebrate our birthdays today. Simple as that.
My birthday has always been made an incredibly special day for me. My family makes me feel loved everyday but that day in particular I feel especially adored. We have celebrated in many different ways, each perfect in it’s own way. I love the presents of course, but I have always felt my birthday meant more than that- it meant spending the entire day with my family and friends. It meant laughter and lots of food and usually a shenanigan or two. It still means that. But after this last birthday it means more, yes, I was hurt by the people who forgot, but I also felt incredibly loved by the people who remembered. Do I have an exact definable reason why birthdays mean so much to us or why it’s so important that people remember? No. But I know they do mean a lot, they are important, but it is more important to celebrate with the right spirit- one that is joyful and thankful for those who remembered and not downhearted because of those who forgot- the right spirit in giving and getting. Yes, a happy spirit is essential, you wouldn’t want those evil spirits for which birthday celebrations were originated taking advantage of you.