So I was told, I was born on September 19th. Although I was there for the momentous event, I don’t recall any of it. All I did was simply show up, so why the big fuss to honor me on the anniversary of this occurrence every year? At least three other people–my mom, my dad, and the OB–had more to do with my arrival than I did. Where are the kudos for them?
Making an annual big deal about the fact that one exists seems a bit self-centered to me. But this practice has existed for a very long time. The Romans are considered the first to have celebrated birthdays, but they only celebrated men’s birthdays, at least initially. No wonder that civilization crumbled; approximately half of the population was ignored on their big day.
Early Christians opposed birthday celebrations because such a celebration was connected to the pagan culture of the Romans. How is a birthday celebration pagan? Well, the Romans decided to put candles on birthday cakes to honor their moon god. And we thought the candles were merely placed on the top of a cake to show the birthday boy or girl’s age…
Germans popularized the practice of having a cake at a birthday party in the late 18th century. Hard to imagine a birthday party without a birthday cake, isn’t it? The eating part of “eat, drink and be merry” at a birthday party clearly is synonymous with eating cake today.
But what type of cake will be served? Since the birthday boy/girl is being honored, hopefully his/her favorite cake is what is selected for the birthday party menu. To absolutely no one’s surprise, a survey referenced by the Norfolk Daily News revealed that chocolate was the most popular birthday cake flavor. Bunnies will be happy to learn that carrot cake came in seventh. My favorite birthday cake, strawberry, did not even make the top ten, which just goes to show that there is no accounting for taste.
But is the person for whom the birthday cake is prepared (or bought) really all that special? The birthday boy may think of his birthdate as “his” big day, but a whole bunch of other people in this world share the date with him. I, of course, live in the United States. September is the most common month for births in this country. And the most common birthdate for Americans to have been born is either September 9th or September 16th, depending on which study you accept. Regardless, of which of these days is the most popular of all days to be born, clearly mid-December is not only a time for holiday cheer but for conceiving an addition to your family as well. Beware of that mistletoe!
Rather than using a birthday to be the center of attention, maybe the birthday boy should use the event to reflect on what he has been given. Regardless of what presents his friends and loved ones may give him to mark the occasion currently, he received the best gift of all the day he was born, i.e., his life. Reflecting on that enormous blessing and how it is being used is a better use of the event than frivolous (and undoubtedly fattening) merrymaking.
Samuel Longhorn Clemens, better known under his penname of Mark Twain, made a profound observation when he said, “The two most important days in your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.” We don’t have anything to say about being given life or when we are born. But once we have life, then the ball is in our court to make the most of what we have been given. We can spend our life merely having a ball and chasing pleasure. Alternatively, we can act with purpose and use the life we have been given to make a difference in the world in which we find ourselves.
I personally don’t believe that I was put here on the earth simply to make a big deal about having lived another year. Rather than just sharing some birthday cake to celebrate my big (getting bigger every year) day, I want to share myself, my talents, and my resources with those around me on a regular basis. Today I am sharing my words with you, and that’s way better than offering you a piece of birthday cake that isn’t healthy for you anyway.
The Beatles had a hit song in “They Say It’s Your Birthday.” When it is your birthday, what will you say? Will it be all about you and “your” big day?
Just WONDER-ing: Is celebrating your birthday self-centered? Have you experienced the day you found out why you were born (other than the obvious biological explanation)? Other than birthday cake, what do you want to share with those around you on your big day?