I remember a time in my life when my parents used to allow me to have as many people over at my birthday party as I was years. So, when I was 7, I had seven friends over, and so on. With childhood naivete, I looked forward to when I was older. Just think how many friends I could invite when I was older! 16! 18! 20!
Birthdays are very odd things. A celebration of the individual, a holiday of the self, a recognition that you have been alive one more year. And as my next birthday approaches, I wonder what it is that is really being celebrated.
At their root, there is a serious reason for all holidays and festivals. Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ, Easter His resurrection. Many countries have Independence Days, to commemorate the birth of their nations. Even Halloween is really All Hallows Eve, the day before All Saints Day, and before that, it was the harvest festival of Samhain.
But birthdays...birthdays are something different. Only rarely do they celebrate someone great, someone who has done something worthwhile. And yet they are celebrated with the same traditions we celebrate our significant holidays with. We celebrate with feasting, with gifts, with the gathering of friend and families. But why? Are birthdays just a selfish way of declaring oneself to be important? Or worse, are they merely a celebration mediocrity? Or are they something else entirely?
Perhaps birthdays are simply (and yet, how wonderful simple can be sometimes!) a celebration of life. A recognition that however little, or much, you have done, your life is worth something. You have a value. And that worth, that value, is worth celebrating.
For the first time I can remember, I've not been looking forward to my birthday this year. There seems so little to celebrate, so little I have done that is worth recognizing, so little to make me worth my own holiday. But if birthdays are something more than a celebration of the individual, if they are a celebration of life, of purpose, then I need to change my attitude to that of the Mad Hatter, and not just celebrate once a year, but celebrate every day.
Happy Un-Birthday, everyone!