Here’s hoping your week is at a good middle point. I know mines feeling quite long. Anywho, here we are. Today is one of my good friend’s birthday, and July 4th was my little brother’s birthday, so of course I have birthdays on the mind. And it’s quite interesting that we celebrate birthdays. I’m curious where the tradition came from.
If you’ve ever read any books by Raymond E. Feist, he describes an alternative way in his fiction that birthdays could be celebrated—as a community instead of as an individual. Instead of date of birth, it’s number of summers in existence. For example, if I were born last September, when June rolled around (specifically the day of the summer solstice), I would be one summer. At that point, the community would hold a large feast for the entire town, city, and so on.
While this is just a fictive story, it is interesting to think about the differences between our culture and this fabricated one. Think of how birthday’s change our culture. It pushes us toward more individual behaviors, and puts the focus on one person. Which is not a bad thing, per say, but it does change the focus of our society just a bit more. It also makes us more materialistic, because there is such an association with presents for birthdays. In the Feist setting, there is really only a big feast where everyone in the monarchy is treated on more even footing (for example, the prince of the story eats and talks with the common folk, though he is, of course, still the prince). Simply existing is what is celebrated, rather than one individual.
I don’t want to uproot our practices entirely either, since of course having a birthday makes something special for each individual person. It does make it so that everyone has a day that they can be proud to be who they are—weird quirks and all. Of course, then there are people like me who have birthday’s on a holiday. I have New Years, and while it’s certainly fun, it does change how I experience my birthday. I rarely if ever get a birthday party on my birthday with my friends. After 21 of them, I have yet to have one with a group of friends—whether it’s because my immediate family holds a party for New Years, because so many people go out of town, and so on. I know people who have a birthday on Christmas often struggle with this even more.
Then again, could I ask for better? Is that fair? We’re given this life, is it reasonable to ask or demand differently? We’re all just working with what we have. But I think it would be interesting to consider a more community-oriented celebration of life. One where we all come together to enjoy the company of those we exist with. That’s something we don’t really do anymore, at least, not in California. Everyone is segregated into their own small microcosms of society. Maybe we should try more unity.