Why Do We Celebrate Birthdays?
by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
Why is a celebration of one’s birthday of so much importance to most of us? Come to think of it, man is not born every year. So what’s the point of celebrating one’s birthday? Some people get hurt when we simply forget their birthdays. You always get in trouble if you fail to remember and to greet a loved one on his or her birthday. I always wonder how people came to be greatly affected by the anniversary of their birth. Someone jokingly said “Why celebrate the fact that you are a year older and now one year closer to your penultimate fate which is death? Practically the date of one’s birth should just be another day, just a reminder that a year has passed. But each year on our birthday we look forward to some meaning and significance of our existence.
Culturally, we vary in our celebration of birthdays. To some, it serves as a family event. In other culture, they especially give importance to a rite of passage, a celebration of the coming of age. For instance, in Japan, the coming of age day recognizes all those who have turned the age of 20. In the Philippines, a ‘debut’ is celebrated at their 18th for girls and 21st for boys. In some Hispanic countries the 15th year is the most important one called ‘quinceanera’ And here in North America, usually sweet sixteenth is an important family event. A celebration of a birthday is never complete without birthday cakes in any culture. I prefer birthday cakes to be always round for to me, it symbolized the cyclical nature of life. Life is a cycle.
But why really a need to celebrate birthdays? When we celebrate birthday whom do we honor? Do we honor ourselves? NO! But we honor the source of our life and the people who give meaning and significance in our existence. The most important person in a birthday party, therefore, is not the celebrant, but the people around the celebrant i.e. his loved ones. Therefore, the day of our birth is to give honor to God and to our family and friends, especially our parents who gave us life. It is so wrong if the celebration of our birthday is always self-centered. Like, we always expect surprises, gifts, and parties in our honor. Well, there’s nothing wrong with that so long as we acknowledge the real meaning of our celebration. Celebrating the anniversary of our birth is not just about gifts and parties. It is first and foremost to celebrate the life that God gave us and to offer Him praise and thanksgiving for it. It is a reminder of God’s goodness and graciousness. When our Lord Jesus was born on Christmas day, it was to glorify His Father and to save us. His birth, therefore, means service, sacrifice, and love. On Christmas day, therefore, our concern should never be focused on what we’re gonna receive but on what we are to give. For on Christmas day, we contemplate on His birth and what He was coming into the world to accomplish. It was Jesus’ manifestation of His obedience to the Father and His great love for us. His birth is giving and love. Ultimately, His mission was accomplished on Easter, the day of His resurrection.
Birthday is one day in our life when we rejoice commemorating the beginning of our existence not just to count the time that has passed but to remind ourselves that each day is a new gift. To those who are only thrilled on what they are to receive on their birthday and thinking that it is always material things that could give meaning and happiness to their existence, bear in mind that we have already received the best gift i.e. the gift of Life. We receive so many gifts daily not just on our birthday. We only need to recognize and acknowledge those gifts in our lives. Birthday is actually a challenge to reflect on one’s legacy. Like, how am I going to spend the rest of my life? What legacy will I leave behind? How would I want to be remembered? What is the purpose of my existence?
“Let them eat cake” to me means let us rejoice, let us celebrate the gift of LIFE & LOVE!