Fundamentally, the philosophy of celebrating a birthday began as a celebration of life brought onto earth. Deconstructing it, we celebrate an individual’s birthday because that person has lived a certain period of time and their loved ones want to show their appreciation for their presences in their lives. These heartwarming gestures reaffirm the affection of our loved ones to us.
But as we grow older, birthdays ironically become all about the individual. Think of all the lavish parties people throw for themselves or others prepare for them. Think of all the presents and cakes that one receives or treats themselves to. Think of all the food and cake one stuff themselves on that day. Think of all the luxurious yachts or ballrooms one rents for the day, just to make it memorable. It is no wonder that we all look forward to birthdays so much. It is a guilt-free, entitled ticket to a day of self-indulgence. One need not justify the amount of money spent on the day because, well heck, it is their birthday.
Back in school when I was 18 years old, a seemingly meaningless conversation became a life changing moment for me.
My classmate’s birthday was approaching soon and we asked her how she was celebrating it. Suddenly, her eyebrows furrowed, and a pensive look emerged on her face. She paused for a moment before speaking. Y’know did we get birthdays all wrong? Shouldn’t birthdays not be about us but rather our parents?
I opened my mouth instinctively to verbalise a reply but nothing came out. I was caught completely aback. I had expected something along the lines of a well planned itinerary that one would usually have. In those jaw-dropping moments, I couldn’t help but wonder as well, have we got it all wrong?
But this begs the question, why our parents?
Well, they were the ones who brought us into this world. Needless to say, without them, we wouldn’t even have a birthday to celebrate. Since young, they showered us with unconditional love and brought us up to be who we are today. They celebrated our birthdays when we didn’t even know what it was, because it brought them joy to see the smiles on our faces.
Then, shouldn’t it be our obligation on our birthdays to appreciate their efforts of bringing us up instead of pampering ourselves for the day? Ever since that day, I wanted my birthdays to be a commemoration of my parents’ accomplishment of raising a healthy young boy, that they know is grateful to them.
A few weeks ago on my own birthday, I wrote another short message to my parents. I thanked them for all they’ve done for the past 22 years, conveying to them that I recognize and appreciate their efforts.
Because maybe, this is what birthdays should truly be about.