Why Do We Celebrate Birthdays

I’ve often casually wondered where the tradition of celebrating the birthday came from. I don’t particularly care to know the detail of the history, I’m sure some historian or anthropologist has covered this topic in detail. For me, it is more of a passing curiosity about why we are compelled to mark the passage of a year, and how these celebrations change over different stages of our lives.

Are we celebrating the gift of life and family or are we simply noting the successful navigation of another year on this planet, despite the many things that could destroy our bodies? Is it a reminder of our success, our failures or milestones of transit across different life stages? Is the birthday celebration a testament to our success in our ongoing battle with Father Time, in a game in which no known human has ever won, but some have played so well as to be remembered for the ages?

As a child, birthdays were an opportunity for attention and recognition — something some of us got more than others, but something I’m confident all of us craved in one way or another. We wanted to see who would come, what they would bring and what new experiences we would have to talk about the next day. I remember such memorable parties as when I was 5 or 6 and it was the first time we had a party at the new McDonalds in town, or on my 13th birthday where there was a massive snowstorm and only the 4 kids who lived nearby could walk over could show up. Parties were opportunities for our parents to tell us how special we were and to prove it to our communities in whatever type of display they saw fit. As I grew older, I saw parties as reasons to bring together people so we could let each other know how much we mattered in our lives…and to take a moment to stop and recognize one special person, just for the gift of his or her presence on the planet.

At one point in my life, I decided that I would use my birthday as an opportunity to be more of a gift to others through service. I initiated a practice of doing something for charity — whether a house for habitat for humanity, or a charity fund-raiser party, or some other activity, so I’d do more on my birthday than just take a day off from work to focus on myself. But this year, with the restrictions of the pandemic, I have to take a slightly different approach.

I work daily to advance myself on my journey of discovery and expression of my highest self in all that I say and do. Today, I’m taking the day today to stop, listen and take count of my many blessings. I want to appreciate life in all its imperfection, embrace what is, imagine what can be, reach out to people both who I am most connected as well as those with whom I may have disagreements, different opinions (especially of the political persuasion) and for whom our relationship may have suffered simply due to neglect, distance or the passage of time with a simple message. That message is “Thank you. I love you”.

I don’t think we say words like these enough to each other. But today, in our crazy, anxious, ADD riddled, self-centered, sound-bite driven world, alternative fact-filled, hypocritical, polarized environment, I believe that people are seeking this now more than ever. They seek connection and safety and comfort and trust. People want something to believe in and a tribe that will protect them. Contrary to what some may think, I believe that our tribes are bigger than we think they are, and the admission to these tribes are those very simple words — “Thank you. I love you”. For everyone I reach today — whether by phone, text, email, DM, semaphore or carrier pigeon, the best gift that any of you can give to commemorate my most recent trip around the sun, is to acknowledge receipt of the simple invitation to my tribe of love, to give me the opportunity to let you know how you inspire me, and to know that I may have inspired you to give a gift of your love and thanks to someone else.

We live in a beautiful and abundant universe. Today I plan to simply relish in that reality for a day, before I go back to work, trying to make the manifestation of that abundance a little more evident to as many living creatures in our universe as possible. I hope you will continue to be part of that journey with me, so that this time next year, we have even more amazing stories to tell, about how we are playing and winning that game with Father Time and the universe.

Thank you. I love you. Happy Birthday.

CO-Founder & CEO @ VETCON. Program Manager @ BMNT Partners. Mentor @ Endeavor Detroit. BD and Fundraising consultant. Supporter of entrepreneurs & innovators.