There are a few occasions children love very much. Besides cultural festivals like Christmas and New Year, the next occasion they love will be birthday celebrations.
There is something magical about birthday celebrations, from their point of view. My children for example would always wish to have a birthday cake, whether it’s their birthdays or a family member’s. To them, a birthday isn’t one unless there is a cake, along with the customary birthday song.
Speaking of birthday songs, what will be the version you would sing for yourself and others? I usually sing the English version, although my children love to hear, and sing, the Chinese and the Christian versions too. Birthday songs somehow bring joy to the recipient, not because he or she is one year older, but perhaps because he or she is the focus of attention for the moment.
It is also interesting that when we were younger, our favourite wish is to always hold a birthday celebration or party. Without fail, we will always wish for that. My children also have this similar wish. Why will they long for this? Perhaps a birthday party is a time for fun and games, gifts and definitely a birthday cake!
We celebrated my son’s birthday recently. He has always wanted to have a cartoon character design for his birthday cake, but we have never gotten one for him because we did not get down to ordering one ahead of time. This year was no exception.
The difference this time was that when I brought him to the bakery on his birthday, I explained to him why he cannot have a cartoon character cake on the spot, which he understood and did not make a fuss. Instead, he looked at the cakes on display and chose one he knew his sisters would enjoy. So sweet of him to think that way.
Children also have another reason to look forward to birthdays. And that is, the thought of receiving presents. My son is no exception, just that he chose to make his birthday cake a pleasant surprise for his sisters. If you think that he has reached some form of altruism at this age, you are very wrong. In the very next breath, he asked me what present he will get for his birthday!
In the end, celebrating birthdays is a time to get together, if you look beyond the gifts, cakes and well wishes. These memories can be precious for children especially.
As we grow older, birthday celebrations can take on a different significance. There is a symbolic coming to age for certain birthdays, such as 18 years, 21 years old. Societies confer adult status at specific ages, where one gets the rights to certain acts. For example, the chance to vote at age 21, being able to watch certain movies at 16, 18 and 21 years old. Some societies view specific ages as having the capability to think and act independently without having to fall behind their parents (which means you are responsible for your actions in public).
As we grow older, celebrating 50, 60, 70 years old brings yet another symbolism to the celebrations. At these junctures it is not so much about the ability or opportunity to be someone, but about celebrating life, celebrating the fact that one has seen life though many decades; one has gone through life to know what life means.
I will want my children to celebrate birthdays in a meaningful and memorable fashion for the many more years to come. And I am sure you, the reader, would also like to have that same feeling, whether with your own birthday, or celebrating those of your friends and family.
Do you have particular ceremonies when you celebrate birthdays? I will be interested to know more!