About Birthdays

Birthdays are Benchmarks of Life, But in Very Different Ways Over the Years


Ah, Birthdays

We have a couple of birthdays in our home about now, only 3 weeks apart. That got me to thinking about birthdays. Given the numbers in our case, we are thinking of converting to dog years, to minimize the fire risk with all those candles. Replacing every 7 candles with just 1 seems a prudent safety move, doesn’t it?

Of course, we could also consider the Chinese approach to counting birthdays, starting at conception. Better plan? Heck no – that adds another candle. Enough, already.

As a Child, it’s All About ME

Remember birthdays as a child? It seemed like, on the good ones, that the whole world revolved around little you. Gifts just for you. Maybe a party, where the menu was all your favorite treats. The games and maybe some entertainments were provided, each were your favorites.

All your friends came, and they brought more presents. For some, this was their first social conflict – who to invite to the party? What about that person little you did not like but your parents said you had to invite them? Welcome to socialization.

As an Adult, a Time to Measure and Adjust

As one moves into adulthood, most  still enjoy a celebration, although probably more modest in scope and not quite so centered just on me.

Yes, we all know people who never got that memo and still make a Big Deal out of their own birthday. You know what? That’s not for me, but I am fine with it. Some folks get so much pleasure out of Their Day- more power to them. Let’s celebrate with them.

But for a lot of us, as years pass, birthdays become something of a checkpoint, a time to reflect on where we have been and where we are going. Maybe to reassess goals and priorities. And always, to be amazed how fast these darn birthdays are rolling around.

I remember thinking in my 20’s that the passage of birthdays would likely seem to slow down as I got older and gained more perspective. Good luck with that. We all feel like we are hurtling down a mountain with increasing speed. Slowing up does not seem to be in the cards.

As a Senior, a Time to Celebrate and be Grateful

Once one reaches senior status, likely retired, a different perspective develops. It is one I now claim, and one I enjoy. This is a time to reflect on how remarkably fortunate many of us have been, and still are. How rich our live are and how many remarkable people have crossed our paths.

These birthdays are wonderful times to be grateful to the universe for the cards we drew, for the most part. Not true for us all but for so many of us, we won life’s lottery and we damn sure should acknowledge that fact.

This time to really think about Paying it Forward. People in advanced countries may be in retirement and in senior status for decades. It is a time of amazing opportunity.

It is full of chances to use your wisdom (such as it is…), experience, resources, and health (such as it is…) to make the world a better place. To help others who could use a boost. To work on that bucket list of adventures and curiosities yet unfulfilled.

How many more such birthdays one might look forward to occurs as a thought at this point in life, but who knows? You might have a decade or two left. You might kick the bucket tomorrow. Don’t worry about it. Decide what you want to do with the time, energy, and resources you have and let the clock take care of itself.

Presents mean a lot less as one matures, although some small treasure from time to time is a welcome indulgence. Donations in lieu of gifts getting popular, especially via social media.

It feels better to give rather than to receive, especially for causes you believe in. Doubly nice when your friends donate to such programs in honor of your birthday. Heck, just pay for the order behind you at the McDonalds drive up on your birthday week. You will both feel good from it

Some Things Never Change

At any age, please know it is a time for at least some modest excess and self indulgence. Do what you love, enjoy the people, places, and things you love, at least on YOUR day.

But a burning question arises. Why Birthday Cakes? Why not Birthday Pie? Some fudge the boundaries with a cake made entirely of ice cream. A pleasant innovation. I would be delighted with Birthday Escargot, although the candles would be problematic with that one.

Turns out birthday cake (and the candles) has an interesting history, for the most part going back to Roman times. Here are some short, entertaining histories on this tasty tradition:





Whichever birthday you have coming up, enjoy. Celebrate and indulge. Don’t be shy about having your own party, at least as far as inviting a few friends or family to join you for drinks, a meal – or cake.

Oh, and Happy Birthday tomorrow to the Love of My Life. This world is a better place because you are here.

        Bill Clontz

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2 replies to About Birthdays

  1. Hmmm. The question of longevity computation is indeed fraught with concerns as the numbers increase. The dog-years and Chinese models are interesting, but have complications. The latter lacks precision (and poses some questions about our parents that we just don’t want to know the answers to). The former is open to interpretation: do we factor down or factor up?? Up seems more consistent to me, though it suggests I have recently celebrated my 493rd birthday. And if seventy unsettles me, pushing five hundred will trigger a coronary.

    No, I think the better birthday model would be the one used by the father of Janet’s friends across the street when she was growing up. Leon was born on February 29th, which was likely problematic in his younger years, but when we knew him, it allowed a certain flexibility in age interpretation. Plus, in his otherwise 52nd year, he (re)celebrated his bar mitzvah.

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