Happy Birthday!!! The underlying wish remains the same I believe, whenever and wherever this phrase is pronounced. The tone varies as well as the mode of interaction when someone wishes the other. Ranging from less emotional wish accompanied by a handshaking gesture (I do not consider it to be proper handshake if it is not firm and the eyes do not meet) with an acquaintance to hugs from over joyed friends or family members, I hope we always wish the best in the person’s life.
Considering 365 days in a year and as of March 2016, there are 7.4 billion people living in this world, if I do not apply complex mathematical concepts but average, one shares their birthday with approximately 20 million people every day. The number is increasing day by day with a rate of 0.36 Million every day*. Only people who are born on 29th Feb can beat others in this number game. What could someone else do for it? Neither are we Krishna whose birthday is celebrated in different dates every year nor Gautama Buddha whose birthday is celebrated in different dates in different countries.
One thing for sure, some of us do not feel excited to have shared our birthdays with so many common people, so they tend to track down birthdays of celebrities or famous people. I have seen people sharing Facebook status with names of celebrities they shared their birthdays with. Oh what a glorification on a date that you never planned and only the doctors could plan sometimes let alone the planning of your parents.
My parents do not celebrate their birthdays. For them, their dates of births are just dates on their identity cards which might not be their actual birthdays. My grandparents, both of them did a horrible job with maintaining records of their children’s date of birth. I asked my paternal grandmother once. She could only tell me Bengali months when she was blessed to become mother of a child. This happened to be eleven times in her entire life, so I did not blame her for not remembering any one of the occasions precisely. Yes, I have inherited a huge family tree.
I feel birthdays are important. It is a milestone set by nature and at least you get a chance to remember last couple of years and how you celebrated your birthday. You just do not relish those memories but it could tell you what you actually missed in each one of them. When I was a kid I liked my name written with raisins on the flat plate of rice kheer the most. Now, I enjoy partying with my friend on my birthday night. Priorities have changed a lot. I am blessed with two younger brothers and two younger sisters living in a joint family, so birthday celebration in my house is limited to five times a year. Only once I celebrated my birthday outside my home without family and that was by far the worst I could remember.
Why birthdays are so important? If you ask people to answer the question, you might come up with multiple answers based on their socio economic status and political or spiritual perception.
Birthdays could be important to you as it denotes the ending of another year of our short lived life. It is a very good time to look back at our past one year and try to analyze what we tried to accomplish and what we actually did. Rather than taking a year from January to December, you can take a year of your life starting from the last birthday to this one to set goals and act on it. It can be the beginning of a good habit like quit smoking or exercise regularly. If you succeed, you could make an anecdote with a dramatic starting – ‘It all happened on my birthday in the year of YYYY’.
Birthdays could be an excuse for a single day of the year to be entirely different from other days. You get undivided attention from family members and friends on that day if you are so lucky enough. You can manage a day off or at least half a day off from office if you are a bit lucky. You could pay for the party and did not mind just because it was your birthday and you were in celebratory mode. The celebration continues for all your friends so you manage to party couple a time in the year for sake of birthdays.
It could be important for you to remember that a huge number of people you share your birthdays with will not celebrate their birthdays willingly or unknowingly for different reasons. Their stories might be different than yours and demands no or very less celebrations on their birthdays. I have seen people volunteering in NGO on their birthdays to make the day memorable and do at least something for other people on a cause.
I tend to ask people why birthdays are so special to them. It is limited to people who put emphasis on celebrating their birthday in different way. I could infer that their answers varies a lot but at least touches some preliminary baselines that I mentioned above. There could be lot more. However, on an ending note, I would like to mention a different story. I know a guy closely happened to by one of the happy go lucky persons in everyday life. His mother died on one of his birthdays. I could not ask him if his birthday was important to him and why it was if so.
*calculations are done based on figures of birth rate and population available in Wikipedia.