Every year on your birthday, you get a chance to start new.
Few years back if someone had asked me my opinion about Birthdays, my answer might have been different. But today it seems like a celebration of life, learning and experiences. The day lets you recount all the years gone by, and the years to come. No one knows if we will be around to celebrate our next birthday, so why not celebrate the one we have with more smiles?
You can group people into any one of the categories below when it comes to birthday celebrations.
- “Birthday Lovers” – They simply love anything and everything related to it. They start weeks and months in advance planning things to buy, places to celebrate, gifts to give/receive, etc and the list is never ending. Birthdays are a big deal to them. If you have a friend in this category, beware, you cannot afford to forget their special day. And if you do, you will take years to get them to forget about that incident. Most boyfriends/husbands think their girlfriends/wives belong to this category and dread about the consequences they will have to face if and when they forget it.
- “Birthday Haters” – They are just the opposite of Birthday Lovers. They don’t care about it, they never wish or like to get wished. The day is just any other day with no special attachments. If you have a friend in this category, relax if they don’t wish you on your birthday and neither will expect you to wish them on theirs. The one who don’t celebrate their own birthday, will not remember others birthday either. You have no obligation to do anything here. And ironically most girlfriends/wives think their boyfriends/husbands belong to this category.
- “Inbetweeners” – These people neither hate nor are excited about birthdays. They will swing both ways depending on the kind of person they are with. Don’t assume about them…because if you forget, they may dislike it and if you go extra mile to make it special they may not fall in love with you either. The people in this are the most confusing as you can never guess how they would treat birthdays and its better you get to know their mindset during talks without making it obvious.
Where do I fall in these categories? Well, this blog proves that I have to be a “Birthday lover”.
Growing up, birthdays were not as hyped as now, but it still had its specialty. If you are from a South Indian middle class family, you will be able to connect with my experiences. Last two months saw quite a few birthdays including my own, my mom’s and nephew’s and when I recalled, not much had changed over the years. Things I did as a kid, is pretty much what I/we continue to do on that special day with few additional things that got added over the years.
If you are from an orthodox hindu family, you are bound to have two birthday celebrations for sure. One according to the actual date of birth and the other as per the astrological star sign (many of us wouldn’t even know when that is).The importance was given to the star sign one which as kids we never understood. Would always wonder why it was not on the same day like the day I was born but some random day that kept changing every year. However I didn’t want to complain as this had its perks – although I got only one set of new clothes, mom would make my favorite sweets twice in that month.
My earliest memory of the way the birthdays were celebrated dates back to my school days. Like kids today, I don’t remember pestering my parents weeks or months in advance for gifts or parties or anything. Probably I didn’t even had a clue that I should ask for any of it. Since I share my birthday with my brother, it was even more special. The ritual would start from an early morning oil bath that mom made sure we never missed. Even if we couldn’t afford new clothes for the festivals, we would definitely get it for birthdays. As we grew up, we realized how difficult it was for my parents to ensure we got something new on every birthday. Mom and dad would take us to temple first and then mom’s yummy crispy butter masala dose for breakfast. Taking blessings from the parents and elders in the family was a must be it birthdays or festivals or just a gathering.
If birthday fell on a weekday, we would be off to school but if it was a Sunday/holiday, the celebration meant watching a movie and eating out (may be depending on the financial situation). These may sound too simple to the Gen Y, but for us they were a big deal. The lunch (if we don’t go out) and dinner menu would be bisibelebath, curd rice, payasam and gulab jamoon. My friends used to wait for my birthday to eat mom’s bisibelebath. There were no concept of gifts or cake cutting ceremonies. At home, as per the traditions mom would make us light the lamp in the evening rather than blow the candles. Cake cutting according to mom was considered a western ritual and not Hindu tradition. This comprised of the birthday rituals…nothing extravagant yet memorable even today.
Until I started working, there wasn’t much difference in these rituals at home. The first time I cut a cake was at office and I didn’t know that I had to make a wish before blowing candles…so naïve. Birthday gifts were still an unknown concept at this point and the only gifts I could remember receiving were greeting cards. Only after we started earning gifting became a part of the birthday celebration. I don’t recall who started it, may be friends at office, but today the only people who have continued to follow this ritual religiously are my family and my close friends. Irrespective of the size and value of the gifts, it still means a lot to me. All it matters is that you remembered about me, and thought of making my day brighter and happier.
Age is just a state of mind, and you are as old as you think you are.
Earlier friends would call and wish, and those who are close, would ensure we met on the day. Today, it is changing or for some has already changed…WhatsApp and Facebook have replaced the phone call wishes, the online greeting cards have replaced the good old Archies and Hallmark cards. The cakes have replaced the traditional rituals of lighting the lamp or taking blessings. The old charm of meeting and greeting is limited to the distance you have to travel to meet anyone. The temple visits are a rarity, and cooking at home is an unheard of as it’s that one day people don’t want to spend in kitchen. A family gathering might not be possible when everyone is living on their own or if the career, and responsibilities have made it impossible to be closer to the family.
I remember spending so much time in the Archies stores selecting a birthday card that is apt for the family/friend. The words, the picture on the card meant so much that it had to convey the feelings we had for the person, suit their personality and make them happy when they read it. We would plan as a group what to do on the birthday. These are no longer a big deal and no one saves the cards if they receive any.
I am glad I still have friends who call and wish me on phone rather than just a text message. Friends who still plan and try to meet me in person either that day or that weekend to celebrate birthday. The gathering of friends usually comprises of cutting a cake, eating some chat and laughing and chitchatting. Only one of my best friend still gives out greeting cards apart from my family. Blessed that my family still is same and ensures I follow the childhood rituals and it continues for the kids in the family as well.
Irrespective of the category you belong to, its always a great feeling to make someone’s birthday special by talking to them or being with them on their special day. Try making someone’s birthday special by helping them create memories to cherish for the life. Years down the lane, it’s those old greeting cards in your trunk (read as lofts) that you find while cleaning that makes you smile and remember the good old times. The blessings you would have received from family and friends that has kept you going all these years.
If we are creating memories, building strong bonds and relationships that lasts a lifetime, then getting older every year is not bad. As they say, “I don’t get old, I get awesome.”
“Let us never know what old age is. Let us know the happiness time brings, not count the year.” – Ausonius
I am sure every family has a birthday tradition, please do share with me yours. Do you like birthdays like me or hate it or have no specific interest in it? What is that one ritual you follow that completes the birthday celebration? I hope you would recall your family tradition, childhood and memories with this blog.
Happy Birthday! To past, present and future ones, may you keep smiling.