by Sr Joan Jurski, OSF
May is the month of my birthday and I was thinking about how society and I think about birthdays. How do I celebrate and why do I celebrate this day? Is it just another year gone by?
I wondered about how the tradition of a birthday celebration got started. I did some research and found the beginning of the celebration of birth began with the Egyptians celebrating their Pharaohs. The Greeks then took this idea from the Egyptians and began using candles to respond to evil spirits. They gathered to celebrate the birth of their gods. They would light candles and then blow them out believing that the candles would scare away the evil spirits. This ritual has transitioned into wishes for good things. No more evil spirits.
The tradition of a cake began with the Germans in the 1700’s. It was part of a celebration for children, “kinderfeste.” It was not until 1893 that the singing of Happy Birthday started. Two schoolteachers wrote a poem entitled “Good Morning to all.” The words eventually changed to “Happy Birthday to you.”
An interesting bit of information, October 5 is considered the most common birthday date in the United States.
How do I personally think about my birthday? What do I celebrate? Thinking about this with some seriousness, I remind myself that my birth date is the beginning date of my life. I do believe God created me in a special way. I am unique among all other people. My birthday is a day for me to celebrate the gift of God’s love for me. It offers me a time to reflect. Psalm 46:10 reminds me “Be still and know I am God.” You are the gift of God.
Birthdays can also call me to a new beginning. It is a reminder that I am still alive despite certain aches and pains. It gives me a chance to express thanks for life. It is a perfect time to reflect on my life experiences. What needs to change? What have I achieved? It can be a time of transition. It is a time to sit with these questions.
In Scripture, we read of God’s call to us, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life, then that you and your descendants may live by loving the Lord, your God, heeding His voice and holding fast to Him.”
Birthday celebrations are relational. They can also be a way of bringing friends and families together. This can happen at any birthday age. We need happy times together. Therefore, I am happy that I am alive and pray others are happy for me as well. I had originally planned a really great celebration with family and friends because it is a special year. Then came the virus visiting and spoiled all plans. I will, however celebrate this birthday in some new and original way. It will be a virtual celebration with cake or no cake but I will still praise God for life. Happy Birthday to me and all other May “Taurus” folks.