By Candice Wang, VI Form
Against Birthday Celebrations
Modern individualism has fathered many cultural phenomena. As the increase in society’s productivity promotes the quality of life, unnecessary personal luxuries have become an unquestioned part of contemporary life. Among these extravagances, birthday celebrations are the most ludicrous.
Contrary to popular belief, an individual deserves no merit for his or her existence. From the moment of conception to the last breath on the deathbed, a person’s life is a pure gift, and occasionally an accidental byproduct, from actions of other people. A baby exerts little effort in its birth; it is rather a miraculous feat on the part of its mother. As humans grow up, the sun shines, the Earth turns, and the plants perform photosynthesis to keep the them alive. The family and the society are responsible for feeding education to assimilate a new person into the cultural construct. Individual personhood is no more than a reaction to the course of nature combined with environmental circumstances. In the case of birthday celebrations, credit is most frequently misattributed to the aging individual, not to the entities that lend their support.
Birthday celebrations fuel the human ego with undue vanity and self-importance. Unlike weddings, funerals, or the Super Bowl, birthday celebrations are designed to be egocentric rather than community-focused. On birthdays, gifts and the well wishes pour on one person, creating the illusion that existence at the mercy of the rest of the world is an extraordinary success, inflating the ego for no good reason. The anticipation of birthdays give people, especially the younger and the less wise, an excuse to focus on themselves that justifies prioritizing their concerns over those of others. Birthday week, birthday month, and half birthdays are among the abominable derivatives of this birthday celebration custom. Raising children to be righteously self-centered, as children’s birthdays are often the most outrageously celebrated, cannot breed a helpful community.
In some cases, someone’s existence has brought so much benefit to the world that those around this person feel the need for an occasion to show their appreciation. If one’s existence deserves to be celebrated, there is no reason to set a side one day out of all the days in a year to do so. Unexpected kindness touches the heart the most. Designating a special day for recognizing the value and achievement of someone distracts the appreciation for that person as a regular everyday concern. To describe that someone goes to church on Sundays is the equivalent of saying that this person does not attend church during the rest of the week. Similarly, assigning an annual personal celebration justifies not recognizing the person during the rest of the year while risking hypocrisy in overdoing on gifts and well wishes because all the appreciation is concentrated on one day.
Cynicism aside, a kind word or a loving gesture to family and friends does not have to be a part of celebrating the unwarranted merits of an individual on an arbitrary day, once a year. While contemporary culture should celebrate community support more than personal success, appreciating an individual should become an integral part of daily human interactions.