Birthday celebrations form an important part of life in most cases. Where and when they occur, people have different intentions, mainly to thank the creator for their life and to celebrate with their friends and family for the time spent together. While in most societies the celebration of birthdays is a reserve for the middle class and the rich, it is an event considered serene and even those who do not explicitly celebrate birthdays still have mentions of the same when their birthdays occur. Moreover, most people who celebrate birthdays make them elaborate events which mark the end of an era and the beginning of a new one. Some of the celebrants even use birthday celebrations as turning points in their lives when they evaluate their performances in various aspects of life and subsequently formulate new resolutions. During an experience of a birthday party held in early last month the key objective to be achieved was to determine whether birthdays are celebrated for particular reasons and what they meant to the celebrant. Being the 68thbirthday of a relative, it was easy to determine from interactions with other participants what they thought birthday parties represented and how they achieved their objectives of celebrating birthdays. The following report gives detailed descriptions of the experiences held that day and concludes into the confirmation of the expectations of people during the celebration of birthdays.
The birthday celebrated was for a female relative aged 68 years old. The initial perception was that of an organized event, considered important to most of the people in attendance. The attendees were well dressed, a sign of preparation and indicative of the fact that all those who attended were aware of the celebration before the actual date. During the activity itself, information was collected mainly through observations coupled with very few instances on non-suggestive interviews. For instance, a participant would be asked what they though birthday celebrations were meant for and/ or what their perception of birthday celebrations they have attended in the past have been. The first instance in which the objective of a birthday party was felt was during the introduction session where the programs facilitator announced that the gathering was to celebrate another year completed by the sexagenarian and subsequently ask God for many more years after that.
While this was not the only idea carried into the event, it was clear that the key reason why this particular birthday was celebrated was to be thankful for the past 60 plus years and to ask for more. The celebration went on to include not only the main participant but all the other attendees who participated actively throughout the event. The celebration was not limited to thanksgiving and celebration alone but also carried within it the messages of good will and wishes of long life for the celebrant.The key theme of thankfulness was overriding, with children commenting that they would have loved to live for as many years as the sexagenarian had lived and much more. The question therefore came about regarding how the celebrant intended to spend the next five years of her life. This mainly came about due to the fact that she had recently retired from her job in the civil service and would be having a lot of extra time on her hands. The audience intended to know how she would manage all the extra time she would be having and what fears she had regarding spending time on her own and with her family.
Following the introduction session and a brief thanksgiving and welcome message from the celebrant, it was time for her to address the concerns that people raised about the extra time she would have. The answers given by the celebrant clearly showed that with the celebration of her 68thbirthday, she had effectively sat down, analyzed her past life, observed the disparity between what she had already achieved and what she intended to achieve in her life and decided how best she would tackle the aspects raised through her analysis. The celebrant responded to the questions by the relatives through explaining that she had many hobbies that she had desired to pursue but was devoid of time during her civil service years. Consequently, she intended to engage more in activities such as sewing, exercising reading for fun, doing charitable works and visiting friends and relatives. While most people did not identify with reading as a pass time, the celebrant received jubilant support especially on indicating that she would be visiting relatives and friends more. This was expected in a culture where family relationships are considered paramount and where anything that tends to tear the family apart is frowned upon no matter how good it may be. As a matter of fact, one of the participants, an elderly woman who was recognized to be the celebrants elder sister quickly responded to that by demanding that she should be visited first.
From the answers provided by the celebrant, the main activity that resonated with the researcher’s desires was to participate in charitable works. People celebrating birthdays in most cases forget that as they have been blessed by another year on earth, it is their divine responsibility to take care of those who are less fortunate. There are those who lack even the most essential needs and who rely solely on the kind heartedness of others. While some people take their birthday celebrations as an opportunity to do good on a single occasion, the celebrant decided to take this a notch higher by doing good not only on the celebration day but by making the decision to continuously participate in charitable activities. Through a conversation with one of the participants, it was realized that doing good drives a lot of people to empathy, but only if it is done to achieve a desirable outcome rather than as a way of showing off to others what one is capable of. The celebrate gave an indication of this through the report that her productive years as a civil servant did not give her sufficient time to engage in all the good works that she desired to do. As a result she had decided to engage in more charitable works beginning with contributing to a home for the elderly, whose members she had invited to celebrate with her.
The birthday celebration was not restricted to thankfulness, commemoration of good works and plans to engage in other activities. On the contrary, while the celebrant indicated her desire to continue with her life in a certain way, the attendees helped her to thank God by giving gifts. Some of the presents given had particular sentimental value to the givers who felt that they would have the same value on the recipient. Each of the givers had chosen something that was going to last over a certain period of time, with the claims that they wanted the celebrant to remember their good wishes for a long life during each of the subsequent birthday celebrations. The cake used during the celebration itself was also a gift from one of the friends who felt that besides the other gifts that people brought, the celebrant deserved to be assisted in catering for the needs of the attendees.
Based on the activities carried out during the birthday celebration, it can be said that the celebration followed the conventional birthday event celebration culture which typically involves thanksgiving, issuance of gifts and cake cutting as the key events. This however does not mean that all birthday celebrations have no other impact on life. As a matter of fact, birthdays are often taken as a celebration of a re-birth, a new life to be lived in a somewhat different way from the past. Involving family and friends in the celebration of one’s birthday makes the event more memorable and also more fulfilling than celebrating individually. It is therefore inevitable that just the same way the attendees enjoyed the birthday celebration event, the celebrant also did. The origin of the birthday celebration culture even though still unknown and a subject for future discussion, it can be said that each of the events typically carried out during the birthday celebration has an origin and a meaning attached to it. All that can be said is that the celebrant is wished a happy 69th year on earth and many more birthday celebrations in future.