Click to search the Andrew Heiskell Braille and Talking Book Library Skip Navigation

Birthdays Are For Celebrating!


Congratulations on your birthday.
Image ID: 1585210

Recently, I received a telephone call from a former classmate from my high school concerning the fast-approaching reunion of my graduating class. "Paul" is a stay-at-home dad who volunteered to assemble a scrapbook chronicling bits and pieces of the individual lives of the Class of 1985. "So, what was your favorite birthday since graduating high school? I mean, that's if you still celebrate birthdays…"

"Not celebrate my birthday?!?" I screeched through the phone lines with the same tone of incredulity and indignation that one imagines the Pope would use to respond to someone who inquired if the Bishop of Rome intended to "skip Mass" on Easter Sunday. As Lewis Carroll penned, "There are three hundred and sixty-four days when you might get un-birthday presents, and only one for birthday presents, you know." My birthday, in my mind, is sacrosanct, and I freely admit that I have often stated over the years that August is not entirely devoid of any holiday, as my birthday is contained in same! My passion for celebrating birthdays is not limited to just my own. I possess a history of bringing in birthday cakes for co-workers, hosting lavish (well, as "lavish" as one can manage on a shoestring budget!) birthday bashes for friends and relatives, and my cats' respective "birthdays" are festive occasions as well (admittedly, "catnip cake" may not be everyone's idea of a fancy pastry, but Linus, Schroeder and my other cats (except Holly) consume it with great gusto (admittedly, they are not as wildly enthusiastic concerning donning paper birthday hats).

Of course, I am not solitary in my staunch insistence on celebrating birthdays. Birthdays are celebrated by cultures around the world in diverse manners. The scintilla of Norwegian blood that I inherited from some distant maternal relative must dominate in me regarding birthdays, as birthdays are reportedly routinely celebrated on a massive scale in Norway. The genetic memory from our Irish ancestors apparently exerts a tremendous influence on my brother, as he engaged in the Irish tradition of "bumping," which involves grabbing the "birthday boy or girl" by his/her ankles, turning him/her upside down, and gently (ostensibly) bumping his/her head on the floor for the number of times tantamount to his/her age (of course, when my brother engaged in this practice, I was twenty-six years old and it was October!) And said brother demonstrates a wee bit too much enthusiasm for the Danish custom of cutting off the head of the "Kageman," aka "cake man" (my brother's fervent penchant for this custom is even more suspicious when one cogitates on the fact that we are not of Danish descent, my brother has yet to embark on his sojourn to Denmark, and his eagerness to decapitate is reserved solely for cakes with my face on same!) The German tradition of polishing door knobs with a toothbrush if one is female and single on one's thirtieth birthday would have prompted me to kiss the first male who walked by (of course, with my paucity of knowledge concerning my paternal relatives, said male could have later been revealed to be a blood relation of mine, but that's another post...) to obviate my cleaning said doorknobs, according to said Teutonic custom. The library contains a fair number of items in its circulating collection pertaining to birthdays. Please allow me to end my instant blog with a highly sagacious quote from the beloved late Dr. Seuss (Happy Birthday to You),

If we didn't have birthdays,
you wouldn't be you.
If you'd never been born,
well then what would you do?... Why, you might be a WASN'T!
A Wasn't has no fun at all.
No, he doesn't.

Happy birthday!

A happy birthday.
Image ID: 1585316




Digital Collections


Patron-generated content represents the views and interpretations of the patron, not necessarily those of The New York Public Library. For more information see NYPL's Website Terms and Conditions.

Post new comment