One Year Closer to Death: A Sarcastic Take on Why We Celebrate Birthdays

why do people celebrate birthdays

Oh, birthdays, those fabulous annual events that mark yet another trip around the sun, as if we weren’t already dizzy enough from the grind of daily life. You know, we humans have invented many mind-boggling things like the wheel, the internet, and mint chocolate chip ice cream, but the tradition of celebrating birthdays? That’s got to be one of our most absurd yet cherished customs.

You might think that birthdays are about honoring an individual’s life and achievements. Nice try, but no. Let’s get one thing straight: birthdays are about reminding you that you’re getting older, and society expects you to be a bit wiser, even though yesterday you put your car keys in the fridge and spent an hour looking for them.

So, what’s the big deal with birthdays? Why do we insist on celebrating them every year with the same unaltered eagerness? Strap in as I take you on an exploration of this bizarre tradition.

First off, can we talk about the absurdity of the birthday cake? We set a confectionery item on fire, then we expect the birthday boy or girl to extinguish it using only their lung power while making a secret wish. And everyone around them claps, as if they’ve just pulled off a magic trick. Really, people? But that’s not all. Then we eat this fire-blown dessert, happily ignoring the very real possibility that the birthday person might have just donated their germs to everyone at the party. Delicious!

Speaking of parties, isn’t it interesting that we insist on inviting other people to celebrate our continued existence? Now don’t get me wrong, I love a good party. But isn’t it a bit strange to say, “Hey, it’s been exactly 12,045 days since I emerged from my mother’s womb. You should come over and celebrate that.” And even stranger, people actually come! They bring gifts, they sing that repetitive song, they write heartfelt messages in cards that most likely will end up in a box somewhere or worse, the recycling bin. Human behavior, am I right?

But wait, there’s more. Birthday decorations! Balloons filled with breath or helium (we could talk about the helium shortage, but that’s a rant for another day), streamers made from dyed trees, and party hats that nobody looks good in. Who decided that this wild assortment of temporary trinkets was the best way to symbolize “Congrats, you’re a year closer to death”?

And then, there’s the tradition of gift-giving. Ah, yes, nothing says, “I’m glad you were born” quite like a scented candle or a gift card to a store you never visit. And let’s not even get started on the idea of ‘return gifts’ for attendees. Because nothing makes sense like celebrating your birth by giving other people presents. Brilliant!

But perhaps the most peculiar aspect of birthdays is the notion of getting older. On this day, you’re expected to magically level up, like a character in a video game. It’s as if you’re supposed to wake up on your birthday with an extra skill point to allocate, or at the very least, an additional wisdom tooth. Instead, most of us wake up with a crick in the neck and a sense of existential dread as we realize we’re another year closer to being eligible for senior citizen discounts.

Birthdays also reveal an interesting aspect of human behavior: our obsession with round numbers. People tend to make a bigger fuss about birthdays that end with a zero. Turn 30, 40, 50? Let’s rent a hall, hire a DJ, and party like it’s 1999! But if you’re turning 29, 31, or 43? Meh, a simple dinner will do. So not only are we fixated on aging, but apparently only certain ages are worthy of a real ball.

What’s more, on this day of days, we are expected to ‘feel’ older, as if the process of aging is a sudden event rather than a slow and steady decline into creaky knees and reading glasses. We’ve all heard or probably asked the question, “Do you feel a year older?” No, Jennifer, I don’t. What I do feel is a desperate need for caffeine and a profound regret over my life choices that led me to this moment where I’m putting out a mini bonfire on a cake.

Now let’s address the elephant in the room: birthday wishes. Let’s be honest, most of us probably don’t remember half of our Facebook friends’ birthdays. It’s the little notification that pops up, giving us the jolt of panic and making us scramble to type out a generic “Happy Birthday! Have a great year ahead!” Meanwhile, our birthday friend is probably copy-pasting “Thanks! :)” to the long list of such heartfelt messages. Isn’t technology bringing us all closer together?

Oh, and don’t forget the customized birthday song performances that range from the classic “Happy Birthday to you” chant (which, by the way, is the most monotonous song ever written) to the more elaborate, often off-key performances by friends who’ve had one too many. All this, while the birthday person awkwardly sits there, smiling and wondering how long they have to endure this show of affection.

And if this weren’t enough, there’s the tradition of “birthday bumps” or “birthday spankings,” because who doesn’t love mild violence to honor their arrival into the world? The idea that we need to lift someone and bump them around or playfully spank them “for luck” is as puzzling as pineapple on pizza.

Now, after all this ranting, you may think I’m against birthday celebrations. Not at all! Despite the sarcasm and light-hearted jabs, I believe birthdays are beautiful in their own peculiar way. They give us a reason to connect with friends and loved ones. They give us a chance to reflect on our journey so far and to dream about the future. They remind us that we are unique, and our existence is worth celebrating.

So here’s to birthdays, in all their weird and wonderful glory. A day where we can all forget about the worries of the world and rejoice in the simple fact that we exist. A day where we are the star of our own show, and everyone around us plays along in this crazy, sometimes nonsensical, but heartwarming tradition.

After all, what would we do without an excuse to eat cake, wear silly hats, and feel like a kid again, at least for a day? And in this increasingly chaotic world, any reason for joy, for connection, for cake — however illogical it might seem — is good enough. So blow out those candles, make a wish, and pass the germy cake. It’s time to celebrate!