I wrote this article in time when I was supposed to celebrate my birthday. So what do you think could its theme be? One of festive nature, right? Well, to some indeed, such a day is a time to enjoy—to “eat, drink, and be merry”, in celebration of another year that has been added to their lives.
For me, though, a birthday means so many things, depending on my stage of life. Basically, it has never been part of our family tradition to celebrate birthdays through some parties with invited guests, sumptuous foods, and lavish decorations. We were so poor to have such things. So in my younger years, a birthday was nothing but a day to remember. As a child, I would usually go to our house post and check if I had gotten taller based on my previous height markings.
In my teens, a birthday became a source of embarrassment, especially when it came during weekdays and some of my classmates would ask me to treat them to ice cream or the like that required me to shell out some amounts from my pocket that was oftentimes empty. I then tried to avoid such demanding friends every time my natal day came, even if it means skipping my classes in school.
When a meager and inconsistent income started to come my way, I then began to ‘celebrate’ my birthdays, but not the traditional way of again preparing a variety of foods and drinks with many invited guests. I would just do it with a close friend or two; we would eat somewhere, talking about topics of interest to us. Mine was just to mark my day with someone who could greet me in return. At least, someone became aware that it was my birthday.
To be quite honest, most of my birthdays in the past were never celebrated since it’s not really a big day for me. It’s just an ordinary day that I did not look forward to. In fact, there were times when I forgot a day was, after all, my birthday. Funny but other people were more aware than I was. I would just be surprised that somebody would greet me with a ‘happy birthday’.
But now that I’m getting older and nearing my senior years or old age, I am taking my birthdays more seriously. I am more grateful to God that a birthday comes my way, that I reach an advanced age, knowing that it’s only by his grace that I’m alive up to now. When I think of my younger years as a very sickly child, I could not help but wonder how I survived on many occasions without proper medication. There were times when I was bedridden, close to actually dying, but God spared my life in some miraculous ways, not because I am important—am just nothing and nobody—but because of his sovereign will.
This time, then, I look at my birthdays as an accumulation of God’s graces, provisions, and protection. It’s not a day to ignore, or set aside as unimportant. It is a solemn day to observe, contemplate, to thank God for. It means an added year to this life, a precious gift to reckon with, a token of God’s mercy. Hence it should be celebrated, not necessarily through lavish festivities, but through an open recognition of God’s faithfulness as the source and sustainer of life. A simple thanksgiving activity held with loved ones will do.