The Value of a Birthday Cake

By Terrence Dehring

What is a Birthday Cake for? Why celebrate the day someone was born? When you stop to think about it, celebrating a birthday is a strange ritual. Everyone loves to celebrate birthdays and everyone loves to have a birthday no matter what your age. You feel special on your birthday, like a celebrity. It is “your” day. And everyone you know and meet acknowledges you on your special day with a “Happy Birthday!” wish. We all enjoy birthdays and joyfully participate in them. We buy personalized gifts, have a party, go out to dinner, give a birthday card, sing the birthday song, and have a cake to celebrate the fact that they are a year older. It seems like birthdays are a happy holiday.Birthday Cake

When you stop to think about it, doesn’t it seem strange that we celebrate the day someone was born? Why make a big deal about the fact that someone is a year older? Maybe it dates back to times of higher youth mortality rates when it was a big deal just to survive – making it another year was an event worth celebrating. Maybe celebrating birthdays stem from our need to have special days throughout the year. Holidays, whether religious or civil, punctuate the year with special days, events to remember, time to share with family and friends. No matter the reason, celebrations are always welcome.

There has been some discussion lately about giving trophies and awards to someone for merely being on the team, for participating in the event. Some people think that trophies should only be given out to the winner of an event. To give participation trophies or awards to youth athletes for being on the team dilutes the value of the award. They believe it fosters a sense of entitlement because you get a trophy for just showing up. In other words you get an award for “getting out of bed”.

How is this different, really, than celebrating someone’s birthday?

I think life it too short to worry about whether a celebration is justified or not. Celebrate all of life’s special events: The big ones – like winning an Olympic Medal, AND the small ones – like making it through the first year on a soccer team, getting an “A” in math, or participating in the district gymnastics meet. No one was ever hurt by too many pats on the back.

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