We say happy birthday but is this the best that we can do? It seems to me saying happy birthday to acknowledge someone’s birthday focuses on the present. We like to celebrate children’s birthdays. We buy them gifts and we invite friends to share in birthday parties. Gifts are given. Cake and ice cream are eaten. We sing Happy Birthday. The day passes and the celebration fades until the next year.
By the time we reach middle-age birthdays become less of a celebration and middle-aged people often would rather ignore or even skip their birthday. They seem to be trying to avoid their birthday maybe in hopes of stopping the aging process. We still celebrate with wishes of a happy birthday and a tired rendition of the “Happy Birthday” song is trotted out. By the time we hit forty years old the bright birthday colors of youth fade to black.
We return to birthday celebrations for the very old. Birthdays once again become a celebration, now less to mark the passage of time and more to celebrate longevity. Cake and ice cream accept a minor role or no role at all. Gifts are now temporal instead of tangible because we finally realize people not things are the true richness in life.
We should not fear, shun, or ignore birthdays. Instead we should sprint towards them. Having birthdays, recognizing birthdays is a blessing and it beats the alternative: no more birthdays.
It’s time to replace the tired and inadequate happy birthday wishes. They alone are not enough. Do you really just want to acknowledge a birthday, a single day? Or would we rather celebrate with wishes of a long life, healthy, fruitful life and for the person to be a part of your life for many years? I think that you will agree maybe happy birthday doesn’t get the job done.
So the next time you wish somebody a happy birthday or buy them a happy birthday card or sing them the song, “Happy Birthday“ think, is this really the wish you want to convey? The Romanians say La multi ani (may you live for many years). The Albanian people will use Edhe njeqind! (a hundred more to you!) Maybe we should give the refrain “…and many more” another look. We can do better than just happy birthday.