Gray Matter


Birthdays and Why I Tend To Ignore Them or Avoid Them Altogether

RT Cunningham | September 10, 2020 (UTC) | Culture

birthdayI really don’t know why, but I’m not fond of birthday parties. Since I don’t like birthday parties, I tend to ignore birthdays. If I can, I’ll avoid them altogether. The problem is that I’m reminded of at least one birthday a month, sometimes as many as three or four in a single month.

Familiar Birthday Celebrations

I’m obviously not familiar with more than a couple of cultures when it comes to birthday parties. How much money is spent and all the ingredients depends a lot on family income. I come from a low-income, large family. My birthdays always included a homemade birthday cake and a single gift. After I left home at 17, the next time I celebrated my birthday was when I turned 25, already married to my wife, Josie.

Josie’s birthday celebrations have always been as paltry as mine. Neither of us like being the center of attention. We’ve spent far more time and effort (and money) on our children’s and their children’s birthday celebrations. We’ve even spent more on her relatives than ourselves.

Filipino Birthday Celebrations

I learned of the Filipino mentality (in the Philippines, of course) surrounding birthdays not long after Josie and I moved to our property in Olongapo in 2006. [The two lots were combined into a single compound by the end of the year.]

In my American culture, other people throw birthday parties for and give gifts to the person celebrating a birthday. In the Filipino culture. The person celebrating the birthday pays for everything, feeds everyone, and entertains all the children with games. It seems totally backward to me.

Perhaps it’s a religious thing, but a child’s first and seventh birthday are very important to Filipinos. I have no idea about the significance of each. Some games played are variations of Spanish and Mexican games. Instead of piñatas, they use clay pots filled with candy and coins.

Too Many Relatives

At least 28 people, not including Josie and me because we’re stuck in the United States until this COVID-19 thing subsides, live in our compound. Most of them are children of various ages. And then there are the relatives, who don’t live in the compound, who visit often enough to make it seem like they live there. There are at least 14 of those. I’m not even counting the relatives who rarely visit, which adds up to eight.

I can’t say which ones, but many of them expect Josie and I to help them out on their birthdays or their children’s birthdays (when we’re around). We can’t help but a few in a given year, or we’d be as poor as the people asking. We tend to focus on the very young when we do.

Image Attribution: Jeevan Singla from Pixabay

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