Arts & Culture

Christmas: A Seasonal Reminder Of How Birthdays Are Dumb

Christmas – the biggest birthday party of the year. Filled with eccentric relatives, questionable sweaters and indoor trees, Jesus’ big day is a weird ordeal for everyone except for Jews. Read More

By / December 16, 2011

Christmas – the biggest birthday party of the year. Filled with eccentric relatives, questionable sweaters and indoor trees, Jesus’ big day is a weird ordeal for everyone except for Jews. And as birthday celebrations go, it dwarfs all others – whose is even close to being as recognized? Mary Steenburgen’s? I wish. Us non-Messiahs are relegated to renting out batting cages, blasting out evites and pretending to appreciate that snap bracelet from Aunt Kathy.

With all due respect to Patton Oswalt, who has bravely suggested that there are but a handful of birthdays worth celebrating, I’d like to propose a new birthday celebration policy: none. Enough with the birthdays. The passage of time is not an accomplishment worth acknowledging, not a feat to be honored – it’s only the temporary absence of death, inevitable and impending , rendering those latex balloons and whimsical wrapping paper an absurd symbol of insignificance. Time marches on and, for another year, we’ve done nothing to slow it. Enjoy your cupcake.

Truthfully, the very function of the birthday eludes me. What is the tangible benefit to knowing your date of birth? To measure the passage of time? There are plenty of time-measuring devices – for example, a watch or clock – that tracking your personal age becomes mostly a source of anxiety with no greater cultural function. To symbolize one’s uniqueness? A half million people are born every day, each with wildly different strengths and weaknesses, yet we insist on assigning the day of our birth with acres of personality-defining, idiosyncrasy-validating significance. “I’m June 15, which makes a ton of sense once you get to know me”. No it doesn’t and I won’t get to know you.

A hypothetical: Jerry and Gerry are identical twins. Jerry grows up knowing his birthday, Gerry doesn’t. What’s the discernable difference in their quality of life? I would submit an enthusiastic ‘Hell none’. If anything, Gerry is shrouded in a cloud of mystery, making him irresistibly alluring to men and women alike. My friend Seth doesn’t know his birthday and he seems both ageless and invincible.

Not to mention gifts. Turning 34 isn’t hard enough without a slew of $34 Applebee’s gift cards? Does that Nautica scarf really warm the existential chill of knowing your body and mind are gradually deteriorating? If we bottled all the mental and emotional energy spent on the acquisition of arbitrary goods for people we barely know, we’d have a weird big bottle. So maybe let’s not bottle it. (Note: I hold irrationally ill will towards the gift-giving-and-receiving paradigm due to the fact that I am ABYSMAL at buying people gifts. For my girlfriend’s birthday last year, I gave her an oversized Richard Scarry book which I thought was cute. She frowned and cried and the next day it was gone. In fact, the “frown-cry-and-discard” has been the standard response to most of my gifts. Abysmal.).

So, as a remedy for the over-celebration of our random days of origin, allow to me to propose:  Birth Day. One day, everyone’s birthday. August 11th (why not? August is due for a major holiday). Like Christmas, but less snowy. And while Birth Day could adopt the ethos of Christmas – family, community, yada and yada – I believe there to be a process that’s more streamlined and equally “fun”. Imagine this regiment to be United Nations-sanctioned and occurring simultaneously around the globe.

Birth Day

9AM – Breakfast at local parking lot. Mess hall tents with hot buffets and picnic tables. Eggs, french toast, coffee – like craft services for a movie, or nicer-than-average army barracks. Modest flower arrangements peppered throughout and a karaoke band that takes requests from citizens oldest to youngest. A staff of enthusiastic youths are available to transcribe and deliver personalized Birth Day messages for a nominal fee.

11AM – Birth Day Activities. Aforementioned enthusiastic youths lead Birth Day citizens through a series of 15-minute activity stations.

– Batting Cage

– Naming of the Year’s Regrets

– NBA Jam (arcade version)

– Nap

– Phone chat with Mom (aka Re-hashing of the Regrets)

– Discarding of the Applebee’s Gift Cards

– Nap again

1PM – Lunch. Citizens are fed one slice of pizza, one bag of Fritos and one cup of Cherry Coke. Except he/she with the highest NBA Jam score, who has the option for Sprite.

3PM – Gift Retrieval. Citizens walk – single file and silently – to the closest post office or bus stop, where there is an orderly pile of wrapped gifts, one gift per-person (Note: children under 5 receive no gift. Their brains are small and they’re clumsy – no gift). Once each citizen has chosen and unwrapped their gift, there is a 15-minute Bartering Block, in which gifts can be traded amongst the masses. If you don’t end up with something you like by the end of the Bartering Block, too bad. Sometimes life is hard. Happy Birthday.

5PM – Citizens re-convene at the Mess Hall for a sing along, consisting of one round of “Happy Birthday” with a name chosen at random to be inserted into the appropriate spot. Enthusiastic youths read personalized messages aloud and all are given one more cup of Cherry Coke.

7PM – Bedtime. You’re older now. Go to sleep.

Doesn’t that sound like a fun, efficient use of our compulsion to celebrate a random day 9 months after one of the times our parents had sex? If Birth Day goes well, we can extend it to Birth Week. Like Holy Week, but more birth-y.

So, this Christmas, as you enjoy your boozy egg nog and watch the NBA (thank god), send a wish up to Santa Claus for no more birthdays. Just Birth Day. And imagine what you’ll do with all that mental space hitherto used to acknowledge everybody’s every birthday forever. You could help me find that Richard Scarry book. Shouldn’t be hard – it’s way oversized.