Rituals: Birthday Celebrations Essay Samples

Type of paper: Essay

Topic: Birthday, Ritual, Family, Children, Age, Life, Importance, Aging

Pages: 3

Words: 825

Published: 2020/12/13

Rituals occur throughout life, whether it be every day, once a week, month or year. Or they can be erratic in occurrence but repetitive the behaviour and activities associated with them. They mark the passage of time and often we look at them to acknowledge that another year or month has passed, for instance New Year’s Eve is a ritual that celebrates the coming of a new year. Rituals can hold importance on a national scale (for instance New Year’s Eve) or on a personal scale. Perhaps the most important ritual to the individual is their birthday. This ritual is key, it records our growth in a way that we can communicate with others and measure ourselves against one another. Our age affects our lives and what we can and cannot do, thus celebrating birthdays often means celebrating a new stage of life and consequently has become one of the key rituals humans enact, however its personal significance varies depending on the person in question. Thus even though the birthday is a universal ritual, its importance ranges conditional to the personal experiences and ages of the person.
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines the noun ‘ritual’ as ‘a formal ceremony or series of acts that is always performed in the same way’ or ‘an act or series of acts done in a particular situation and in the same way each time’ (Merriam-Webster Online). These two definitions have a distinct overlap, they both dictate that a ritual must be reoccurring and repeat the same event or behaviours which a typical birthday indeed does. For instance, we characteristically associate the following with birthdays: cake, presents, decorations, friends and/or family and celebrations. Depending on the age of the person other variables may be present, such as games (typically associated with children) or drinking (older subjects). But the inherent focus remains the same, to rejoice the passing of another year, gaining more life experience and maturing.
The emotions associated with the birthday ritual or its inherent focus might change, this is largely due to the age of the people in question. Interviewing several people of differing ages confirmed this. Helen Jones, aged 7, said that her birthday was important to her “because I get to spend the day with my family and Mom makes me a cake” (Jones 2015). Similarly, George Stone, aged 10, said that he looked forward to his because “I get presents” (Stone 2015). This contrasts strongly against the opinions of older interview candidates.
When questioned, Theo Marks, ex-military, aged 35, stated: “[b]irthdays mean nothing to me. I do not value the passing of each year in this way. To me it is irrelevant” (Marks 2015). Expanding on this I asked him why he felt this way. “I can’t share the celebration with the friends I would like to most, so to me it is not worth celebrating”. Therefore it can be deduced that the value of the ritual of the birthday, in the case of Theo, lies in its sharing with friends, which he is denied and thus he feels it is no longer worth ritualising. Whereas in the case of George and Helen, who are much younger, perceive things in more simplistic terms, and the ritual of the birthday is consequently seen in a more basic way than Theo. They recognise that each year the same basic rites of the birthday ritual occur. Their family and friends are present, they get a cake and often presents too.
It is particularly interesting that in general children perceive birthdays as more important than adults do. In a personal survey I asked five adults and five children how important they thought their birthdays were, all the children said very, some said it was their favourite day of the year, often alongside Christmas, (Various 2015). Whereas in contrast the adults varied in response, one stated that she thought it was special as it was a day when all the significant people in her life were present at once, this is the complete opposite to Theo who felt it held little significance. The other three adults shared rather disinterested responses to the ritualization of birthdays. Thus it is clear that birthday significance is attached to age. Children, who are still learning to understand people outside of themselves, are easily excited by a day that revolves totally around them. It also provides clear markers in their lives of time passing, a concept which they are still learning to understand. An article in Psychology Today suggests that the sheer significance of the birthday to children is because they intimately associate it with the process of getting older, to the extent that the birthday party causes them to age another year. Through various case studies Jacqueline Woolley shows how children hold ‘a fear that if the party is not held, the child might not age’ (Woolley 2013). Consequently the ritual of the birthday is necessary if the child is to age. Another child suggests that his mother does not age anymore because she does not celebrate her birthday, ‘[h]ow I know [that she does not age] is no one comes to her birthday and also she doesn’t make the cake’ (Frederick in Paley 1988 3).
As humans grow up, their ability to perceive aging alters and we grow to realize that birthdays do not cause aging, that aging is not an event that occurs suddenly on one day but a gradual process throughout the year that is merely acknowledged and shared on this one specific day. This does not lessen the importance of the ritual, it just alters its meaning. However, this does explain why adults do not hold the same attachment to it that children do.
Birthdays are one of the key rituals in an individual’s life, they mark the passing of time and celebrate growth, and the typical behaviours enacted in a birthday ritual are repeated year on year to show that another year has passed. Yet the significance to the individual seems to decrease as the age increases, with children placing a much higher regard on the importance of their birthdays than adults. In fact children arguably directly correlate birthday parties with aging, and the denial of a party coming hand in hand with the denial of aging, thus demonstrating the personal importance of the birthday ritual, specifically in the case of children.

Works Cited

Jones, Helen. Personal Interview. 7 March. 2015.
Marks, Theo. Personal Interview. 7 March. 2015.
Paley, Vivian Gussin. Bad Guys Don’t Have Birthdays: Fantasy Play at Four. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1988. Print.
Ritual, Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, Web. 9 March. 2015. <http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ritual>.
Stone, George. Personal Interview. 8 March. 2015.
Various. Survey of the Importance of Birthdays. 8 March. 2015.
Woolley, Jacqueline. “The All-Important Annual Birthday Party”. Psychology Today. 10 January. 2013. Web. 9 March. 2015. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-children-know/201301/the-all-important-annual-birthday-party>.

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WePapers. (2020, December, 13) Rituals: Birthday Celebrations Essay Samples. Retrieved May 17, 2022, from https://www.wepapers.com/samples/rituals-birthday-celebrations-essay-samples/
"Rituals: Birthday Celebrations Essay Samples." WePapers, 13 Dec. 2020, https://www.wepapers.com/samples/rituals-birthday-celebrations-essay-samples/. Accessed 17 May 2022.
WePapers. 2020. Rituals: Birthday Celebrations Essay Samples., viewed May 17 2022, <https://www.wepapers.com/samples/rituals-birthday-celebrations-essay-samples/>
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"Rituals: Birthday Celebrations Essay Samples." WePapers, Dec 13, 2020. Accessed May 17, 2022. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/rituals-birthday-celebrations-essay-samples/
WePapers. 2020. "Rituals: Birthday Celebrations Essay Samples." Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. Retrieved May 17, 2022. (https://www.wepapers.com/samples/rituals-birthday-celebrations-essay-samples/).
"Rituals: Birthday Celebrations Essay Samples," Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com, 13-Dec-2020. [Online]. Available: https://www.wepapers.com/samples/rituals-birthday-celebrations-essay-samples/. [Accessed: 17-May-2022].
Rituals: Birthday Celebrations Essay Samples. Free Essay Examples - WePapers.com. https://www.wepapers.com/samples/rituals-birthday-celebrations-essay-samples/. Published Dec 13, 2020. Accessed May 17, 2022.

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