recently a friend who had a visit from the local JW’s (Jehova Witnesses) who were trying their hardest to convert her. I have never had this happened to me so I was enjoyed hearing the story and I looked through the magazine/devotional teaching tool they brought for her to read a magazine called the watchtower. I read through it quickly just to kind of see some of their ideas, looking for places of possible agreement and places of disagreement. One thing that made me really sad, and has been floating around in my mind for sometime is the fact that they do not celebrate birthdays or holidays. This led me to some deeper reflections on this point.
In today’s world there is little left that is sacred, and little good is ever said of anything that’s a ritual. But these rituals can often times be from very powerful traditions. Now I am not going to say something about the start of birthdays, where they came from etc, what matters most now is how we view them. Unfortunately there has been an overall decay of traditions in the Western world and with the decay of traditions (which help form our identity as a people) we lose practices that form us, train us and create communities that stand for something. For instance my family has ate Christian Eve Breakfast every year for as long as I can remember. All of us kids (6 of us) plus our spouses and children, our parents and our adopted siblings (at least two others) all pile into the house and eat scrmbled eggs, bacon, etc on Christmas Eve. This is a practice that my family all willingly participates in and is surprisingly a tradition within a family that is itself suspect to many traditions. This practice stands for somethings that are true in our family, everyone is always welcome to come and eat with us, and being together no matter what is a high priority. Without this practice, we may find other ways to express this but because we eat breakfast together every year at least on Chrsitmas Eve we are reminede that we are a family who cares and is there for one another. In other words practices are often times an expression of how we view the world, while other times it helps to form the way we view the world
Birthdays have a similar force in forming individuals. Now I dont know much sociology so I cant say how or if Jehova witnesses are different because they don’t celebrate birthdays but there is something good about making it a modern day ritual. First in life we need things to look forward too, quite frankly this was something my therapist told me when I was going through a rough spell where everything looked bleak – he simply stated “you need to have some things that you look forward to doing.” Birthdays can be something we look forward too. it is a day that we are reminded of the power of life, the beauty of it, and the unpredictability it holds. As I look back through my lengthening life span I see many things that we wonderful and other things that we unexpected. This is a devotional line of thinking in so far as it drives me to realize that God was with me through all of it. It shows me that because life is beautiful there God is beautiful, and because life is unpredictable i must rely on the power of an creator who loves both predictability and unpredictability.
But secondly it is a time to celebrate you (or me). We need to be celebrated. I need to celebrate those I love, because I have the opportunity to love them…by the virtue of what happened on their birthday. People need to be celebrated in a world so full of sadness and turmoil. People need others to give them a toast every once in awhile – is does the spirit good. This is also Spiritual – God celebrates us why ought we not celebrate one another?
Finally it is a chance to be born again – now i don’t mean this like the TV evangelists mean it, i mean it is a time to start over, to be re-born into another year, to taste the power of the creator’s work and move toward his new creation that he is making us to be. Sometimes we need to start over, sometimes we just need to say I am a new person today — this happens most naturally on our birthdays. This start afresh — this is a much more natural transition than new years which has no personal connection to my own life. I think this should continue to be a special day, a ritual that we keep for one another – in celebration of the creator and his good creation. so today I am re-born.
Here are some more pictures of me and those who helped to celebrate with me.