The birthdays of my mother and youngest sister fall on consecutive days. Never having been the best at remembering birthdays, I was pleased to post cards that might arrive on time.
Perhaps there was some moment in childhood that created an aversion to birthdays, but I have never celebrated my own – not my 18th, not my 21st, not being 30, 40, or 50, and definitely not being 60 this year. In latter years, perhaps a birthday have been a subconscious reminder of mortality; in former years, they just seemed unnecessary. I would receive three cards each year, and get on with the work of the day.
I remember remarking upon reaching the age of 50. Aviron Bayonnais, the French rugby team I follow, were playing against Connacht in Galway on the evening before. Donning my sky blue and white jersey, I travelled with a friend to watch the match. As is their wont, Bayonne lost the match, and afterwards I said to my companion that not only had the Bayonnais lost, but that I had only two hours left of being in my forties. We had a bottle of beer with our meal on the way home.
Like Christmas, birthdays are pagan in origin. Apparently, it was the ancient Romans who started celebrating the birthdays of ordinary people. There sees to be some suggestion of warding off evil spirits, but much that went on in ancient times seemed to be concerned with warding off evil spirits.
The origins of birthdays would not have concerned me, it was the bother of having one that was the disincentive.
In parts of Europe, Name Days are celebrated. People celebrate the feast day of the saint after whom they are named.
I remember one year in Dublin, on 6th December, the Feast of Saint Nicholas, I attended a feast day party for Nicholas, a French friend. It was one of those moments that will always linger in the memory for my remaining days, it was an occasion of sublime happiness. Laughter filled Nicholas’ house that day, but Nicholas’ house was always a place of smiles. Was it a happy occasion because it was Nicholas’ Feast Day, or was it a happy occasion because it was a gathering with Nicholas and his wonderful family?
I thought about celebrating my Name Day, but “Ian” is the Anglicization of Ioannes, the Greek name for Saint John the Evangelist, his feast day is 27th December. Celebrating Christmas is a sufficient challenge without a Feast Day as well.