Someone’s Birthday is tagged to be a day that is an exact day of the months, in which the person was born, in every preceding year. It is always observed with a spirit of celebration and gratitude to God. In most places, it is associated with such activities like a joyful birthday songs, cutting of birthday cakes, lighting candles, receiving gifts, birthday cards and wishes/prayers from loved ones.
Birthday celebration has quite become a global practice.. However, it is one of the big controversy across the various Christian denominations. Just in the same light with other Christian celebrations like Christmas, mother’s day, etc.. So, it is not strange to see some schools of thought disposing the acceptance of birthday celebrations as a normal Christian practices.
Notwithstanding, this is not another article to feed into this controversy, rather this article will focus on why and how Christians should celebrate their Birthdays.
Where Did Birthday Celebrations Come From?
A number of retrospective analysis had traced birthday celebrations and its components to the various traditions and practices where it was first implied. For example, birthday celebrations is partly explained to be originally an observation done to honor creation dates of idols by pagans and as an observation done only in the honor of kings and prominent people.
However, birthday celebrations among Christians is generally explained to have had its spread from the eras of the Roman civilizations (details).
In the Bible, mentions of birthday celebrations is recorded in Genesis 40:20-22; about Pharaoh and of his chief Baker and chief butler, Matthew 14:6-10, Mark 6; about Herod, Herodias, Herodias daughter and John the Baptist, Job 1:1-5,18; about Job and his family.
Meanwhile, in each of this places in the Bible, something negative followed and this has been a thoughtful concern to many. This concerns and the attributions of birthday celebrations to paganism would still go with the explanations I made in my previous article about Valentine days celebrations.
Different Ways to Birthday Celebrations
Recently, birthday celebrations is accorded a high level of significance, in the homes as well as among friends. it is often taken as an anomaly for one to forget the birth date of another. Such importance and more are due to various perspectives with which many Christians and the rest of the society has began to view birthday celebrations. Some of these perspectives are as follows;
- Birthday celebrations is a day of special worship and gratitude to God. With a reserved opportunity for friends and family to come together and give praises to God on behalf of the celebrant, acknowledging God for the blessings of life . Perhaps, juet as is in Apostle Paul’s remark to the Romans; “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. He who regards one day as special, does so to the Lord” (Romans 14:5–6).
- As a special day for friends and family to give a sincere and heartfelt appreciation to the celebrant. To make the celebrant feel important and happy. Such appreciation like saying nice things about the person, remembering and thanking the person for his good deeds (to you), giving gifts, praying for the person, checking on the person etc.
- When feasible, birthday celebrations are opportunities in individuals life to show great rejoicing, hosting friends and family with all the entertainments feasible, and a more than usual exuberance of pleasing food, especially a choice dish.
- As a day to celebrate and mark a new attainments, achievements, like marking anniversaries, marking that one has come of age, marking special birth ages like sweet 16th, 21st, 40th, 50th, 70th, 100th birthday. Such birth ages always calls for joy just as examplified in King Solomon’s words in Proverbs 16:31; “The hoary [white or gray] head is a crown of glory, if it be found in the way of righteousness.” There is also lots of traditions associated with birthday celebrations (Details).
Why Should Christians Celebrate on their Birthdays?
1. Christian Birthday celebrations not paganism
People make mistake when they argue that the motive of what one do should be defined from an external force. The fact that birthday celebrations is traceable to a pagan practices does not connote that anyone that celebrates his/her birthday is practicing paganism. The place of the motive of the celebration should be the question here.
Because there is no such thing as a worship in ignorance. Our worship is in the sound of our confession and in the motive of the knowledge of our belief; our faith. This is why apostle Paul writing on idolatry explained that condemnation is from what comes out of our heart not from what goes in.
The question then is ‘when Christians celebrate birthdays, what is the motive in their heart? If your answer is as mine-they think love, to share joy, are thankful and grateful to God for yet another 365 days round the globe. It is what a man worships in his heart that he worships in all sense. There is no implied worship.
2. Christain Birthday celebrations not giving vain glory to the celebrants
Many persons have issues with someone receiving such appreciation typical of birthday celebrations. People that reason this way argue that birthday celebrations is in the birthday celebrants glory.
But, reasonings like this is both unfair and lacks comprehensive considerations on what the mind of God is in such matter, matching scriptures with scriptures. Such reasoning is in line with the people’s reaction when Mary broke the alabaster oil on Jesus. We know that the Bible enjoins us to “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind we should esteem other better than ourselves” (Philippians 2:3).
The fact is, someone may succeed in making a Bible verses say whatever one has in mind. But we must let the Holy Spirit help us. If people can speak negative and debasing words to others, we could as well say good stuffs and nice things to them. This is in alignment with Ephesians 4:29 “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.” Not flattering them, but a sincere and honest appreciation to them.
Also, Proverb 16:24 says “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones”. This way we show genuine interest and honestly admire that in others. This doesn’t have to mean giving them vain glory like the people did for Herod in Acts 12:22 neither should it be interpreted as such.
As a matter of fact, it is not only on birthdays that we say nice things to others. Even those who dispose this will not prove to be free. In the very popular psychological principle of ‘reward and punishment’ used in grooming expected behaviour both in homes and in industries, is very much an example of sincere appreciation.
Certainly the good works we do will be rewarded in heaven, but we could encourage one another sometimes by sincerely reminding people how goodly they have been.
Many times, we have people like our bosses who only emphasis on our faults, our challenges, and shortcomings. Other times, we have colleagues who are only competing with us, striffing, debasing and where possible, making feel inferior. Also, there are persons who though they’d sacrificed their life’s to labour for love among a given people, yet the people would have them taken for granted; like the case of a prophet that is without honor among his people.
With many cases like this, a little words of kindness to others would help them know that there is something good in them amidst all odds.
Other reasons why we should celebrate on our birthdays and why we should celebrate our loved ones on their birthdays include;
- Birthday celebrations is an opportunity to give thanks to God for being born, for still being alive and for progressing in life.
- Life is not to be taken for granted. It is very much in the will of of God for us to have a good treat and to rejoice in the Lord. Because, Life is God’s gift as we read in Ecclesiastes 3: 13 “Also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift”.
Checking The Excesses
Recently, in this age of social media life, many excesses on birthday celebrations had been on the rise. Some of these excesses like increasing emphasis on gifts, (some people will be advertising their birthday and be calling for gifts), partying, being with and making love with one’s significant others, etc., are to be put to check. Details on giving gifts in Christian relationship to come in the next article.
Birthday celebrations is more than an opportunity to receive a gift. Birthday gifts are good, but a wish/prayers that comes from the heart is worth all the presents in this world especially when it is from those who love you. While all that may come in play, a Christian celebrants could emphasize more on celebrating birth itself, giving thanks to God for another year, having a rethink on one’s life, especially by reflecting on the past, evaluating the present and making plans for the future. It is a time to pray to God for the future.
Much is said already. If you have a concern, you could comment here let’s share your view.
This article is published on this 28th day of February in the honor of my very good friend: Ojukwu Chiderah Beulah. Someone whose impact in my life I would always ThankGod for.