Skip to main content

Happy Birthday to You

Of late, I've been thinking a lot about birthdays (well, I haven't, actually, but a chap's got to have a topic to write about, hasn't he?). It seems a little strange to me, celebrating the day you came into the world, crying a lot and pooping excessively. And let's face it, the way we celebrate birthdays is a little creepy. I mean, think about this:

'Several people are gathered around an object on fire, chanting a repetitive song. One among them carries a knife. They extinguish the object and plunge the knife into it. The rest of the group stops chanting and spontaneously bursts into applause. '  - Description of a birthday party by some chap on Tumblr

I mean, come on, tell me that doesn't sound like a scene from a cult horror film. But, strange cult rituals aside, I decided to do some research (read: click the first three links on a Google search) about birthdays. So, read on to learn some stuff about birthdays that you may or may not really care about.

First off, no one knows birthdays were first celebrated (actually, Wikipedia doesn't know when birthdays were first celebrated, but I assume that the entirety of mankind's learning through the ages is hosted on Wikipedia's servers). I'm actually not even going to try to guess when they began, because whatever date I come up with, someone is certain to come up with an even older date and tell me, "Come on, Ritvik, do some real research next time!" I also feel quite good about myself because I just successfully dedicated an entire paragraph to something I'm not actually going to tell you about.

So, what do people actually do on birthdays? We all know the kind of birthday where we have a cake and a bunch of people singing the Happy Birthday song (apparently, it's actually the last stanza of the "Good Morning To You" song by Patty and Mildred Hill. I still find it hard to get over the fact that I've been calling this song by  the wrong name for the entirety of my existence). In Ghana, the birthday kid gets something called "oto", which  is a dish made of made of fried, mashed sweet potato and eggs. Frankly, I'd be much happier to get a pizza and some cake or, considering it's Ghana, some chocolate, but as they say, to each their own.

Other cultures only celebrate certain birthdays. For instance, teenagers in most cultures celebrate the acquisition of the age of majority by waiting until their parents are asleep and then getting obscenely drunk at the nearest public house. Jewish boys celebrate something called a 'Bar Mitzvah' on their 13th birthdays (girls, for some reason, have it on their 12th birthdays and call it a 'Bat Mitzvah'). Honestly, I've no clue what exactly they have to celebrate, because it represents the day that they have to begin actively participating in the rituals and can no longer stay home and  watch TV while Mom and Dad head off to the synagogue. Hindu boys celebrate their 13th birthdays by sitting in front of a fire and pouring ghee into it while a priest mutters words under his breath in a language that no one really understood in the first place. And in return for their trouble, they get a string tied from their shoulders to their waists and the added responsibility of saying a mantra 108 times every day.

All of this has been an extremely long way of saying that I had no clue what I was going to write about today. I seized on the topic of birthdays because my mother's was last week. Anyway, thanks for reading. If you know about any other birthday rituals, tell me in the comments. Actually, just give me a comment saying anything at all. Seriously, if you don't, I'm coming to your house with a knife - and I ain't bringing no cake.

Comments

  1. This is so weird. I just put a cake in the oven before reading this blog! And i'm not an avid baker or anything. Are you stalking me? :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of course he is! He stalks anything and everything XD

      Delete
    2. Well... Maybe. I mean, I might not be.

      Delete
  2. The Birthday song had to fight a lot for its freedom!

    http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-happy-birthday-song-lawsuit-decision-20150922-story.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, it's nice to know that I no longer have to pay a company to use the "Happy Birthday" song. Not that I ever paid anyone. It's just nice to know that I'll never have to.

      Delete
  3. Wow, clearly i have the most boring birthdays. I went to Star bucks for my birthday.... that's really sad

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Come now, unknown, I'm sure you quite enjoyed Starbucks. Nothing wrong with a good cup of coffee, is there?

      Delete
    2. Come now, unknown, I'm sure you quite enjoyed Starbucks. Nothing wrong with a good cup of coffee, is there?

      Delete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Exam Fever

As anyone currently in the twelfth will tell you, with varying levels of dismay, the final exams are right around the corner. Parents everywhere are seizing their children's phones and taking time off from work. Panicked screaming ensues at intervals.


I don't believe there's a person on the planet who genuinely enjoys exam season. Actually, I take that back - there's no one in India who enjoys exam season. Partially, I think this is our own fault. Exams are the most important things in an Indian student's life, so parents seem bent on bottling up all the worry and concern they have about their kid's education and allowing it to spew forth in a torrent of "No more video games!" and "Delete WhatsApp!" commands during the two months surrounding the exams. Small wonder, then, that at 17, I believe the purpose of exams is to seasonally blot the sunshine from otherwise happy lives.

This whole exam fever thing does have some upsides. Okay, one - it…

No Good Place To Do Mutra Visarjan In This Country...

At least, that's what Chatur Ramalingam seems to think. However, many of our fellow Indians seem to disagree with him. According to them, there are nothing BUT places to do mutra visarjan (for all you poor, masochistic folks - ah, I mean, non-movie-going folks - out there, mutra visarjan means urine expulsion). In case you haven't guessed already, we're going to be talking about one of India's most widely criticized and even more widely practiced issues - public urination.

I'm not exactly saying that it's our people's fault - I mean, come on, we have so much urine-related cultural history! Just in the past 50 years, we've had people who've used their urine for everything from watering plants to drinking it (I believe that some people also flush it down their toilets. How wasteful of them). Besides all the historical precedents, however, we also have some more practical reasons for peeing wherever and whenever we feel like.

If you've ever seen a …

Learning to Learn

There's an interesting concept that's gotten a lot of traction over the past couple of years called "meta learning".  It's a term coined by one Donald B. Maudsley, who defined it as "the process by which learners become aware of and increasingly in control of habits of perception, inquiry, learning, and growth that they have internalized". Translated from Sciencese, Maudsley is talking about how we figure out ways to become more efficient at learning new information.

HR managers (you know, those overpaid dimwits you complain to about your coworker stealing your lunch?) like to call it "learnability". Most people with real jobs don't call it anything at all. In reality, though, it's an extremely useful thing to understand, together with the techniques you would use to get good at it.

Myself, I'm a decent-ish learner. Mostly, that's because I've had to learn things on my own quite often - I had to teach myself web design, app…