Today is my birthday. The day comes with mixed emotions, as I know it does for many adults. Today, I’m delighted that I get to spend the day at the TusCon Science Fiction Convention in Arizona with friends and fellow fans. Also, I received a nice gift from my wife, a set of digital comic books, which I hope to read and then blog about in the near future. Despite all that, birthdays make it hard to escape thoughts of growing older and mortality. Still, I’m delighted to know that I share a birthday with one of my literary heroes, Robert Louis Stevenson.
This week, I was curious about birthday celebrations and looked up some articles about them. They seem to have their roots in ancient ceremonies marking the births of certain gods. In Ancient Egypt, the birthdays of pharaohs were celebrated as a way to equate them with the gods. Over time, birthday celebrations came to be fairly commonplace for national rulers along with certain other rich and powerful people. Most other people wouldn’t routinely celebrate their birthdays until around the middle of the nineteenth century.
Several different things came together to make birthdays an occasion to celebrate. As Europe and the United States moved into the Industrial age, keeping track of time gained importance. People had clocks and calendars in their homes and time became much more regimented as people went to work in cities. As medical science advanced in this period, special note was taken of how people changed as they aged. The number of years one had lived became a way to measure a standard of growth in children and then a standard of overall health as adults. People kept track of their birthdays and began to note how old they were.
Another thing that happened in the nineteenth century was that families started having fewer children. I’ve seen it suggested that around this time, children became seen less as commodities and resources and became more cherished as individuals. Even by this time, some bakers in Germany had come up with the idea of marketing cakes for children’s birthdays and the idea would eventually travel to America.
At this point in my life, my birthday is a good excuse for a fine meal with family and a few friends. I’m perfectly happy to enjoy a piece of good cake for dessert. I look back on the years that have passed so far and hope I’ve learned from my mistakes. I look forward to new challenges and discoveries in the years ahead and hope my children, who I cherish, continue to prosper. Of course, the best birthday present you can give an author is to read one of their books. You can find mine at http://www.davidleesummers.com. If you’ve already read one of my books and loved it, please leave a nice review. Trust me, that’s something that would make a fabulous birthday gift!