I thought I was a deprived little child who never got to celebrate her birthday or attend any of her friends’ birthdays because my parents wanted to save on a few bucks. Or given that I was the 11th of 12 children, they were sick and tired of celebrating birthdays. Turns out that people don’t normally celebrate birthdays in the Arab and Muslim world – though they do it a lot in the movies. Many Muslim scholars and clerics consider the celebration of birthdays a sin, as it is an innovation of the faith. While others have issued statements saying that it is permissible, mostly Muslims (and Arabian Christians) adopted the custom after they migrated to the United States.
Even many modern rabbis do not endorse the celebration of birthdays. Origen in his commentary “On Levites” writes that Christians should not only refrain from celebrating their birthdays but should look on them with disgust. Jehovah’s Witnesses and some Sacred Name groups also refrain from celebrating birthdays, believing birthday celebrations are portrayed in a negative light in the Bible and have historical connections with magic, superstitions, and Paganism.
Wow, I had no idea! Good thing I did not research this information as I prepared for my daughter’s seventh birthday – although maybe it would have been a good thing if I had. I’ve been consumed the whole week planning a Chuck-E-Cheese birthday party. When I asked my daughter why she chose Chuck-E-Cheese, she said, “Because I want to go inside the Chicken Blaster and the only way you can do that is by having a celebration there.”
“What is a chicken blaster?” I asked. She repeated, so again I asked, “What is a chicken blaster?”
She laughed and repeated it one more time, only louder. “A ticket blaster.”
“Oh.” My daughter’s front tooth has recently fallen out so her pronunciation is not that clear and given I’m getting older, neither is my hearing. Still, I’ve continued since then to call it a chicken blaster.
Birthday celebrations began as a form of protection, to keep the evil spirits away. The Germans are given history for starting celebrations of children’s birthdays. The song “Happy Birthday to You” was composed by two sisters, Mildred and Patty Hill, in 1893.
Whatever their history, for all those who never got to celebrate a birthday, it’s not personal – it’s just religious.