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Are Celebrating Lavish Birthdays Overrated?

by Jananie Chandrarao. |

Ahhh, birthdays. One of the days in your entire journey around the sun where people shower you with love and make you feel thankful for the deep sense of belonging you have with them. However, over the years we can observe how formerly intimate gatherings filled with love and laughter for the sole purpose of celebrating someone we love are slowly evolving into fancy parties that are long-estranged from this very same purpose.

Okay, so why are we so obsessed with lavish birthdays anyways?

It might be because of the exposure it gets on social media when you post them up online on platforms like Facebook and Instagram. In a way, it satisfies our need for attention and validation from the outside world. Attention has become a basic human need, and seeking attention through external validation in the form of acknowledgement or encouragement is normalcy. We derive a sense of gratification through all the attention we receive during such events. However, the downside is that both attention and gratification are temporary, giving us only momentary joy.

The next reason might be because our minds have been ingrained with society’s definition of the ‘The Ideal’ way of carrying out celebrations. In certain cultures and communities, birthdays like your 21st are made to be a huge deal. Thus, lavish birthdays are accepted to be the norm and anything out of the ordinary will be perceived with negative judgements, thus making it harder for someone to fit in.

Maybe what we need here is to take a step back and identify if we’re doing things for the right reasons, or if we’re just blindly following the trends and the crowd. It can be as simple as being a little more mindful about your intentions of posting post-birthday-bash pictures on Instagram, or asking yourself if certain norms truly align with your values and beliefs.

See, I’m not technically a birthday-hater, but I just find the lavish ways we celebrate our birthdays to be overrated. Here’s why:

Reason 1: It dilutes the true meaning of birthdays

The sole reason for celebrating someone’s birthday is to show that you genuinely love and care for that person. However, the emphasis has now shifted towards expensive but meaningless gifts and birthday routines that focus more on materialistic aspects than emotional ones. Instead of expensive gifts, why not let handwritten letters and long email wishes make a comeback? Handwritten letters are my favourite way of showing someone I love and appreciate them. It reflects the investment of our valuable time and effort into creating something to express our gratitude towards them. And instead of having dinner parties at classy restaurants, why not have an intimate gathering among close friends and family to cut your favourite chocolate cake in a room filled with laughter? Why do we keep forgetting how the simple and little things matter the most?

Reason 2: The silent competition (Shh!)

We have not failed to notice the stressful ‘gift-giving game’ over the years, where there is a silent competition on who can give the best gift. Even in the process of choosing a gift for someone, the purpose and value of the gift always come second to the price of it. Not forgetting how you also need to take into account what the person has gifted you last year to ensure that yours will be better than theirs! Slowly, gift-giving is turning not only into a competition but also a chore. To quote the great Sheldon Cooper,

“Oh, Penny. I know you think you’re being generous, but the foundation of gift-giving is

reciprocity. You haven’t given me a gift. You’ve given me an obligation. The essence of the

custom is that I now have to go out and purchase a gift of commensurate value and

representing the same perceived level of friendship as that represented by the gift you’ve

given me. It’s no wonder suicide rates skyrocket this time of the year.”

Reason 3: It makes us obsess over someone only on their birthdays

I’ve always been someone who questioned the obsession and emphasis shown by people on specific days like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and especially birthdays to make their loved ones feel special. Of course, there’s this justification of a birthday being ‘Your Special Day’, thus the need to make the birthday person feel like they’re special. But do we really need to wait for their birthday to tell them what they mean to us? Why are gestures of love and care only reserved for birthdays when tomorrow is not promised not us? We’ve seen how spouses have taken birthdays as an opportunity to show how much their other halves mean to them through grand gestures and fancy parties. And of course, there is nothing wrong with pampering and spoiling your spouse on their special day. However, that is not what truly builds meaningful relationships. According to John Gottman, a psychologist, one of the major factors that predict how long a marriage lasts is the amount and type of attention the partners receive, mainly focusing on the small moments of everyday life. Again, it’s about the little things! A lavish birthday wouldn’t matter if you don’t share and appreciate the little moments of every day. As the words of the Italian poet, Cesare Pavese poetically summarize, ‘We don’t remember days, we remember moments’.

We need to stop being so obsessed with lavish birthdays, as it doesn’t serve the primary purpose of why we celebrate birthdays anyway. Sometimes, it only diminishes the value of birthdays further. Keep in mind that if we keep blindly following the trend of lavish birthdays, we might just end up completely diluting the true meaning of birthdays, becoming silent and competitive gift-givers, and appreciating people less. Instead, let’s be more aware and make conscious choices when it comes to celebrating your own or your loved ones’ birthdays.

You can find out more about the author on Instagram.

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