History and Cultures of Birthdays
Surprisingly, birthdays are not celebrated everywhere in the world by every culture. Luckily for today’s children, this has changed a great deal. As far as can be researched, birthday parties began before current Western religions were established. People believed evil spirits visited any happy moments in humans’ lives. Parties, with bright lights and loud noises, dissuaded the evil spirits. Later, with the rise of belief in Greek gods, round birthday cakes were introduced as a gift for Artemis, the God of the Moon. Candles were added to emulate the glow of the moon, in addition to scaring off evil spirits. Friends and family were invited to surround the birthday child to protect him or her from these evil spirits.
Helping Children Mark Time
One reason children spend many elementary lessons on seasons and weather is to practice how time changes. Most younger children can only measure time changing in large, month-long chunks. They need to see and feel drastic changes in weather or holiday themes to notice the passing time. Children learn their birthday at a young age, and each time it shows up on the calendar, they know they have aged a whole year. They know the number of their age, and they are usually quite proud to share it! Celebrating a birthday with a party or special event marks the day.
Making Children Feel Special
If you asked a child the importance of celebrating birthdays, this would probably be the number one answer: to make a child feel special. Children are one of twenty to thirty in a classroom, more than likely to have a sibling at home, and rarely have a parent’s full attention. On the date of a child’s birthday, for at least a few hours, s/he is the center of attention. This is powerful for two reasons: one, it simply feels good for the kid, and two, this gives the kid experience in receiving positive attention for future experiences like school presentations and work projects.
Strengthening Family Bonds
Few events bring families together like a child’s birthday. Who can resist the cake, the good mood, the escape from the everyday? Along with presents and good food, you can’t beat the upbeat mood general happy feelings that accompany a child’s birthday party. The more birthday parties families attend together, the closer they become.
Birthday parties also remind families that they are a part of something, and connected to people. Strengthening family bonds is good for everyone. Studies show that the feeling of human connectedness has health benefits that last beyond the actual party. So keep on celebrating!
Establishing Social Relationships
If you ask a child of any age who to invite to a birthday party, s/he may have a difficult time choosing–especially when a limit is imposed. This is actually a beneficial exercise for a child to complete. Planning an invitation list for a birthday party establishes social relationships with other children. “Who is your friend?” is a great conversation opener for a parent to bring to a child. Making an invitation list and then watching your child interact with the other children is a perfect way for parents to see who is in their children’s social circle.
Creating Positive Memories
The days fly by. As the saying goes, the days are long but the years are short. It is very easy to let time pass without stopping to document the best times. Birthday parties can be just that–the best of times. Family members and friends are usually dressed up, there are shiny new gifts, and there is one very happy special birthday boy or girl. Everyone brings a happy, upbeat attitude. The group is either out at a fun venue or in a house that has been recently cleaned up, and both are great photo opportunities! Create memories. Your child will want to look back to see what you did to mark the occasion: take pictures, keep cards, share love.
Reflecting On The Year
Marking a child’s birthday gives everyone a chance to reflect on the year and measure the growth that has taken place. So much can change in a single year. Academically, physically, and emotionally, the changes can be immense. Take some time with the birthday child and talk about how far s/he has come in the past year. This will build their self-esteem and help them to keep the momentum.