This I Have Learned … Counting Birthdays

Mary Jo Bellner Swartzberg

Age is just a number, and mine is unlisted! (Commercial for Boost)

Do you ever think back when you were age 10 and wishing you were age 16 when you could get your driver’s license? Then, at age 16, wishing you were age 21 so you could drink alcohol (legally)?

It seems that we wish away the years when we are younger, but then, suddenly, the realization hits you that you have to get a job—not just a job, but you have to find and secure a career. And with this comes responsibilities—bills, marriage, children, mortgage payments, etc., etc. Well, here it is, so many years later, and now do you find yourself looking backward, wishing to shave off the years?

It’s those darn birthdays, isn’t it? Every year they come around, and then we look at our number and think … I wish I could turn back the clock.

Counting birthdays is one of our traditions in the United States. And what better way to remind a person of his or her advancing years than by sending a birthday card? On the other hand, sending birthday wishes is a nice gesture for people to be thought of on their special day.

It might be surprising to hear that the greeting card industry is a multibillion-dollar business in the U.S. According to the Greeting Card Association, Americans purchase approximately 6.5 billion greeting cards each year, resulting in annual retail sales of $7 to $8 billion. The most popular cards sold are birthday cards.

But from where does the tradition of sending greeting cards come? According to the Association, the tradition of giving greeting cards as a meaningful expression of personal affection for another person is still being deeply ingrained in today’s youth, and this tradition will likely continue as they become adults and become responsible for managing their own important relationships. So, you see, we send/give birthday cards because our parents did (of course, most likely our mothers).

But what about in other countries? The Brits love to send greeting cards. The French, on the other hand, do not send out any greeting cards.

However, there are some cultures that do not celebrate birthdays at all:

Bhutan has a strong “collectivist” culture, meaning giving a group priority over each individual in it. Most people in Bhutan do not know their actual birthdate so, frankly, birthdays are not important in the country.

Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays.

In China, birthdays are celebrated only for infants and the elderly. While the passage of time is recognized in China, birthdays are typically not celebrated.

Afghans really do not know their exact age. But since the American invasion, they have a festival on Jan. 1 to celebrate the birth of everyone.

Yemenis do not care whether you are age 5, 50, or age 95! They do not have birthdays or count numbers. And all Yemenis have Jan. 1 as their birthdate on their passports.

Note: The current trend in greeting cards indicates that online greeting card sales revenue has grown by 18.3% over the last five years.