I spent the other day helping my son celebrate his fourteenth birthday, along with the rest of his family. We gave him presents, we sang to him, we made a fuss over him. Those who couldn’t be there sent him wishes by telephone and mail and Facebook. He went to bed happy knowing he was deeply loved. He knows this every day, of course, but was there any harm in making one day a special all-about-him day?
Well, apparently there would be, were we Jehovah’s Witnesses. I did not know this, but apparently birthdays are verboten to the Witnesses. I discovered this when my friend, a good and friendly guy who happens to be JW, explained that he would not be attending our work department’s Thanksgiving dinner because, and I quote, “It’s wrong to set aside a day of Thanksgiving, because we should thank God every day.” From there the theological thread spilled out, and I learned that it’s wrong to set aside a day to celebrate a life, because you need to celebrate the gift of life every day… and, surprisingly to me, this is the only reason he doesn’t celebrate Christmas, because it’s just a birthday.
Perhaps I’m a bad person for judging his culture by my own standards, but so be it. He wanted to be at the dinner, and he was palpably jealous of the special fun day I had with my boy. There was nothing in the way of him celebrating the same way, except adherence to a silly ideology that insists on no day being special unless they are all equally special.
Yes, I call it silly, I call it stupid, and to the extent it imposes deliberate joylessness on others, especially children, I call it cruel, because human nature doesn’t work that way. You can love someone every day, but you can’t celebrate every day, and celebration is a very human and precious thing.
It doesn’t matter much what the proximate cause is, God or Marx or simple social conformity; when your point of view precludes parties, I don’t want any part of it; by definition, everyday isn’t a special day, and denying someone a special day because it can’t be every day is a stupid waste of potential joy.