Today is my birthday. At 6:40 AM, I turned 28. I don't celebrate my birthday, I haven't since I moved out of my parents' house. I made a lame attempt the first year, but I am not good at birthdays. To be honest, social gatherings without a specific purpose (like ritual, or work, or studying, etc.) are not part of my skill set. During birthdays (my own or otherwise) I end up cleaning dishes, getting drinks, and running around like a headless chicken. It takes me days to recover emotionally. So, I took the smart way out, and stopped celebrating my birthday. Now the day actually feels festive.

My girlfriend and I have found a really good way to deal with my birthday: the morning is ours, for private celebration and groceries. The afternoon is for my parents, my girlfriend's parents, and the few friends who really want to be there to wish me a happy birthday. Around five PM, everyone leaves, and in the evening, my girlfriend and I have a nice dinner out. This year, we're eating tapas.

The ancient Hellenes did not celebrate their birthdays either. Families celebrated the birth of a child, a coming-of-age feast, and feasts after death held on the anniversary of the day of birth (or death, depending on the scholar), but otherwise there were no annual birthday ceremonials. The birthdays of many of the Theoi were ritually acknowledged once a month, but the individual did not celebrate theirs. Herodotos notes this in his Histories, when he describes the birthday practices of the Persians.

"Of all the days in the year, the one which they celebrate most is their birthday. It is customary to have the board furnished on that day with an ampler supply than common. The richer Persians cause an ox, a horse, a camel, and an ass to be baked whole and so served up to them: the poorer classes use instead the smaller kinds of cattle. They eat little solid food but abundance of dessert, which is set on table a few dishes at a time; this it is which makes them say that "the Greeks, when they eat, leave off hungry, having nothing worth mention served up to them after the meats; whereas, if they had more put before them, they would not stop eating." They are very fond of wine, and drink it in large quantities. To vomit or obey natural calls in the presence of another is forbidden among them. Such are their customs in these matters." [133]

This, of course, changed with the Romans--especially the Emperors--but the ancient Hellenes found the birthdays of the Gods much more important.

I look forward to the day. I will enjoy the time spent with my girlfriend, and presents are always good. On my wish list? Lots of ancient Hellenic plays. Lets see if I find the time to read them in the coming year.