A recent study entitled “21st Birthday Drinking: Extremely Extreme” revealed that the vast majority of young Americans consume alcohol on their birthdays. The research, conducted by Dr. Patricia Rutledge of the University of Missouri, found that 83% of 21 year olds get drunk on this day. Doctors also discovered that a rite of passage known as “21 for 21” has lately become popular, further putting our young people at grave risk. According to the rules of “21 for 21,” a person drinks one alcohol beverage for every year of his or her life, thus 21 drinks at your 21st birthday, 22 for your 22nd, etc. This custom is leading to hospitalizations and even deaths across this country. It has also created the widespread crisis of college binge drinking and the possibility of lifelong addiction.
In the past, birthday parties were something held only for children. They were simple affairs, maybe a cake followed by some delightful entertainment that everyone enjoyed. This tradition draws its origins from Christmas, when we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savoir Jesus Christ with prayer and an exchange of gifts. Sadly, the sanctity of Jesus’s own special day is not mirrored in how Americans are choosing to recognize their arrival into this world.
THE BIRTHDAY IN AMERICA: YOUR OWN PRIVATE HOLIDAY
Today, the birthday party has become a vile, offensive crime scene of indulgence where faith and love play no part. They are showcases of the very worst human emotions, cult-like indoctrination ceremonies forcing us into cruel lifestyle choices from which we may never escape. And Alcohol is not the only problem here. Lust, greed and narcissism dance upon the stage while God is crowded out of the room by waiters serving hor’dorves and champagne. Filled with colorful banners, paper hats and sugary foods, Americans celebrate their self-love in these events. They worship the individual at the expense of the community and common sense. They put their own egos in the spotlight, as if they deserve to be rewarded for simply living another year. Ultimately, they mimic and even ridicule the solemn occasion of Jesus’s birth by turning the birthday into an alcohol and sex-fueled version of Christmas.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. They are brought to their knees and fall, but we rise up and stand firm.” –Psalm 20: 7-8.
Across America, young children have also gotten into the act of abusing their birthdays. Lately they have foregone their interest in traditional and gentle celebratory entertainments like balloon animals or Pin the Tail on the Donkey to rush right to the gift opening. Essentially, our children are using birthday parties to cash in on “friendship” for a mountain of expensive presents, charged to parents’ credit cards and then reciprocated as each attending child in turn has his or her own party, like some giant kiddie pyramid scheme. From video games to that “Sweet 16” automobile, children expect to reap financially from a day that should be about family. In truth, a child’s birthday should be about recognizing one’s parents for their dedicated involvement in your creation, a day when you reflect on the greatest gift of all given to you by the greatest of them all: the gift of Life given you by our Lord God.
Even the elderly can become inflamed by the birthday bug. They envision these days as narcissistic triumphs where large groups dress up and fete their special lives. They come to demand recognition for simply living a long life as if by their own free will, omitting any role that faith had in it. Is God invited to these events? Of course not, he would stand in the way of video montages and laudatory speeches. This is the “me generation” at its very worst.
How can we climb out of this pit of narcissism and alcoholism that has become the birthday party tradition? Maybe we should reflect back on the day of Jesus’s birth. Born on a quiet night with the utmost calm, the infant Jesus wanted nothing and needed nothing. He did not have 21 shots of tequila in that chilly Bethlehem barn, no tribute videos and naked women in cakes, no loud music. Jesus’s birth was not about him. It was about YOU! It was about giving YOU a chance for redemption for your sickest sins. His birthday was about sacrifice. Until we can take Jesus’s special lesson to heart, is there really anything to celebrate? Until we reform the American birthday party away from sex, addiction and excess, do we really have the moral foundation to have birthdays in the first place?
“For our rejoicing is this, the testimony of our conscience, that in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom, but by the grace of God, we have had our conversation in the world, and more abundantly to you-ward.” –2 Corinthians 1:12.