2010年8月15日 星期日

On birthday celebrations

A friend of mine, Dr David Kwan, recently called a dinner gathering , which during the course of the evening evolved into a simutaneous belated and early birthday celebration for the 3 people in our group whose birthday happen to fall within two weeks on either side of the dinner date . Questions were raised as to the auspiciousness in celebrating a birthday after the fact , and whether it was charitable to yearly remind a person of a certain age his/her escalating senility .

Ruthlessly disregarding what the All Holy Horoscope Yearbook might have to say, my opinion to both questions is an emphatic Yes !

When I was a child my birthday was never celebrated at home. I would cast sidelong glances longingly at the hard boiled egg all other kids in the family got for their birthday breakfast , egg dyed a special China Red , the colour that sings of joy , happiness and all things bright and propitious . I was warned by the grown-ups not to make a fuss for not getting my egg on my birthday because it'd only make matters worse : it was entirely my own fault I was born on the same day my grandfather died . In fact I'd be wise never to mention my birthday at home , at least not for as long as my grandmother was alive .

In secondary school I fell in with a gang of girls through basketball ; everyday after school we'd stay back to practice the game . Every gang needs a name so we christened ours "The Lucky Seven ". We were best friends and told each other everything, including my inauspicious start in life . Then came a day, in place of the basketball practice the girls surprised me with my first birthday party in a corner of the schoolyard . However, as The Lucky Sevens were extremely unlucky in pocket money ( most of us came from desperately poor families) , all the food they could conjure up were some packet of " life buoy biscuits" ( 水泡餅 ), animal crackers and pieces of compressed hawthorn candy ( 山楂餅 ) . Nonetheless it was amongst the best food I'd ever had . We started a tradition of celebrating one another's birthday which lasted 3 years until I left for England . Birthdays vanished from my calender of the next score years .

After I started working in the Chinese University of Hong Kong I was adopted into a group of entrenched birthday celebrators from Malaysia . Thereby for the past ten years my birthday reemerged onto the radar screen , just as I was at an age I'd rather it didn't .

The birthday re-celebration David was reluctantly drafted into set me thinking . Why is it so important to celebrate the fact that we were born on a particular day in a particular year in the distant past ? I believe the importance lies not in that we were born, but that inspite of all odds we're still living ! Birthdays are a reminder that we cannot take anything for granded , particularly the days of our lives - so many people in the world never get to see the age we're at. Every new day that we wake up in should be treated as an extra bonus , another chance to right things we've done wrong before, and create new things we can be proud of when we look back later. Then when the year rolls round and if we're still alive on the next prescribed date, we can breath a sigh of relief over each and every of our day in that year well lived .

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