Birthdays vary country by country



Column by Waqar Khan. E-mail [email protected].

I am waiting on the clock. In 45 minutes, I am going to be 22 years old.

Whenever my birthday gets closer, a flash of the whole year goes through my mind; a photographic montage of everything that happened to me in this past year.

As I step into a New Year, I hope for a better world, a better tomorrow and a better time.

Although birthday traditions are believed to be the same in most countries, there are some major differences in birthday celebrations. Culture, family heritage, religion and language shape the way this day is celebrated.

Birthdays are a big thing in the United States, as well as throughout Europe.

In Poland, for instance, it is especially important when you turn 18.

Dariusz is an exchange student from Poland at UK. A Business and economics major, he transfered from the University of Warsaw in Poland. According to him, the 18th birthday is a big day of acknowledgement and celebration for friends and family. But the older you get, the less you celebrate your birthday.

Instead, there is a special day for each name in Poland known as “Imieniny” (Name Day). For example, Imieniny Day for Dariusz is Dec. 19, and he celebrates this day in place of a grand birthday.

Many African countries celebrate birthdays in a special way as well. In many cultures individual birthdays are not observed. Instead, they celebrate group birthdays with other people around their age.

When I think of my birthday, I don’t think of the years that have passed. There is a specific tradition from where I am from.

Back home in Pakistan, and more specifically the rural area where I am from, most of the people don’t know their birthdate. One only knows general facts, such as whether it was winter or spring, or that the person is 3 year younger than their elder sister. Instead, their “birthdate” starts when they enroll in primary school. Admission offices never ask for your birthdate. Mostly they can  guess by looking at the prospective student.

I’m lucky because my birthday is documented properly. I still remember seeing an old financial register where my name is written in Arabic script with my birthdate.

A friend from Afghanistan said to me, “I found my birth certificate when I was working on my masters degree in the United States of America.”

During wartime in Afghanistan, he was displaced several times. He lost his birth certificate during this time of upheaval. This was the first time he had seen it in 25 years. He was shocked to discover that he had aged two years without knowing it.