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Birthdays Are America's Favorite Reason To Celebrate
People around the world celebrate birthdays with cakes and candles, presents and birthday cards, which became popular in England and the United States about 1850, shortly after the first Christmas card. But that wasn't always the case.
No one celebrated birthdays before 4000 B.C. because there was no way to keep track of time. People could figure out how old they were only after the calendar was invented. But even then, only kings celebrated birthdays because no records were kept on the births of common people, says Sharman Robertson, archivist and historian at Hallmark Cards, Kansas City, Mo.
After the Greeks began to compile statistics for tax and military purposes, only heads of important families were allowed to celebrate their birthdays.
Today, Americans are taught from youth to celebrate birthdays. The need to seek rituals that reinforce a sense of shared values is strong, and birthdays offer that opportunity for most Americans. During the past century, birthdays have become more important as they are a celebration of relationships.
An emerging trend in Hallmark birthday cards is toward a philosophical look at what life should hold – all year long, not just on the day – a focus on family, friendship, good memories and meaning in life, rather than partying, celebrating and focusing on material possessions.
Over time, birthday cards have become more specific, and today Hallmark makes cards for stepfamily members, boyfriend, girlfriend, baby-sitter, business associates (boss, for example), and a wide range of love and friendship relationships. As people live longer, Hallmark has seen an increase in demand for cards for 100th birthday.
For most people, recognition on the actual birthday "day" is critical, because on that day the recipient allows him/herself to remain in a state of "emotional availability." A birthday is a culturally sanctioned event – your personal day when "permission" is given for others to acknowledge you and your relationship. Thoughts and feelings, sometimes not said all year, are easy to say on someone's birthday – it's a unique moment to share feelings.
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