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Occasions for greeting cards


The birthday party

The custom to make a person’s day of birth to his or her great day as practiced nowadays in most countries of the modern world is, indeed, not yet old. First, it required the change of former prevailing mental attitudes that appreciates an individual’s value and uniqueness of life. Initially, it developed gradually in Europe in the course of the Renaissance in the 15th century. Primarily, princes were celebrated by their subjects since the princes’ and princesses’ exact day of birth within a year often was well known. However, you could not yet find any governmental administrations registering a fixed date of births, marriages or deaths, and those who were responsible for keeping the church registers often failed to complete their records promptly. Consequently, it was usual to register an estimated date based on hearsay or simply the month or year. Illiterate people kept uninformed, and parents did in general not worry when, for instance, applying for registering a new born baby. The day of birth was not as important for them as the day of christening, the name day, on which the eponymous patron saint of the child to be baptized was honored and not the new born child. Only the development of a modern administration that combined name and birth date for registration resulted in the fact that individuals were identifiable.

Reformation and Enlightenment had the effect that European people became aware of their individualism. In the 18th century many of them were already able to read and write, and richer families imitated aristocracy by arranging birthday parties for relatives. The poorer social classes could not waste their working time with these activities. In the course of the 19th century the custom to celebrate birthday reached large cities, and finally at the beginning of the 20th century it was generally practiced. Why is this celebration so attractive? Probably, the individual feels to be the focus for a short time in a closer world. For 24 hours life is focused on him or her independent of ethnic origin or nationality or religion. Everybody can celebrate or arrange it according to his or her culture. This, however, was and is not always and everywhere like this.

In all cultures festivities are celebrated as rituals at a certain time, e.g. birth and death, first and last day at school, majority and weddings, but birthday celebration is not even known to all people on earth. Old Egyptians would already have been able to celebrate birthday since they had a quite precise calendar- we don’t know whether they did so. It is established that Romans celebrated their patron god’s birthday, but not their own, believing that he had been present on birth. That day, offerings such as food, drinks, and fragrances were presented to him.

Although Bible knows some birthdays, church has been rejecting them for a long time as a pagan custom. Johovah’s witnesses reject them up to the present day as well as Christmas, the birthday of Jesus Christ, which is regarded as sinful. Many Moslems celebrate birthdays. However, the Koran’s orthodox interpretation finally does not allow this as it is an imitation of a Christian-Jewish custom. Besides, it is known that also Prophet Mohammed did not celebrate his birthday. Some countries such as Great Britain or the Netherlands still continue to celebrate their monarchs’ birthdays. Even if people become sometimes painfully aware of their advanced age on birthday, it may be assumed that only few of them will not be touched when others are happy that they were born and that they exist and are accepted as a personality. This may be the reason for the fact that the custom to celebrate birthday with gifts, personal congratulation or by letter and greeting cards spread throughout the world.

Günter Garbrecht 2014

Examples for Birthday Cards

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