Celebrating the day of your birth is a pagan tradition that dates back hundreds of years. Actually it was the Germans who are credited with starting the tradition of children’s birthday parties in the 1700s. They put candles on tortes for “kinderfeste,” one for each year of life, along with some extras to signify upcoming years. Historically, Christians didn’t celebrate birthdays because they believed evil spirits lurked on special days. I have one very superstitious friend who still downplays her birthday milestones fearing the celebration might attract bad luck. Another friend used to find a reason to mark every birthday with a party, lots of photos, music and dancing. Looking back it was a way for her to pack lots of living into a life cut short, way too soon. For me, it’s a bit of both. Intimate celebrations for regular birthdays and creative bashes to mark the milestones, and without a doubt, it’s definitely more fun to plan something special for someone else than to be on the receiving end.
Sometimes birthdays come with some personal emotional baggage – I remember turning 50 was a tough birthday for me – even though I was the same person the day before as the day after, it felt like I was stepping into some imaginary portal, leaving my youth behind forever. Turning 60 was a lot more fun. I’ve accepted my age and I enjoy the senior discounts that go with it. Being in my 60’s has also earned me the right to speak my mind and call out BS when I hear it. The most interesting benefit of growing older is that you lose a lot of your insecurities and gain a sense of urgency in accomplishing goals or checking off bucket list items.
As an artist, I observe and take mental notes of how people behave in different situations. Birthdays are a great source of inspiration. “Another Birthday” is a sculpture I did a few years ago based on a scene I witnessed with a family member. I tried to capture a little annoyance on the birthday girl’s face. Everyone made a fuss over her but the story I imagined was that all she really wanted was a quiet evening with a glass of sherry and a good book.
Another Birthday is now part of a private collection. It was sculpted in Living Doll Polymer Clay. The body is constructed from wood, wire and textiles. The hat, cake, dish and fork are made from Super Sculpey.