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  • Writer's pictureSouth Lyon Church

Happy Birthday

We have been visiting Holly’s mom this week. We always try to go see her in January each year, partially because it is warmer in South Texas than Michigan that time of year and it is nice to get a break from winter. We also choose this time of year because her mom’s birthday is in mid-January.

Speaking of birthdays, have you ever wondered where the idea of celebrating birthdays came from? Being the inquisitive, curious person I am, I have. So I used that “how did we get along with out it service” we have called the internet to look it up.

According to what I could find, this celebration started with the Egyptians, though it wasn’t for the common person. It also wasn’t a celebration of the day the Pharaoh was born, but the day they were considered a god. As this pagan celebration shifted to a celebration of the birth of even the most average person, it was rejected by Christians because of its association with the spirit world. Not that the common man became a god, but that evil spirits lurked on days of major events like turning a year older, therefore Christians avoided the concept until the 4th century.

Candles came about as a response to the evil spirits, as a light against the darkness. And that song we sing, “Happy Birthday to You” (which Guinness Book of World Records says is the most recognizable song) isn’t an original song. It is an adaption of a song from 1893 sung to school children called “Good Morning to You”, they just changed some of the words. It is interesting to see how something, like celebrating birthdays, is so accepted and common in our culture; but, was much different in its origins. But isn’t that how things go? We adapt and change to meet the events of the day and hardly recognize the original meaning as time goes on.

I remember shortly after becoming a Christian when I was a graduate student studying atmospheric science, I was reading the Bible and thinking how different the practices that I was reading about were when compared to what we were doing in the present. The church had adapted, had changed to stay in step with the culture we live in. It had adapted to meet the events of the day. As I looked at these changes more, it appeared that some of them had become untouchable, with no reasoning behind it. The change that was originally made to better serve, instruct, or encourage, had somewhere down the line become the way it had to be done. We call this a tradition.

Now tradition has become a negative word, but there is no reason it has to be bad. It is good to examine traditions to understand the why. It’s not a bad thing that we celebrate a person’s birth, but it is also interesting to know why. Over the next couple of weeks in this blog we will look at some of the traditions in the religious world and where they came from to help understand God a little better and know how to explain Him to others!

Celebrating understanding,



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