Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Happy Birthday to You, Happy Birthday to You ...

The west gets it wrong again.  Image taken from: here

Age Numbering System
In the western world when you're born, you're aged 0 and become 1 on your first birthday, whilst in the Arab world a baby is born aged 1 and becomes 2 a year later.  It seemed strange until I realised it's just a different way to label the same thing; an additional year is given in one of two places, the beginning or the end, depending on which system you're using.

Date of Birth
Because births went unrecorded until about 70 or 80 years ago, many older Arabs don't know when they were born and can only guess at their age and date of birth.  Not so with the younger ones and anyone who is about 60 years old or younger knows which day they were born on, even if they don’t celebrate it.

Date of Birth on the Passport
GCC passports (or at the very least Bahraini passports) state the holder's date of birth as being on the first of January, of which ever year you think you were born. For example, 01-01-28.  Husband knows his date of birth, but in his passport it's stated as being January 1st or 01-01, the same day as everyone else who was born in that particular year, in Bahrain.

Image taken from: here

Birthday Celebrations
I remember a headline in a British newspaper in March 2007 saying, "Bin Laden celebrates his birthday today" even Reuters, who should know better, said more or less the same thing here.


Birthdays in the Arab world are not celebrated in the same way as they are in the west. In Islamic terms, birthdays are not celebrated because it's thought the only thing that should be celebrated is God.

However, with the advent of greater worldwide communication and travel, children’s birthdays are being celebrated more and more often.  Parents will often buy a cake, invite the family and friends over and give presents to the child/ren. In Gulf countries where Christmas decorations are sold {see wgaw blog post: banned} these will be bought and put up, either in the house or in the garden. Happy Birthday is sung in English and the child/ren will blow out the candles on their birthday cake.

If it is decided not to hold the birthday party in the house then a party is often arranged at a local fast food restaurant.

1 comment:

Christine said...

Picture are great!