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Holten: A change of tradition

Kevin Holten1 / 2
2 / 2

I have an idea. Beginning in January, let's enact some legislation that says we celebrate birthdays every two years instead of one.

In other words, we make the length of a year 24 months instead of 12, because a year is simply too short and birthdays -- for you and me -- are stacking up like Walmart shoppers at noon on Sunday.

In addition, let's make our legislation retroactive so that we divide your upcoming birthday in half. Thus, if you're about to celebrate your 88th birthday, instead you'll be celebrating your 44th.

So in one big swoop, you'll go from being 88 years old to 44, 24 to 12, 44 to 22 and 66 to 33. You've got to admit, that would feel pretty good.

Oh sure it's true that a 22-year-old might not appreciate suddenly becoming 11 years old and not being able to get into his favorite bar. But at least it'll give him a chance to relive this first 11 years (which will actually be five-and-a-half) and get it right this time.

He can ask the one girl who will go to the upcoming dance instead of the 14 others who won't. As a pitcher, he can throw a fastball instead of the hanging curve that ended up in the left-field seats. Plus, he can avoid going into the ditch instead of sailing through the upcoming curve in the highway.

I thought about this over the weekend while attending a family reunion in Bristol, S.D., where a lot of my family members said that life was going by too fast. So why not fix the problem, I thought, by slowing everything down by half? It seemed to make sense to me.

Plus, don't you hate it when someone tells the waiter that your birthday is coming up and the whole restaurant starts serenading you just after they set a piece of cake with 30, 40 or 50 candles stuffed into it in front of you? Everyone in the restaurant stares and smirks, knowing that the only people who really like that kind of attention are either 12 or very narcissistic.

When I was young, my parents gave us kids breakfast in bed on our birthday and why that seemed so fabulous at the time I don't know. Now I don't even eat breakfast at a table, preferring instead to eat it while sitting in front of a computer reading about sports, the latest catastrophe in Oklahoma or responding to emails.

Birthday celebrations originally began in ancient times as a form of protection because it was commonly believed that evil spirits were more dangerous to a person when he or she experienced a change in their daily life, such as turning one year older. So to protect them from harm, friends and family would gather around the birthday person and bring good cheers, thoughts and wishes.

The tradition of giving gifts started because that would bring even more good cheer to ward off the evil spirits and using noisemakers helped chase them away even more.

Lighting candles originated with people believing that the gods lived in the sky and, by lighting candles and torches, they were sending a signal or prayer to the gods so they could be answered. So when you blew out the candles and made a wish, this was another way of sending a signal and a message.

The Germans are given credit for starting celebrations of children's birthdays. These celebrations were called "kinderfeste" and the word "kinderfeste" is derived from the two German words, 'kinder,' meaning children, and 'feste,' meaning festival or party.

Whatever the case, perhaps George Harrison of The Beatles summed it up best when he said, "All the world is a birthday cake, so take a piece, but not too much."

I just think that one birthday every 12 months, is just too much.

Holten is the manager of The Drill. Email him at