If you think about it, the concept of birthdays is a strange one. We commemorate the day we were born – a day which we can’t remember and which we didn’t have much physical participation in. Wouldn’t it make sense to remember the day we said our first words? Or the day we took our first steps? Maybe the date of our earliest memories? But no, we celebrate this day of all days in the year as something special.
When I was a kid, birthdays just didn’t feel like regular days. They felt magical, full of special occurrences, little traditions and big wrapped gifts. My mother would read me The Birthday Bird book by Dr. Seuss every birthday morning, and then the whole family would go out to a hidden picnic table in my favorite park to eat cupcakes, play Frisbee, talk and watch the sunset through the distant skyscrapers.
Today felt like a pretty normal day, despite being my nineteenth birthday. But then, that’s what happens as you get older. Birthdays stop being magical and become just… nothing much. There are still presents and there’s still some fuss made with friends and loved ones, but the magic is gone from the day. It’s bittersweet, really, because although I miss the special fuzzy feeling that I got on my birthdays, I also appreciate that I’m wiser now and more willing to find magic in my daily routines and simple pleasures instead of putting all my excitement about life into one day of the year.
Independence Day in Israel falls on a different date every year. It is celebrated on the same date in the Jewish calender, but it’s very different from the common calender that most of us use – the one with January, February etc. The Jewish calender is actually based on the cycles of the moon – by looking at the Jewish calendar I can always know when it’s going to be a full moon and when there isn’t going to be a visible moon at all. It’s quite comfy.
No matter when Independence Day falls here, though, whether in April or May, it is always celebrated in the exact same fashion all over the country. On the Eve of it, there are performances in every city, some streets are closed off so people can roam freely in certain areas, and the same pointless, useless, dumb junk is sold all over. One time, I bought a headband with orange or pink pom-poms standing up on it. I think I purchased a necklace one time as well. Still, this year I saw my favorite pointless junk, but I refrained from buying it – sunglasses with little light bulbs all around the rims that flash on and off in different colors. Sensible, stylish and not at all tacky, I say!
That’s only one part of the holiday, though. On the day itself, the skies of Israel are blurred with smog and smoke – everyone, simply everyone, has barbecues. EVERYONE. There isn’t a free grassy knoll or an empty park bench to be found anywhere.
If someone could explain to me how any of this is supposed to symbolise patriotism for the state of Israel, I would appreciate it.