Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Meaning of Birthday Gifts

Yesterday, Christina, who's celebrating a birthday today, asked me why people get gifts on their birthdays. As she gets older, she'll learn not to ask a communication scholar something like that.

To help justify our spending enormous amounts of time and money in pursuing a PhD in Communication, we love to look for multiple levels of meaning in every human encounter....even "Do you want fries with that?" may have nuances of oppression that you never thought about before.

So, why do we give people gifts on their birthdays?

1. It's a way to celebrate life in general, and specifically, the life of a beloved.

2. It's a sign of our wealthy society. Remember reading Little House on the Prairie, and how little Laura was SO excited to get an orange for Christmas? Hmmmm....I dare you to try that with your kids next Christmas.

3. It gives meaning and structure to our lives. We know that when it's someone's birthday, we need to buy a gift, send a card, e-card, something, or feel bad because we didn't. It's just something we do.

4. It's fun. Really.

5. Birthday gifts are one way to express love.