The Dutch have an inspiring tradition on birthdays. You just turn up on your friends’ doorstep, and they are at the door to welcome you in and take your coat—on their own birthday.
Inside, guests seated in a room-sized circle are entertaining themselves, having many conversations at once, while the ‘jarige’ (the one adding a year, or ‘year-ee’) serves everyone coffee and pastry. It’s their pleasure.
Gifts are unwrapped upon receipt.
There is no pinnacle song, candle, or surprise.
Conversations are lively—not tidy units.
Since everyone is seated, your visit takes place among an ever-changing constellation of people who settle into still-warm seats and bid farewell to those leaving in order of arrival. When it’s your turn to make room, you, too, go around to –ever so briefly– shake everyone’s hand, just as when you arrived.
Some remind you of when you will next be together –most within a month at another mutual friend’s birthday. Via whoever will see a mutual friend first, you send love, well-wishes, and so forth. Then you congratulate the ‘year-ee’ one more time as you leave.
A Dutch birthday attendee is not like an extra on a set: my visit, however brief, assured me and others: I’m alright. Otherwise, I could soon expect fruit, flowers, and well-wishing callers, myself…
Feel the centeredness of community –it’s personal.
Does this inspire how you celebrate life –or conversation?