Children love birthdays. A big to-do is made about them. In fact, ask any kid how old they are and they're likely to give you their age with some fraction attached to it. This, of course, lets you know just how close they are to their next birthday. (Such yearning to be older.)
Birthdays are all about parties, balloons, cake and presents. Lots of presents. If a birthday happens during the school year, then cupcakes are provided to the whole class. Everyone gets to enjoy a birthday!
Teenagers love birthdays. Whether it's a big celebration like a bar/bat mitzvah or sweet sixteen, the teen years get honored in a big way. Big gifts are no exception; a car or sentimental heirloom, money.
Twenty-One. No explanation needed on this one.
Then somewhere after 21, birthdays take on a different meaning. First. No one eats cake anymore (calories or some such issue) Second. People stop revealing their age.Third. Each year, rather than it being a celebration of how many years lived, birthdays become benchmarks for things like; success, marital status, accomplishments.
Depending where you are on the accomplishment spectrum; birthdays can be stressful times. If you're a woman turning 30 and not married, with kids, home in the suburbs, you've got problems (or so we've been conditioned. I'm not married, have kids or live in the suburbs.) Each birthday is reminder the "clock" is ticking. Pressure, pressure.
It's after 40, in my humble opinion, where middle ground is finally reached. Out of no where; caring about what other people think, lessens. Keeping up with the Jonese' is a thing of the past (although I do Keep up with the Kardashians sometimes). Loving the one you're with takes priority. Being in the present is easier.
Today is my birthday. I made cupcakes and am enjoying every Facebook birthday wish, text message, phone call and little warm reminders that today I'm a year older and definitely a year happier.