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Anne Ku at Ilp in May 2001
Anne Ku writes about her travels, conversations, thoughts, events, music, and anything else that is interesting enough to fill a web page. She has written and produced two chamber operas, premiered in Utrecht, Netherlands. See her publication list for more.
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Bon Journal

Birthday reminder by e-mail or Dutch calendar

The Dutch have a tradition of keeping an annual calendar in the toilet. It's usually a long narrow top-down flip-chart type calendar containing birthdays of friends and family. For five years I've had the intention of following that custom, but sadly the intention is now being usurped by e-mail notices from Plaxos and Facebook. There is no need to remember birthdays of loved ones anymore.

For the Dutch, one's birthday is just about the most important celebration of the year, even surpassing funerals and wedding anniversaries. It's the one day that you can expect your friends and family members to show up, unannounced.

Typically it goes like this. You congratulate all family members of the birthday boy when you enter the room.

"Gefeliciteerd," you say to the father, mother, and sister.

You get offered a cup of coffee.

You sit down.

You might get introduced to someone else who arrives or who is already there.

You're offered a piece of cake or a slice of their famous Dutch apple pie.

You may remain seated, in a row, in silence or chat to the person next to you. There is no host or hostess who attempts to make you comfortable or try to engage in a party-like atmosphere. You're simply there, known and recognised by the birthday boy, and it's your gift to be present.

By the time the second cup of coffee is offered, you know it's time to go.

That's what I've been told, anyway.

Unfortunately, I've never had the desire to organise a birthday party for myself in the Netherlands. I'd rather celebrate the 10th anniversary of my first website, on the Ides of March in 2009. I'd rather run away, like I did in 2004, to Taiwan, only to be confronted with girlfriends my age, all with family, careers, and children.

"What do you want for your birthday?" I was once asked by someone whose birthday I've just been reminded of recently. "A one way ticket to paradise," I replied.

But if home is where the heart is, why should I need to run away at all?

3 February 2009

Related links:
Queen's Birthday in Amsterdam
Full moon birthday
Year of the cat
Happy birthday my friend