A Birthday is Important to Celebrate


Birthdays Are Special

On June 20, 2024, the great State of West Virginia celebrated its 161st birthday. On June 24, 2024, the author of this blog celebrated his 37th birthday.

I have always enjoyed birthdays and the concomitant celebrations. Until this year, I’ve not really given much thought as to why I have always had such an affinity for birthdays – both my own and for those special people in my life. Christmas and Easter are great days, no doubt, but each holiday is a shared celebration with deep religious significance and embedded thick sociocultural ties. Birthdays are simply about an individual or entity, and that’s where the focus remains throughout the day.

At their core, birthdays are about recognizing the unique value someone, or something, provides to those around them. It’s an excuse for a pause and reflection both on the value one’s presence creates, and in a slightly more rueful way, the hole one’s absence would create. In an ironic way, birthdays and funerals share this trait. I think that is why I like birthdays so much – they’re the closest thing we will get to being at our own funeral.


West Virginia Day: A State’s Birthday

June 20, 2024, “West Virginia Day,” was just about West Virginia and what the beautiful state has meant to generations of West Virginians. I read many beautiful soliloquies about the love and respect for the state passed down from grandfather to son and grandson and grandmother to daughter and granddaughter. All along my X (formerly Twitter) timeline, progressives, conservatives, elderly, teens, rich and poor alike, commenting on the impact that West Virginia has had on their respective paths. It was a wonderfully unifying day. 161 years of this beautiful “Mountain Mama” being a prideworthy home for millions of West Virginians.


Youth & Aging

I have also observed this phenomenon for a person’s birthday. In-laws, friends, colleagues, friends – old and new alike – acquaintances, former teachers, etc., all taking time out of their day to wish someone a happy birthday. Beautiful.

Some years ago, likely after I crossed the 30th birthday threshold, I began saying “it’s better than the alternative” when people would wish me a happy birthday and would inevitably ask, “how old are you now?” It was a fun and pithy response, but I began to dwell on just how true it was, and it gets truer every year.

Our culture, more than most, values youth over age, which makes sense on some levels. The United States thinks of itself as a young country. It is dynamic, energetic, and innovative, all of which are coded as youthful traits. One finds a sense of impending doom in such a youth-venerating culture as one’s birthday approaches. So it was important for me to fight that doomful sense, hence, “better than the alternative.”

As every year passes, I appreciate my birthday and the birthdays of those around me that much more. I love all of it – the kitsch, the maudlin, sugary remembrances and sugary cake, presents, cards, etc. I save every birthday card I receive. And, when the occasion calls for it, I will pull a few random cards out of the pile to read. It’s good for the soul.


Celebrating A Birthday As Part of Male Friendship

If I could be permitted a brief detour and speak directly to men: enjoy and celebrate your birthday. The women in your life love it, and your children enjoy it. You should, as well. Dive in. It also gives other men in your life an excuse to spend time with you, purchase a gift for you, and demonstrate, in an acceptably masculine way, that they value and appreciate you. The death of male friendship as a man ages is terrible in so many ways. Birthdays are a brief, but useful, salve against this trend.

Every year, the third week of June is a great week for me – family, friends, and fun. I hope you have a similar experience for your birthday and that you go the extra mile to celebrate others on their special day.

Happy birthday, West Virginia, and happy birthday to all of you.


The Cardinal Institute for West Virginia Policy works alongside Mountaineers to build a West Virginia Miracle founded on economic freedom, education freedom, worker freedom, and a culture of freedom enshrined in the state motto: Mountaineers are Always Free.

To keep up with our work to promote free markets, individual liberty, and
limited government in West Virginia, please sign up for our email list.

Thank you for helping us build the West Virginia Miracle!