I read today that 11,000 of the 80,000 refugees relocated to the U.S. this past year have January 1 -- *TODAY* -- as their birthdays. The date was given arbitrarily to people who came from cultures that didn't have ways or means of keeping records or simply didn't consider birthdays as significant events. Many were born in refugee camps or in war zones, or were born at home without birth certificates. Since date-of-birth is such an important concept in this country, these people were assigned January 1 and their actual ages were estimated.
Many came from poverty we can't imagine, so the thought of celebrating a birthday with a party or gifts was just as unimaginable to them.
These people came from Laos or Ethiopia, from Burma or the Sudan.
So, after a year where I missed nearly every one of my flisters' birthdays, I want to virtually acknowledge the thousands that for the first time today are having a birthday. I hope the shared experience, along with the significance of New Year's Day, make for a happy event for them.
Note: UNICEF is working to improve birth records in developing countries and deserves support. Having a valid birthdate helps ensure protection from underage military service and helps improve access to education and health care.