It's a no brainer that birthdays mean different things to different people. Some people take it to be a time when they can hoard attention, when they get free gifts, and when they have an excuse to have fun. Others take it to be something completely arbitrary and meaningless - after all, your birthday really just depends on the calendar system that you happen to use.
I agree that the actual date of your birthday is quite arbitrary, but to me birthdays do have a special meaning: it is the realization and celebration of something that we take for granted -- the existence of a particular individual. For me, this realization and celebration is felt strongly only for people who are either closest to me, or whose existence had a lot of positive impacted on me, or whom I felt was really worth celebrating. When I say "happy birthday" to them, what I really mean is, "thank you for your existence, you are truly worth celebrating."
Yes, I have said watered down versions of "happy birthday" before, but I try to avoid it. It's why I don't show my birthday on my facebook. (I actually have a friend whose wall is covered with nothing but birthday greetings, and if you look carefully you'll see that these greetings are actually from a few different years!)
Since I'm being so secretive, I was astonished that there are people who actually remembered my birthday this year. I wasn't expecting anyone to remember, and I know that correlating how much a person cares about me with their ability to remember an arbitrary date is naiive. I expected my birthday to be something just between me and "life", and no one else. So this was truly a surprise.
I was also astonished at how smoothly that day went. I got practically everything I could ever want -- not in terms of presents of course, but in terms of the things that matters more. People were really, superbly good to me, even though they probably had no clue that it was my birthday...
Well, if you happen to know who you are ... =)
End of Entry