Birth Day

Today is my birthday. I am not a huge celebrator (celebretarian?) of birthdays. Twice, I even forgot my own birthday, and had been up for a good number of hours until someone phoned me to congratulate me. This year I am not forgetting it. Anyway, it is very nice to be congratulated, especially for such a non-achievement 😉

So, my birthday is April 4, or 4/4.

In the mid-90s I made some visits to Japan. In Japan, numerology is not unheard of, and the number 4 is considered bad. One of its pronunciations is "shi" which is associated with death. Now "shi" can mean a lot of things, written in different characters, so why the really bad association was picked is beyond me. Maybe some pessimist 1500 years ago did that. So being born on 4/4 is not the best number. In fact, it is about the worst possible if one believes in the magic of numbers. Thankfully there are no 4s in my birth year.

The traditional five seasonal festivals are on the following dates, today usually according to the modern Japanese (= Gregorian) calendar:

1/1 The New Year - big holiday where practically everyone visits a Shinto shrine
3/3 Hina Matsuri - Doll festival, but usually seen as "Girls' Day"
5/5 Kodomo no hi - Children's Day, traditionally more of "Boy's Day"
7/7 Tanabata - "Evening of the Seventh" - which can be celebrated according to Gregorian or old lunar calendar
9/9 Chrysanthemum Day - which is not celebrated much, and which I totally missed during my stays in Japan, iirc.

Note, these dates are not all recognised holidays. There are also modern holidays, not numerically auspicious, as far as I know. But the number pattern above is quite obvious.

Now, 4/4 repeats that double number magic, but puts the deadly 4 in there. Double death. It is a sort of abomination, even anti-seasonal 😉

When I told people that my birthday was 4/4, there was expression of puzzlement, worry, maybe even worse. Occasionally, I slightly mischievously stated my birthday with a big smile, maybe confirming to the interlocutor that the gaikokujin in front of them was a fool, maybe a holy fool, or just a foreign fool. I sometimes joked with friends about it, and some laughed, some looked slightly uneasy.

But, that is not all. My younger brother is born on 5th of May, 5/5, which is about the best birth date for a boy. So sometimes I informed people of his birthday, too, so they would not think that my family was very unfortunate. To be honest, I used it once and twice as a good story, i.e. a party trick. The brothers with the worst and the best birth date, respectively. It would have been even better if I had been born -44 and my brother -55, but you cannot have it all. And we are not that old. Just saying. Even if my younger brother is grandfather.


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