Br(u)no: How to Celebrate a Birthday in Brno
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My wife is proof that spreading fake news works. Every birthday she says that she is 25 years old. She has repeated it so many times that I am actually unable to remember the correct number. I can figure it out by doing the math — but who wants to do math?
She looks young, so there is enough truth to make 25 reasonable. Ergo, like a gullible citizen who believes everything that the government says, I’ve let that number settle into my consciousness.
My daughter takes the exact opposite view of birthdays. In fact, it is all that she has talked about for months. She just turned 5.
The planning of the party was a long process. We decided to have a small group at BRuNO Family Park. The guest list came exclusively from preschool, and it went through several changes over the past month as friendships bloomed and wilted. (Even the younger brother has, at times, been disinvited.)
In any case, the invitations were printed out and hand-colored. The names of each recipient were written out in the penmanship of the soon-to-be-5-year-old. And they were hand delivered to excited toddlers. Hopefully all of the kids will run around and have fun, while the adults can sit back and relax.
Gifts, of course, have been discussed several times. I am clearly out of touch with the things kids find important. (What the hell is a muffin-top doll?) She’s getting a book from me: “Rooster’s Voice” by Corona Cermak, a local writer originally from Tanzania.
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I trust that the 5-year-old birthday will be fun. Generally, though, people age out of birthday excitement. I usually don’t care, although I am getting up to where the number is starting to annoy me so I don’t often offer it up.
I’ve been to a lot of birthday recognitions here in Brno. It is different from birthdays in America. Basically, here, the birthday celebrant is expected to provide the festivities. That means bringing chlebíčky or chocolate or alcohol to your own party. Friends and family may provide presents, but you provide the sweets.
And, here in the Czech Republic, years that are divisible by 10 have more significance. Fifty, in my experience, is the big one, especially in villages.
America ascribes importance to different birthdays:
- Sixteen means no more school bus or bumming rides because you can finally drive a car. (And own one if you spent your summers mowing lawns.) Czechs can drive from 18.
- Twenty-one is when you can drink alcohol. Legally, that is. (Now that I have drunk alcohol during local high school-sponsored stužkovák celebrations, I find it crazy that I had had to wait until my third year of university to legally drink a beer.) Czechs can drink from 18.
- Twenty-five is when, according to actuarial charts, you (magically) become a responsible adult. In other words, the price of your auto insurance goes down. Auto insurance is not ridiculously expensive here.
- Forty is when you are over the hill. The first four decades are up hill; the rest is downhill. I asked people to wear black, as though they were going to a funeral, when I celebrated mine.
We’ve decided in my family to follow the Czech system. That means we’ll do it up for 5, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 and, in three years, my 50th. (Holy cow! I don’t feel that old.)
Maybe I should use the fake-news strategy, too.
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