On “significant” dates

We have a friend who is heavily pregnant. Her baby was due last week, but (assuming no change since we spoke with her on Saturday) has yet to arrive. She was very concerned that her baby might arrive today, as there might be some sort of stigma or ill-fortune associated with being born on such an inauspicious date as the eleventh day of the ninth month.

Personally, I find that very hard to understand. If this held true, then the seventh day of the seventh month might also have negative connotations, particularly for Londoners. Equally, going back further in history, September 3rd might be considered a bad day (Great Britain declares that it is at war with Germany, 1939), along with December 7th (Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, 1941), August 6th (Enola Gay drops an atomic weapon on Hiroshima, 1945) and April 20th (Adolf Hitler born, 1889). And that is just taking a single cultural reference point. Naturally, from other reference points (let’s say, randomly, the history of the nation of Uganda) other dates will become important (January 25th – Idi Amin seizes power in a coup, 1971).

My point is that this is all very arbitrary and irrational. There is very rarely any significance in a date in terms of the effect that the events of previous years have on the events of years to come. Even with significant dates for religion, which might conceivably be celebrated in years to come, the authorities have a knack of screwing it up (Jesus was not born on December 25th and his death is celebrated on a different day every year).

And what of people who were born on September 11th in years before 2001? Aside from perhaps finding that their party was a bit of a damp squib that year, are they now forever stigmatised by the event? Somehow I doubt it. I used to know someone who celebrated her 40th birthday on August 31st 1997 and was mightily annoyed that the radio was full of mournful music and there wasn’t a celebratory mood (Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in a car accident in the early hours of that day). I suspect that her 41st birthday and every subsequent year has been celebrated with gusto without so much as a thought for the late princess.

In the particular case of September 11th, I’m doubly annoyed by people who are in some way frightened or disturbed by the date. Not only is it irrational and illogical, it also lends a small success to those who perpetrated the attacks in the US that day.

So, if that baby is born today, welcome to the world. The day you were born is not so important as what you do with the days that are ahead of you.

Wikipedia – September 11 in history.

UPDATE: unless it all happened very quickly in the evening, the baby was not born on September 11th, as nothing had occurred by 6pm.

2 Replies to “On “significant” dates”

  1. Well, I was born on the anniversary of the last king dying and the anniversary of the munich Aircrash. The first one affects me not at all. the second one, yes, I think it’s significant, but I’ve never let it ruin a birthday. Although if I ahd been born ten years before rather than ten years after it would certainly have ruined that birthday. Sharing it with Ronald Reagan was a downer for a while. But my mother just thinks its funny to share with Dubya. And the Dalai Lama.

    I would think a child born on 25 December has it the worst because it’s inescapable, really. And it defeats the ‘presents’ aspect of birthdays. and the ‘invite friends for parties’ aspect.

  2. My birthday is shared with Edward Lear, Dante Gabriel Rossetti and Florence Nightingale, as well as Tony Hancock, Burt Bacharach and Ian Dury. In 1994, on my birthday, John Smith died – sad, but not an event that I reflect on annually.

    Strangely, Gert, we have a George VI link as his coronation was on the date of my birthday in 1937.

    As for December 25, I pity anyone with a birthday close to that, even by a few days. "Joint" presents must be a right pain. I have a Scottish friend who was born on December 31 and finds great parties every year at which nobody remembers his birthday.

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