This post is also available in: Dutch.

My birthday was last week. With now twenty-four times the cycle of more or less 365 days on the clock, I am really almost halfway through my twenties. Of course, even far away from home, here on the island, a celebration was in order.

Animals do things a little different. Their birthdays go by quietly, no more and no less important than any other day. As a lion you don’t have to count on a fresh, young zebra as a gift from the clan, and if your family wasn’t around to begin with, they are surely not about to visit just for this occasion. You see, for animals, life has a beginning and an end, and that’s it.

In-laws & turtle soup


Baby sea turtles.

Most animals, of course, live much shorter lives than humans. Take for example the well-known may-fly or dayfly. If these animals were to celebrate their birthday, it would be a sad story. Your only day on this beautiful earth and then your in-laws are visiting the entire time, no thanks. Late birthday cards would get an extra, gruesome dimension, simultaneously lying in the mailbox with the condolences.
Quite differently it would be for sea turtles, of which there are five types residing in the waters surrounding Curaçao, which live very long lives. See, the turtle does everything very slowly, resulting in a long life of up to 150 years. A hundred and fifty birthdays, the thought alone… At the pace sea turtles live, most birthday cards would arrive late, but that wouldn’t be much of a problem. But before you know it, the local community of fishermen gets wind of turtle birthday and your entire family is served as soup the very next day. Better not.

The only animals which celebrate their birthdays to an extent are pets with overenthusiastic owners. Owners that put a little hat on their cat or dog, put a candle in the food and then post 46 pictures of it on Facebook. The animal itself has no clue why its owner is behaving so strangely, but all the attention is nice and the food, like any other day, tastes pleasantly.

Another year alive

Birthday cake at work.

Birthday cake at work.

But other than a few confused pets, animals don’t tend to celebrate their birthdays. Humans do. Humans are the only animals that like to celebrate every year they have managed to survive, with cake, presents and in the company of friends and family. It was no different last week, on my 24th birthday. At my internship I was presented with a lovely piece of chocolate cake (complete with a candle in it), from the Netherlands I was overloaded with birthday wishes from family and friends, along with some gifts in the mail and in the evening my girlfriend and I dined at the beach, in honor of yet another year alive. Even though I am not the type to broadcast my birthday to everyone, I secretly do enjoy all the birthday fuzz. This year again, I enjoyed every bit of it.

As a great admirer of nature and the animal kingdom, I sometimes regret not being an animal myself. Not last week though. Last week it was nice to be human.