Ukrainian wish for birthday and other celebrations, rooted in Byzantine liturgy. Literally, many years.
I have always loved the Ukrainian version of “Happy Birthday,” which I first encountered when I met my wife’s family. In its several melodic variations, we sing it with vigor at birthday as well as anniversary and other celebrations.
This week we are celebrating a significant birthday of my wife. I have occasion once again to reflect on the wish we so joyfully extend (in this case) to the birthday girl.
“May you have many years!” So much is implied in this hopeful, even if at times plaintive wish. I remember well singing this wish for, and with, dear loved ones no longer with us. What exactly are we wishing anyway? Is the wish not fulfilled if the person does not in fact live many more years?
This takes us to the root of what we do when we celebrate birthdays. Human life is exceptionally and uniquely good, in every individual instance. A birthday celebration allows us to express this conviction both as a universal, and as regards this particular. We are so happy that YOU exist among us!
To express this affirmation is itself life-giving. It helps each of us see a basic truth about ourselves and one another.
The wish is forward looking too. You are so wonderful, and we are so grateful for your existence that we wish for many more years of it! In the end this is a three-in-one: a wish, a prayer, and a hope. We will it! We pray it! And we have confidence! Your life calls out for long extension into the future!
In reality, extended years in this world may or may not be granted to you. But this much we affirm: your very existence is precious beyond words. And we know, in the end, that we are not the only ones who think so. God will grant you many years, in his own way, in his own time. And for this we are so grateful. For what more could we possibly wish? Happy Birthday. Mnohaya lita!
Join the Community.
Become a LifeCraft Member and gain access to our online courses and exclusive content. It's FREE of charge. Period.
If you join as a contributing member, you will help make this content available to an increasing audience and enable me to spend more time in this work. I thank you in advance.
Join the LifeCraft community today and get access to:
- Man of the Household (Course)
- Woman of the Household (Course)
- Concepts Made Clear (Mini-course)
- Dinner at Home (Mini-course)
“Well, you see, my property is enough to supply me with all my needs...” Socrates, in Xenophon’s Estate Manager While Socrates was not destitute, the value of his estate was relatively low. Yet he expresses gratitude for his financial situation. He assures his friend...
“Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.” Proverbs Our failure to see the natural roles of husband and wife has real consequences. This stands to reason. When we miss the difference and...
“Beautiful things are those which please when seen.” Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae This much is clear if we have eyes to see: beauty is a first principle in the formation of the world. We could even say it is the principle. The natural world and all its processes...
Husband, father, and professor of Philosophy. LifeCraft springs from one conviction: there is an ancient wisdom about how to live the good life in our homes, with our families; and it is worth our time to hearken to it. Let’s rediscover it together. Learn more.