A birthday is a day on which we might be forgiven for feeling slightly more sovereign than those around us. Looking at examples from history can help those of us who love our birthdays feel a little bit better about any extravagances today.
Accused of going overboard on your special day? Bring up England’s King Charles II.
He held a double gala celebrating his nativity on the 29th of May along with the restoration of the monarchy in 1660. After more than a decade of unrest, Charles had returned to the throne. Plus, he was hitting the big 3-0 (probably even a bigger deal back then when life expectancy was truncated compared to now). What better excuse to throw a lavish public ceremony?
Arriving in London he was greeted by the cheering army while he exchanged his coach for a charger. Riding past he was treated to pipe music, processions of young girls dressed in white, Morris dancing, flowers strewn in his path, and tapestries strung on the houses he passed. According to a Victorian historian cited in Lewis (1976), “The different streets…exhibited a scene of splendor perhaps unparalleled in the annals of public rejoicings” (p. 83). Of course the event wrapped up with fireworks and “a profusion of wine and food” (p. 84).
If your outfit is questioned, look to the example of Kublai Khan.
Lewis (1976) quotes Marco Polo’s description of a grand festival to celebrate his majesty’s birth: “the grand Khan appears in a superb dress of gold” attended by a“full twenty thousand nobles and military officers” also clad in gold silk and ornamented with precious stones (p. 86).
That’s right. The partygoers dressed up in gold, silk and jewels too. Think of that next time someone shows up to your celebratory shindig in sweatpants!