An Awfully Tone-Deaf Birthday Tradition


Adults and toddlers, gathered around the dessert table in the dining room, screaming, gargling, laughing, chortling – all in the name of singing Happy Birthday to my brother. 

We know the drill well – if it’s someone’s birthday, you MUST sing the song in the most awful, yodel-y, ear splitting, tone deaf way you possibly can. And if this doesn’t sum up my brother’s group of friends in one stanza, I don’t know what will.

My brother, Christian, is a firm believer that friends are family, and that bond between them, including their significant others and children, should be kept strong. While I have no idea why or how this birthday tradition was started, I do recognize its importance. Traditions are what make communities feel consistent and recognizable from year to year. Traditions are what keep people coming back.

After the song was over, my brother said to the crowd, “And that, is how we sing happy birthday.” He made sure he explained what had just happened to the people who may have never witnessed it before. I guarantee that at the next birthday, those new-comers will immediately remember what to do when it comes time to present the cake.

A good tradition should be the following:

  • Memorable – Silly, hysterical, impactful, whatever it is – it should not be easily forgotten, so that the next time comes as naturally as the last.
  • Positive – It maybe be fun, funny, or just beautiful and meaningful, as long as it is something a person would want to experience over and over.
  • Fitting – My brother and his friends are a crazy group of awesome people. This tradition, while it may make no sense at an accounting firm, makes perfect sense with them. It really explains their “culture” as a group.

Traditions within your organization, family, friends, institution, etc., are the types of things you will look back on fondly. And it’s never too late to start one!

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