This week my friend Theophilus had his 10th birthday. It reminded me of a family tradition when I was growing up: the birthday spanking! We would be spanked – gingerly – once for each year of life, culminating with a stiff “pinch to grow an inch.” This millennia-old tradition, known back as far as the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Celts, is less popular in the US than it used to be, but is still practiced in many European nations.
Birthday spankings go back to the traditional smack on the derriere given by the doctor to a newborn baby. That “birth day” spank encouraged the newborn to cry and take its first breath of life.
I’ve learned of a restaurant in Kansas that gives its patrons a half-off birthday dinner if they are willing to get a birthday spanking. A birthday paddle with the patron’s name is then placed on the restaurant wall. Even President Dwight Eisenhower was paddled there on his 75th birthday for a discounted plate of fried chicken, pork chops, and country fried steak!
Birthday traditions come in many different sizes and shapes, but the most important birthday is the one when you were born again.
And Jesus said to him, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again.” (John 3:6-7).