The tradition of honoring birthdays has its roots in sources as diverse as pagan beliefs, ancient Greek texts and German children's celebrations of the 1700s. Just as various cultures celebrate birthdays differently -- the Chinese tradition of eating long noodles and breaking open the Mexican birthday pinata -- people from around the world put their own linguistic spins on this special day. In Jamaican Rastafarian culture and derivations of the Patois language, “earthstrong” refers to your date of birth.
The Development of a Language
Earthstrong and other Rasta-influenced words come from a long linguistic history. Rastafarians between the 1950s and 1990s developed their own version of the English dialect Jamaican Creole or Patwa, a language that chiefly developed from the interaction of British colonists and African slaves in the 17th century. The Rastafarians' language is known as "Iyaric," and, as Ras Dennis Jabari Reynolds explains in his Jabari Authentic Jamaican Dictionary of the Jamic Language, the language developed in the "spirit of self-determination."
Earthstrong In Use
As a term for birthday, earthstrong -- pronounced “urt-strang” -- focuses on the Iyaric principles of empowerment through words and sounds. While the word “birthday” is literal, referring to the day of your birth, earthstrong alludes to the concept of cultivating a stronger connection with the earth each passing year, where earth means the international community. According to Reynolds' the words “birthstrong” and “earthday” can stand in for earthstrong. Earthstrong may be used much like “birthday” in phrases such as “happy earthstrong, breda,” meaning “brother” or "happy earthstrong, sista,” for the informal “sister.”
More to Know
Earthstrong is not the only Iyaric word that refers to the concept of earth. In fact, earthstrong itself is an “earthical” word, meaning it deals with the power within the earth. Similarly, the term “earthforce” references the mystical or almighty presence of God. Both “earthquake” and “earthwine” play on the natural properties of earth; the first refers to the concept of damnation, while the second simply means water, especially that of a well or spring.
The 1 Love Earthstrong Festival, a California-based Reggae music concert and celebration of the Caribbean lifestyle, takes its name from the Iyaric word. The festival that originated in 2011 features Jamaican food, art and music.
- CBS Minnesota WCCO: Good Question: How Did Birthday Traditions Start?
- Mental Floss: Seven Birthday Traditions from Around the World
- University of Essex: Jamaican Creole Morphology and Syntax
- Jabari: Authentic Jamaican Dictionary of the Jamic Language: Ras Dennis Jabari Reynolds
- The Trinidad Guardian: A Rastafari Dictionary
- Carnegie Mellon University: Religions and Cultures of Africa and the Americas
- KCRW: Third Annual Earth Strong Festival 2014
- Mixtecs, Zapotecs and Chatinos: Ancient Peoples of Southern Mexico: Arthur A. Joyce
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