Why do many people with a background in migration have their birthday on January 1st?

By Reem Al Sagheer

In Germany, about 416.420 people with a background in migration have their birthday on January 1st. This is according to data by the Federal Agency of Migration (BAMF). Most of them are from Syria (about 123.000), Turkey (85.000), Afghanistan (60.000) and Iraq (30.000). Other countries such as Eritrea, Morocco and Lebanon follow with fewer numbers.

Is that supposed to be a joke? Are there actually that many people who were coincidentally born on the same day or is there a reason for this date? In contrast to Germany, birthdays aren’t that important in the mentioned countries. Most people there rarely or never celebrate their birthday. In their opinion, there is nothing to celebrate about losing another year in one’s life. Others think that only achievements and self-set goals should be celebrated. Therefore, it doesn’t make sense to celebrate birthdays, as one didn’t do anything for it.

As the date of birth is unimportant, authorities in, for example, Syria, only document the year of birth, however, the day and month aren’t recorded. In Germany however, the entire date is important. If it is missing, German authorities usually settle on January 1st. Consequently, it seems as though many people in Germany with a migration background were born on January 1st.

However, there is another reason for this. Many Syrians report from their own experience that some parents belatedly register their children with an earlier date than their actual birthday. By doing this, they want to enable earlier access to school for their children. Consequently, the parents age up their children, as the Ministry of Education only accepts children as students when they are six years old. However, many parents want to send their kids to school earlier to gain a year. Despite this benefit, some parents regret documenting a wrong birthday in their children’s passport. Many children complain about this wrong date to their parents. This is because for many people in the younger generation, it has become more important to celebrate the actual birthday or to have it in their passport. They don’t want to be one of the many people born on January 1st.


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