Happy New Year Means Happy Birthday For Hundreds Of Nashville Refugees
Refugee families from Myanmar and the Kurdistan region of Iraq learn "survival English" from TFLI instructor Ashley Ekers. In the last five years, placements in Tennessee have ranged from 1,000 - 1,600 a year, according toe Catholic Charities. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

Happy New Year Means Happy Birthday For Hundreds Of Nashville Refugees

Refugee families from Myanmar and the Kurdistan region of Iraq learn "survival English" from TFLI instructor Ashley Ekers. In the last five years, placements in Tennessee have ranged from 1,000 - 1,600 a year, according toe Catholic Charities. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN
Refugee families from Myanmar and the Kurdistan region of Iraq learn “survival English” from instructor Ashley Ekers. In the last five years, placements in Tennessee have ranged from 1,000 – 1,600 a year, according to Catholic Charities. Credit: Blake Farmer / WPLN

The happy new year was also a happy birthday for hundreds of refugees who now call Nashville home. Many asylum seekers are assigned January 1st when they can’t prove their date of birth.

Hussien Mohamud had more friends than he could possibly handle celebrating birthdays this week. “On my Facebook, 1,056 friends of mine get their birthday on that particular day, so it’s ridiculous,” he says.

Mohamud, who turned 25 on the 1st, swapped birthday wishes with as many fellow celebrants as he could. After arriving in the U.S. in 2012, he now works for Catholic Charities of Tennessee helping refugees find jobs in Middle Tennessee.

He was born in Somalia. His parents were nomads. A civil war was raging. They just didn’t bother to make note of what day he was born. Also, birthdays aren’t as significant as they are in American culture. So Mohamud and all of his sisters were assigned January 1st upon arriving at a refugee camp in Kenya.

It’s not an official policy of the refugee resettlement program, but it appears the practice began after the Vietnam War. More than one out of ten refugees in recent years coming to the U.S. has had a January 1st birthday.

To celebrate the new year, Mohamud and his refugee friends played a game of soccer.

“Most of my friends, we have in common that birth date,” he says. “We came together and said today we have our birthday, so let’s play a second game.”

The Facebook feeds of many refugees are filled with birthday reminders on January 1. Credit: Hussien Mohamud
The Facebook feeds of many refugees are filled with birthday reminders on January 1. Credit: Hussien Mohamud

Blake Farmer

Blake Farmer is WPLN's assistant news director, but he wears many hats - reporter, editor and host. He covers the Tennessee state capitol while also keeping an eye on Fort Campbell and business trends, frequently contributing to national programs. Born in Tennessee and educated in Texas, Blake has called Nashville home for most of his life.
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