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.”