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Birthday is the name given to the particular date each year on which people in many cultures celebrate the anniversary they were born. It is traditionally marked by a birthday party or, in some particular cases, a rite of transition.
It is thought the large-scale celebration of birthdays in Europe began with the cult of Mithras, which originated in Persia but was spread by soldiers throughout the Roman Empire. Such celebrations were uncommon previously so practices from other contexts such as the Saturnalia were adapted for birthdays. Because many Roman soldiers took to Mithraism, it had a wide distribution and influence throughout the empire until it was supplanted by Christianity. The Jewish perspective on birthday celebrations is disputed by various rabbis.
The celebration of birthdays is not universal. Some people prefer name day celebrations[who?], and Jehovah's Witnesses do not celebrate either, considering their origins to be pagan festivals along with Christmas and Easter.
- 1 Birthday cake
- 2 Traditions
- 3 Special birthdays
- 4 Timezone issues
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- Main article: Birthday cake
The birthday cake is traditionally highly decorated, and typically covered with lit candles when presented, the number of candles signifying the age of the celebrant. The person whose birthday it is may make a silent wish and then blow out the candles. It is also customary for the person celebrating their birthday to cut the initial piece of the cake as a newlywed couple might with a wedding cake.
Birthday cakes date back as far as the Middle Ages when the English would conceal symbolic items such as gold coins, rings and thimbles inside their cakes. Each item was associated with a prediction. For example, a person finding a gold coin in a birthday cake would supposedly become wealthy; a person discovering a thimble would never marry.
Sometimes special candles are substituted for the many individual candles in the shape of a numeral. For example, on the fifth birthday, there may be one candle on the cake in the shape of the numeral five, and on the fiftieth birthday there may be two candles on the cake, one in the shape of the numeral five followed by the other in the shape of the number zero.
In addition to parties, it is often common for people to receive gifts on their brithdays. There are also traditions of surprise parties. However, in certain circles[who?], it is expected of the person celebrating their birthday to treat their party guests instead; this varies depending on the local culture and may involve party gifts or other gestures.
In most English-speaking countries it is traditional to sing the song Happy Birthday to You to the honored person celebrating a birthday. The Happy Birthday song tune is thought[who?] to be the most frequently sung melody in the world. Similar songs exist in other languages such as "Lang zal hij/zij leven" in Dutch, "Zum Geburtstag Viel Glück" in German, "Que los cumplas feliz" or "Feliz cumpleaños a tí" in Spanish, "Parabéns a você" in Portuguese, Sto lat" in Polish, "Lá Bhreithlá Shona Duit" in Irish, "Joyeux Anniversaire" in French, "Tanti Auguri a te" in Italian and "Iyi ki dogdun, Mutlu Yillar Sana" in Turkish.
Special birthdaysA birthday cake
- In most legal systems, one becomes a legal adult on a particular birthday (often 18th or 21st), and at different ages gains different rights and responsibilities — voting, certain drug use (for example, alcohol, purchasing tobacco), eligibility for military draft or voluntary enlistment, purchasing lottery tickets, vehicle driving licences, etc.
- Many cultures have one or more coming of
- Jewish boys have a bar mitzvah on or around their 13th birthday. Jewish girls observe a bat mitzvah on or around their 12th birthday, or sometimes on or around their 13th birthday in Reform and Conservative Judaism.
- In some Christian traditions, generally Catholic and Anglican, Confirmation is the ritual by which a young person receives a Sacrament thought to bestow certain gifts of the Holy Spirit. The timing of the reception of this Sacrament serves, on a sociological level, as a sort of "rite of passage" into adulthood.
- In Latin America the quinceañera celebration traditionally marks a girl's 15th birthday.
- Some girls and a few boys in the United States have "sweet sixteen" birthday parties.
- In the United Kingdom 18th and 21st are traditional coming of age birthdays.
- In many Asian countries, the 14th birthday is celebrated as the day one becomes a man, or a woman, in society.
- Many Filipino girls celebrate their 18th birthdays with a cotillion and debutante ball, commonly known as a debut.
- The birthdays of historically significant people, like national heroes or founders, are often commemorated by an official holiday. Some saints are remembered by a liturgical feast (sometimes on a presumed birthday). By analogy, the Latin term Dies natalis is applied to the anniversary of an institution (such as a university).
Some notables, particularly monarchs, have an official birthday on a fixed day of the year, which may not necessarily match their actual birthday, but on which celebrations are held. Examples are:
- The King's or Queen's Official Birthday in Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom; in Canada this day is known as Victoria Day.
- Jesus of Nazareth's traditional birthday is celebrated as Christmas Day around the world: 25 December. As some Eastern churches use the Julian calendar, 25 December falls on 7 January in the Gregorian calendar every year until 2100.
- The Grand Duke's Official Birthday in Luxembourg: 23 June.
- The King's official birthday in Belgium: November 15 (on saint Leopold, liturgical feast of the dynasty's founder's patron saint).
- The Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia celebrates his federal official birthday on the first Saturday of June.
- Koningsdag or Koninginnedag in the Kingdom of the Netherlands is fixed on 30 April (Queen's Day; celebration of the reigning Queen's accession). Queen Beatrix fixed it at the birthday of her mother, the previous Queen, to avoid the winter weather associated with her own birthday in January.
While it is uncommon to have an official holiday for a republican head of state's birthday, this can become a permanent posthumous honour, especially in the case of a so-called father of the fatherland, for example George Washington (best known as Presidents' Day; also celebrated in the US is Lincoln's Birthday.)
In some Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox countries such as France, Hungary, or Greece, it is common to have a 'name day'/'Saint's day'. This is celebrated in much the same way as a birthday, but is held on the official day of a saint with the same Christian name as the birthday person; the difference being that one may look up a person's name day in a calendar, or easily remember common name days (for example, John or Mary); however in pious traditions, the two were often made to concur by giving a newborn the name of a saint celebrated on its birthday, or even the name of a feast, for example, Noel or Pascal (French for Christmas and "of Easter"). In some countries[who?][original research?], name days are celebrated with much more elaborate festivities than birthdays; in the past, birthdays often were not celebrated at all in those countries.
People born on February 29, which occurs only during leap years, often celebrate their birthday in other years on February 28, or March 1 (the first day they have, measured in whole years, a new age).[original research?]
In school, a half-birthday or other unbirthday is sometimes celebrated for those whose birthdays do not fall on a school day (especially for birthdays falling during holiday and vacation periods).[original research?]
A person's birthday is usually recorded according to the time zone of the place of birth. Thus people born in Samoa at 11:30 PM will record their birthdate as one day before Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and those born in the Line Islands will record their birthdate one day after UTC. They will apparently be born two days apart, while some of the apparently older ones may be younger in hours. Those who live in different time zones from their birth often exclusively celebrate their birthdays at the local time zone. In addition, the intervention of Daylight Saving Time can result in a case where a baby born second being recorded as having been born up to an hour before their predecessor.
- Various birthdays are mentioned on the pages devoted to each day of the year, from January 1 to December 31
- Birthday paradox
- Birthday attack
- East Asian age reckoning - a different method of age reckoning to birthdays that is used in some Asian countries.
- Death anniversary
- Decimal Birthday
- Zodiac stones
- ^ Reb Chaim HaQoton: Happy Birthday! April 17, 2007
- ^ WRAL.com Daylight-Saving Causes Twin Arrival Pickle
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