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It is customary in many cultures to celebrate the anniversary of one's birthday, for example by having a birthday party with family and/or friends. Gifts are often given to the person celebrating the birthday. It is also customary to treat people specially on their birthday, either generally acceding to their wishes, or subjecting them to a rite of transition.
It is thought that 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. Before this, such celebrations were not common; and, hence, 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. where the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem are listed, in the order of the Roman calendar:
19 And the foundations of the wall of the city were garnished with all manner of precious stones. The first foundation was jasper; the second, sapphire; the third, a chalcedony; the fourth, an emerald;
20 The fifth, sardonyx; the sixth, sardius; the seventh, chrysolyte; the eighth, beryl; the ninth, a topaz; the tenth, a chrysoprasus; the eleventh, a jacinth; the twelfth, an amethyst.
Just as there are alternatives with birthstones, there are also alternatives with birth flowers. For example, October is often listed as Calendula (Marigold) , but is also occasional noted as being rose or camellia.
A person's birthday is usually recorded according to the time zone of the place of birth. Thus people born in Samoa at 11:30pm will record their birthdate as one day before 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.
While this word has also been used as synonym of Birth stone (see above), there is a separate list of assignment according to the day of the week of the recipient's birth:
The birthday cake is traditionally highly decorated, and typically covered with lit candles when presented; the number of candles often equals the age of the person. The person whose birthday it is makes a silent wish and then blows out the candles; if done in one breath, the wish is supposed to come true, but only if the person keeps the wish to himself (or herself). It is also common for the "birthday boy" or "birthday girl" to cut the initial piece of the cake as a newlywed couple might with a wedding cake.
A birthday is considered a special day for the person, and so the person will often get special treatment from friends and family. This is especially true for children who cannot wait for their own special day. In addition to parties, people often get gifts on their birthday.
Birthday parties for children often include fun games which are relevant to the local culture.
There are also traditions of surprise parties.
Not all traditions are equally generous. In certain circles the birthday boy or girl is expected to treat their party guests, this varies depending on the local culture and may involve party gifts or a nice gesture. In some cultures the birthday that means reaching the legal age limit for drinking alcohol may be celebrated with a party with free or abundant alcoholic drinks.
When the most significant digit changes, for example one's 1st, 10th, 15th, 30th, 50th, or 100th birthdays, as well as significant years such as the 18th (Legal adult age in many western countries including US, UK and Aus, UK alcoholic beverage drinking age), 21st (US alcoholic beverage drinking age), and 13th (when someone officially becomes a teenager).
One's golden birthday, also called a champagne birthday, is the day when the age someone turns is the same as the day in the month he or she was born. (for example, someone turning 26 on December 26 celebrates his or her golden birthday).
In most legal systems, one becomes a legal adult on a particular birthday (often 18th or 21st), and at different ages gain 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 age birthdays:
- 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 becomes an official member of the Church. This sometimes includes the bestowal of a 'Confirmation name,' generally the name of a saint, which is often worn as a second middle name. Confirmation also bestows the Holy Spirit upon the confirmand, and in some churches is received concurrent with baptism or first communion.
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 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 'birthday' is applied to the anniversary of an institution (such as a university).
King's or Queen's Official Birthday in Australia, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
Commonwealth Day, originally called Empire's Day, is on the Queen-Empress Victoria's birthday: May 24
Jesus of Nazareth's official birthday is celebrated as Christmas Day around the world: 25 December or 7 January in Julian calendar interpretations.
The Grand Duke's Official Birthday in Luxembourg: 23 June
King's official birthday in Belgium: November 15 (on saint Leopold, liturgical feast of the dynasty's founder's patron saint)
in Malaysia, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (federal King, elected for 5 years) on 3 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). It was fixed by queen Beatrix at the birthday of former queen Juliana, to avoid the winter weather associated with her own birthday in January.
Monday : Pearl (the only organic gem)
Tuesday : Garnet
Wednesday : Cat's eye (Chatoyant Chrysoberyl)
Thursday : Emerald
Friday : Topaz
Saturday : Sapphire
Sunday : Ruby
Various birthdays are mentioned on the pages devoted to each day of the year, from January 1 to December 31
East Asian age reckoning - a different method of age reckoning to birthdays that is used in some Asian countries.
- Natal chart
Sashtiabdhapoorthi, a kind of Hindu meta-birthday for those turning sixty.
Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays? This article provides additional details on some of the early Christian and Judaic views concerning the celebration of birthdays.
Birthday Party Tips Blog
- Natal chart