A birthday is a day or anniversary where a person celebrates his or her date of birth. Birthdays are celebrated in numerous cultures, often with a gift, party or rite of passage. Although the major religions celebrate the birth of their founders (e.g., Buddha's Birthday), Christmas – which is celebrated widely by Christians and non-Christians alike – is the most prominent example. In contrast, certain religious groups, as is the case with Jehovah's Witnesses, express opposition to the very idea of celebrating birthdays.
- 1 Legal conventions
- 2 Cultural conventions
- 3 Frequency
- 4 Time zones and birthdays
- 5 Leap day
- 6 Birthdays in cultures and religions
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
In most legal systems, one becomes a legal adult on a particular birthday (often the 14th through 21st), and reaching age-specific milestones confers particular rights and responsibilities. At certain ages, one may become subject to military conscription or become eligible to enlist in the military, to marry without parental consent, to vote, to run for elected office, to legally purchase (or consume) alcohol and tobacco products, to purchase lottery tickets, or to obtain a driver's license.
Many cultures have one or more coming of age birthdays:
- Jewish boys become bar mitzvah on their 13th birthday. Jewish girls become bat mitzvah on their 12th birthday, or sometimes on their 13th birthday in Reform and Conservative Judaism. This marks the transition where they become obligated in commandments of which they were previously exempted and are counted as part of the community.
- In Africa, families often mark a girl's 16th birthday with a Sweet sixteen (birthday) celebration.
- In some Hispanic-American countries the quinceañera celebration traditionally marks a girl's 15th birthday.
- In India, Hindus have the 12th or 13th birthday replaced with a grand "thread ceremony." The child takes a blessed thread and wears it, symbolizing his coming of age. This is called the Upanayana. This ceremony is practiced amongst boys in the Hindu Brahmin culture.
- In the Philippines, girls on their 18th birthday or boys on their 21st birthday celebrate a debut.
- In some Asian countries that follow the Zodiac calendar, there is a tradition of celebrating the 60th birthday.
- In Japan there is a Coming of Age Day, for all of those who have turned 20.
The birthdays of historically significant people, like national heroes or founders, are often commemorated by an official holiday. Catholic 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).
A person's Golden or Grand Birthday, also referred to as their "Lucky Birthday", "Champagne Birthday" or "Star Birthday", occurs when they turn the age of their birth day (e.g., when someone born on the 25th of the month turns 25).
In some historically Roman Catholic Eastern Orthodox countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Poland, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia and throughout South America, it is common to have a 'name day'/'Saint's day'. It 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"); for one, Togliatti got Palmiro as first name because he was born on Palm Sunday.
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:
- Jesus Christ's traditional birthday is celebrated as Christmas Day around the world, on December 25. As some Eastern churches use the Julian calendar, December 25 will fall upon January 7 in the Gregorian calendar.
- The Queen's Official Birthday in Australia, Canada, Fiji, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
- The Grand Duke's Official Birthday in Luxembourg is typically celebrated upon June 23.
- Koninginnedag in the Kingdom of the Netherlands is typically celebrated upon April 30. 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.
- The current Japanese Emperor Akihito's birthday is December 23, which is a national holiday in Japan.
- The previous Japanese Emperor Showa (Hirohito)'s birthday was April 29. After his death, the holiday was kept as "Showa no Hi", or "Showa Day". This holiday falls close to Golden Week, the week in late April and early May
According to a public record births database, birthdays in the United States are quite evenly distributed for the most part. However, there tend to be more births in September and October. This may be because there is a holiday season nine months before, or from the fact that the longest nights of the year happen in the Northern Hemisphere nine months before as well. Based on Harvard University research of birth records in the United States between 1973 and 1999, September 16 is the most common birthday in the United States and December 25 the least common birthday.
More recently October 5th has taken over as the most popular birthday.
According to a study by Yale School of Public Health, positive and negative associations with culturally significant dates can influence birthrates. The study shows a 5.3 percent decrease in spontaneous births and a 16.9 percent decrease in cesarean births on Halloween, compared to other births occurring within one week before and one week after the October holiday. Whereas, on Valentine’s Day there is a 3.6 percent increase in spontaneous births and a 12.1 percent increase in cesarean births. 
Time zones and birthdays
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 is recorded as having been born up to an hour before their predecessor.
- See: Leapling and February 29
Birthdays in cultures and religions
The Romans enthusiastically celebrated birthdays with hedonistic parties and generous presents. In revulsion that the early Christians rejected the practice as inherently pagan.
In Judaism, the perspective on birthday celebrations is disputed by various rabbis. In the Hebrew Bible, the one single mention of a celebration being held in commemoration of someone's day of birth is for the Egyptian Pharaoh which is recorded in Genesis 40:20.
The bar mitzvah of 13-year-old Jewish boys, or bat mitzvah for 12-year-old Jewish girls, is perhaps the only Jewish celebration undertaken in what is often perceived to be in coalition with a birthday. However, the essence of a bar/bat mitzvah celebration is entirely religious in origin (i.e. the attainment of religious maturity according to Jewish law) and not secular, despite modern celebrations where the secular "birthday" element often overshadows the essence of it as a religious rite. With or without the "birthday" celebration, the child nevertheless becomes a bar or bat mitzvah, and the celebration can be on that day or any date after it.
The early Christians did not celebrate Christ's birth because they considered the celebration of anyone's birth to be a pagan custom. For example Origen in his commentary "On Levites" writes that Christians should not only not celebrate their birthdays, but should look on them with disgust.
Orthodox Christianity still prefers the celebration of name days only.
Ordinary folk celebrated their saint's day (the saint they were named after), but nobility celebrated birthdays. The "Squire's Tale," one of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, opens as King Cambuskan proclaims a feast to celebrate his birthday.
Jehovah's Witnesses and some Sacred Name groups refrain from celebrating birthdays on the basis that they are portrayed in a negative light in the Bible and have historical connections with magic, superstitions, and Paganism.
Conservative clerics consider the celebration of a birthday to be a sin, as it is considered an "innovation" of the faith, or bi'dah. A few Muslim clerics have issued statements saying that the celebration of a birthday is permissible. 
Some Muslims (and Arab Christians) migrating to the United States adopt the custom of celebrating birthdays, especially for children, but others resist.
Hindus celebrate the birth anniversary day every year when the day that corresponds to lunar month or solar month (Sun Signs Nirayana System – Sourava Mana Masa) of birth and has the same asterism (Star / Nakshatra) as that of the date of birth. That age is reckoned whenever Janma Nakshatra of the same month passes.
Many monasteries celebrate the Buddha's birthday, usually in a highly formal, ritualized manner. They treat Buddha's statue as if alive, bathing and feeding it.
Superstitious origins of celebrations
A number of possible superstitious origins for customs associated with birthday celebrations have been suggested. One source states that the tradition of birthday parties started in Europe. It was feared that evil spirits were particularly attracted to people on their birthdays and to protect them, they would be visited by friends and family, who would bring good thoughts and wishes.
- 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 / Yahrzeit
- Decimal Birthday
- ^ The Watchtower states, in the Reasoning book: "Do Bible references to birthday celebrations put them in a favourable light? The Bible makes only two references to such celebrations...Jehovah's Witnesses take note that God's Word reports unfavourably about birthday celebrations and to shun these." (Reasoning from the Scriptures, pp. 68–69).
- ^ Worldwide Ages of Consent
- ^ ABC's of Bar/Bat Mitzvah
- ^ Quinceañeras - Hispanic Culture
- ^ http://www.hinduyuva.org/node/83
- ^ See: Sexagenary cycle#Overview.
- ^ Golden birthday@Everything2.com
- ^ Anybirthday
- ^ New York Times
- ^ Oct. 5: America’s Most Common Birthday. ABC News
- ^ Halloween, Valentine’s Day Found to Influence Birth Timing
- ^ WRAL.com Daylight-Saving Causes Twin Arrival Pickle
- ^ Kathryn Argetsinger, "Birthday Rituals: Friends and Patrons in Roman Poetry and Cult," Classical Antiquity Vol. 11, No. 2 (Oct., 1992), pp. 175-193 in JSTOR
- ^ Reb Chaim HaQoton: Happy Birthday! April 17, 2007
- ^ "Birthday in Torah". Just Asked. GatewaysOnline.com. http://www.asktherabbi.org/DisplayQuestion.asp?ID=7549. Retrieved 2009-03-26.
- ^ John Bugge, Virginitas: an essay in the history of a medieval ideal (1975) p. 69
- ^ Margaret Hallissy, A Companion to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales (1995) p 300
- ^ Awake! July 8, 2004, p. 30 "Christians refrain from any celebrations or customs that continue to involve false religious beliefs or activities that violate Bible principles. For example, the Bible definitely puts birthday celebrations in a bad light."
- ^ The World Book Encyclopedia: Volume 3, page 416
- ^ Questions From Readers, The Watchtower, November 15, 1960, p. 704.
- ^ Questions From Readers, The Watchtower, October 15, 1998, p. 30.
- ^ Are Birthday Celebrations Christian?
- ^ Karam, Souhail (August 21, 2008). "Birthday parties against Islam says top Saudi cleric". Reuters. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2008/08/21/uk-saudi-birthdays-religion-idUKLL60146720080821. Retrieved 2011-07-06.
- ^ Mona H. Faragallah, Walter R. Schumm and Farrell J. Webb, "Acculturation of Arab-American Immigrants: An Exploratory Study," Journal of Comparative Family Studies Volume: 28#3 1997. pp 182+
- ^ Sarah J. Horton, Living Buddhist statues in early medieval and modern Japan (2007) p. 24
- ^ Lavey A, Gilmore P. The Satanic Bible. Avon, September 1, 1976, p. 96 "THE highest of all holidays in the Satanic religion is the date of one’s own birth" "Every man is a god if he chooses to recognize himself as one" "You should give yourself a pat on the back, buy yourself whatever you want, treat yourself like the king (or god) that you are, and generally celebrate your birthday with as much pomp and ceremony as possible."
- ^ Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society book "Keep Yourselves In God's Love" (2008), box on p.150
- ^ Church of God News articles Birthdays are Highest Holiday for Satanists (July 2009) and Did Early Christians Celebrate Birthdays? (updated 2006/2007/2008/2010/2011)
- ^ European-American Evangelistic Crusades article on Satanism
- ^ The Truth on Birthdays article by "Truth on the Web Ministries"
- ^ Occult Holidays and Sabbats article by Biblioteca Pleyades
- ^ Celebrating Birthdays article by Presents of God Minstry
- ^ Re: Happy Birthday – The Phrase Finder
- Curtis Regan, Dian (March 1991). The Class With the Summer Birthdays. Henry Holth & Co. ISBN 978-0805016574.
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