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A birthday is a day that comes once a year when a person celebrates the anniversary of his or her birth. Birthdays are celebrated in numerous cultures, often with a gift, party, or rite of passage.
Note the distinction between birthday and birthdate: The former occurs each year (e.g. April 12), while the latter is the exact date a person was born (e.g. April 19, 1985).
In most legal systems, one becomes designated as an adult on a particular birthday (often between 12 and 21), and reaching age-specific milestones confers particular rights and responsibilities. At certain ages, one may become eligible to leave full-time education, or become subject to military conscription or to enlist in the military, to consent to sexual intercourse, to marry, 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. The age of majority is the age when minors cease to legally be considered children and assume control over their persons, actions, and decisions, thereby terminating the legal control and legal responsibilities of their parents or guardian over and for them. Most countries set majority at 18.
Many cultures have one or more coming of age birthdays:
The birthdays of historically significant people, such as national heroes or founders, are often commemorated by an official holiday marking the anniversary of their birth. Catholic saints are remembered by a liturgical feast (sometimes on a presumed birthday). The ancient Romans marked the anniversary of a temple dedication or other founding event as a dies natalis, a term still sometimes 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 or when someone born on the ninth turns nine).
In many cultures and jurisdictions, if a person's real birthday is not known (for example, if he or she is an orphan), then their birthday may be considered to be January 1. That tradition is followed with horses, their age becoming one, on the first day of the year following their birth and being counted annually after that.
The Chinese count age without zero; a newborn's age is one, a 12-month-old is two, and so on.
In many portions of the world[vague] an individual's birthday is celebrated by a party where a specially made cake, usually decorated with lettering and the person's age, is presented. The cake is traditionally studded with the same number of lit candles as the age of the individual, or a number candle representing their age. The celebrated individual usually will make a silent wish and attempt to blow out the candles in one breath; if successful, a tradition holds that the wish will be granted. In many cultures, the wish must be kept secret or it won't "come true". Presents are bestowed on the individual by the guests appropriate to her/his age. Other birthday activities may include entertainment (usually by a hired professional, i.e. a clown, magician, or musician), and a special toast or speech by the birthday celebrant. The last stanza of Patty Hill's and Mildred Hill's famous song, "Good Morning to You" (unofficially titled "Happy Birthday to You") is typically sung by the guests at some point in the proceedings. In some countries a piñata takes the place of a cake. An occasional activity is spanking the birthday individual, with one usually gentle "swat" for each year since birth. In North America, the celebration of a birthday is fundamentally about celebrating the role of friends and families in an individual's life and recognizing their importance.
In some historically Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox countries such as Italy, Spain, France, parts of Germany, Poland, Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Lithuania, Latvia, and throughout Latin America, it is common to have a 'name day'/'Saint's day'. It is celebrated in much the same way as a birthday, but it 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 possibly the name of a feast, for example, Noel or Pascal (French for Christmas and "of Easter"); as another example, Togliatti got Palmiro as his 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 the day of their birth, but on which celebrations are held. Examples are:
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 (other than February 29, because of leap years).
According to a study by the Yale School of Public Health, positive and negative associations with culturally significant dates may 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.
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A person's birthday is usually recorded according to the time zone of the place of birth. Thus people born in American Samoa at 11:30 pm will record their birthdate as one day before Coordinated Universal Time (UTC) and those born in the Samoa 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.
A person born on February 29 may be called a "leapling" or a "leaper". In common years they usually celebrate their birthdays on February 28. In some situations, March 1 is used as the birthday in a non-leap year since it is the day following February 28.
Technically, a leapling will have fewer birthday anniversaries than their age in years. This phenomenon is exploited when a person claims to be only a quarter of their actual age, by counting their leap-year birthday anniversaries only. In Gilbert and Sullivan's 1879 comic opera The Pirates of Penzance, Frederic the pirate apprentice discovers that he is bound to serve the pirates until his 21st birthday rather than until his 21st year.
For legal purposes, legal birthdays depend on how local laws count time intervals.
The Romans enthusiastically celebrated birthdays with hedonistic parties and generous presents.
Chinese birthday traditions reflect the culture's deep-seated focus on longevity and wordplay. From the homophony between 酒 ("rice wine") and 久 (meaning "long" in the sense of time passing), osmanthus and other rice wines are traditional gifts for birthdays in China. Longevity noodles are another traditional food consumed on the day, although western-style birthday cakes are increasingly common among urban Chinese.
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. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein always acknowledged birthdays. The Lubavitcher Rebbe encouraged people to celebrate their birthdays, by gathering friends, making positive resolutions, and through various religious observances. According to Rabbi Yissocher Frand, the anniversary of a person's birth is a special day for that person's prayers to be accepted.
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. Despite modern celebrations where the secular "birthday" element often overshadows the essence of it as a religious rite, the essence of a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah celebration is entirely religious in origin (i.e. the attainment of religious maturity according to Jewish law), however, and not secular. With or without the birthday celebration, the child nevertheless becomes a bar mitzvah or bat mitzvah, and the celebration may be on that day or any date after it.
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 the anniversary of their birth. 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. They believe that birthday celebrations are portrayed in a negative light in the Bible and have historical connections with magic, superstitions, and Paganism.
Some clerics consider the celebration of a birthday to be a sin, as it is considered an "innovation" of the faith, or bi'dah while other clerics have issued statements saying that the celebration of a birthday is permissible.
Some Muslims (and Arabian Christians) migrating to the United States adopt the custom of celebrating birthdays, especially for children, but others resist.
There also is a great deal of controversy regarding celebrating Milad-ul-Nabi – the anniversary of the birth of Muhammad. While a section of Islam strongly favours it, others decry such celebrations, terming them as out of the scope of Islam.
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 anniversary of Buddha's birth, usually in a highly formal, ritualized manner. They treat Buddha's statue as if it were alive, bathing, and "feeding" it.
Sikhs celebrate the anniversary of the birth of Guru Nanak.
In North Korea, people do not celebrate birthdays on July 8 and December 17 because these were the dates of the deaths of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, respectively. More than 100,000 North Koreans celebrate displaced birthdays on July 9 or December 18 to avoid these dates. A person born on July 8 before 1994 may change their birthday, with official recognition.
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