Birthday : A birthday is the date in the year that an event occurred, usually a birth.
It is common in many cultures to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of loved ones (relatives, friends) by organizing a party and offering gifts to the person concerned. It is also the occasion, that day, to pamper them more than usual, like to carry out some of their wishes.
Origin of Western traditions for birthdays: The various customs that are observed today for birthdays have a long history. Their origins are linked to magic and religion. The old-fashioned practices of congratulating, giving gifts, and celebrating - lit candles crowning it all - were said to protect the birthday party from demons; this ensured his security for the coming year. (…) Until the 1th century, Christianity rejected the celebration of birthdays, considering them a pagan custom. "XNUMX
In the Old Testament, a birthday feast is mentioned in Genesis 40:20, in the story of Joseph: “And it came to pass, on the third day, the day of Pharaoh's birth, that he made a feast for all. his servants; and he lifted up the head of the chief butler and the head of the chief baker in the midst of his servants: he restored him to his office as butler (…). But the chief baker, he hanged him. ”
In the New Testament, a birthday feast is quoted in Mark 6, 21 when the daughter of Herodias obtains the head of John the Baptist: “Now an auspicious day came, when Herod, on the anniversary of his birth, made a banquet for the nobles of his court, the officers and the principal personages of Galilee: - the daughter of Herodias entered and danced, and pleased Herod so much that he promised with oath to give her what she would ask. And she said, indoctrinated by her mother: 'Give me here, on a plate, the head of John the Baptist.' (…) He sent to behead John in the prison. ”
“The Greeks believed that to every human there was attached a protective spirit or daimon who attended his birth and watched over him during his life. This spirit was in a mystical relation with the god whose birthday corresponded to the day of the birth of the individual. The Romans also subscribed to this idea. (…) This belief has gained ground and is found in the notions of guardian angel, fairy godmother and patron saint. (…) The custom of lighting candles on birthday cakes started with the Greeks. (…) Cakes from miel, round like the moon and lit by candles, were placed on the altars of the temple of Diana. (…) Popular belief attributes to birthday candles the magical power of granting wishes. (…) Lighted candles and sacrificial fires have always had a particular mystical significance since man began to erect altars to his gods. The candles are therefore a tribute to the child who is celebrating his birthday; they do him honor and bring him luck. (…) Birthday wishes and wishes for happiness are an integral part of the celebration. (…) This belief has its roots in magic. (…) Birthday wishes can be good or bad because we are closer to the spirit world at this precise moment ”.
In most Anglo-Saxon countries, but also in many other countries, it is customary to sing the traditional song Happy Birthday to You to the person celebrating their birthday. This song has been translated into many languages, such as Happy Birthday in France and Happy Birthday in Quebec. This time of the feast usually coincides with the presentation of the birthday cakes. Alternatively, you can also sing in France the song Bon Anniversaire, our most sincere wishes.
In Quebec, it is also common to sing a modified version of the song Gens du pays, written by Gilles Vigneault. This song originally had a sovereignist connotation. We will modify the passages "People of the country" by "My dear "Or" My dear ". For example, if the birthday boy's name is Jean, we will sing to him: “My dear Jean, it's your turn to let you talk about love” twice.
In Quebec, the term “celebration” is used much more than “anniversary”. We say that a birthday boy celebrates his birthday and we wish him a happy birthday. The term “anniversary” is still the only one used to mark an event, such as a 50th wedding anniversary.
Sometimes a song is sung in a restaurant when someone is going there for their birthday. The waiter or the waiters of the restaurant can sing the song when the dessert is brought to the table. Dessert may have a sparkler instead of a candle. The other restaurant patrons usually join in the birthday song. In some restaurants the waiters perform a special birthday song or dance.
Le birthday cake is traditionally a cake richly decorated, in particular with candles whose number, arrangement or shape represent the age of the person (in particular when the number of candles necessary to represent this age is too great). To make the effect more dramatic, this is often presented cake, the candles lit, after having reduced the luminosity of the room. The person whose birthday it is can maintain a silence during which he can formulate a wish inwardly, then extinguish the candles by blowing them out. Tradition has it that if all the candles are extinguished at once, the wish will come true. Another superstition associated with birthday wishes is that if the person reveals their wish, it cannot be fulfilled. It is very common for the birthday person to cut the first piece of the cake, except in the case of young children.
A birthday is often considered a special day for a person, who usually receives special attentions from relatives and friends. This is especially true for children, who look forward to their own birthday. Conversely, many adults hate to remember that they are continually aging. In addition to the holidays, people receive gifts on their birthdays. It is also customary to send a birthday card to the person, especially when one is not physically present to wish them a Happy Birthday.
Children's birthday parties often feature fun games, such as pinning the tail on the donkey, musical chairs, a scavenger hunt etc. For adults, parties tend to be more formal, like a lunch (dinner, in Quebec) at a restaurant. The purpose of celebrations has always been to please the person being celebrated. In reality, the birthday is sometimes called the "best day of the year", while the next day is called "the worst day of the year" because it takes a whole year to have another birthday.
There is also the tradition of surprise parties (a surprise party in Quebec). This sometimes causes some people to feel ignored because it seems their birthday has been forgotten, when it actually wasn't mentioned because a surprise party was being prepared. On the other hand, some people do not notice the fact that nothing has been prepared for their birthday, because they are hoping for a surprise party.
In South America, the birthday party is often accompanied by a piñata that the person must break with a stick, and which contains candy and gifts. Moreover, the most important birthday party for a girl is her 15th birthday party, as it is a rite of passage from childhood to adulthood. This party is eagerly awaited, since during this anniversary, the new quinceañera is granted privileges that make her feel more mature. For example, she is allowed to wear make-up and high-heeled shoes for the first time in her life. The young girl begins by going to church to ask for the protection of the Virgin Mary during a special mass. Afterwards, she dances at a ball given in her honor.
Astrology: There are many astrological systems in the world that determine a person's astrological sign based on their birthday and possibly the time and place of birth. They try to deduce his character, his affinities, even to predict his destiny.
There are many occasions to celebrate an important anniversary:
When a key number is reached, for example the 1st, 10th, 20th, 50th or 100th anniversary.
In many Constitutions, one becomes an adult in the eyes of the law at a certain birthday, and at a certain age one acquires various rights and responsibilities: voting, the right to consume certain substances (for example alcohol, tobacco), the call for military service, etc.
Many cultures attach importance to certain birthdays.
In Jewish families, boys celebrate Bar Mitzvah on their 13th birthday. Girls, meanwhile, celebrate Bat Mitzvah on their 12th or 13th birthday.
In Latin America, the quinceañera feast traditionally celebrates a young girl's 15th birthday.
Many teenage girls in the United States throw a Sweet Sixteen Party when they are 16 years old.
In countries where it is forbidden to consume alcohol before a certain age, it is often customary to get drunk with friends as soon as one has reached the legal age; some bars facilitate this practice by serving “special” drinks with a high alcohol content. This phenomenon is less widespread in countries where there is no strict minimum age for alcohol consumption.
The birthdays of emblematic characters like Jesus, Mohammed or Martin Luther King are often the occasion of periods of celebration, sometimes of holidays.
Commemoration: If the anniversary concerns an event or a person of notoriety, the anniversary may be accompanied by a particular ceremony, the commemoration, and actions or objects of memory produced on this occasion: artistic monument, tree planting, medal will be said to be commemorative.
The anniversary can not only concern the birth but also various notable events according to the cultures: a marriage, the appointment to a function, the death of a person, the signing of a contract, the occurrence of a battle, a armistice, a catastrophe, a declaration.
Official and Alternative Birthdays: Some personalities, especially monarchs such as Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom have “official birthdays” that do not correspond to their actual birthday, but during which celebrations take place. In special cases, where the actual date of birth of a historical figure is not known, for example that of Jesus, it is common that a particular date is attributed to him.
Children who are born on February 29, which only happens in leap years, often celebrate their birthdays once a year, on February 28 or March 1.
History of the celebration of birthdays in the West: In Antiquity, the day of birth was the subject of a regular celebration, the natalice (from the Latin natalicia, birthday meal) in the form of a "private religious rite. and public ”. It is especially reserved for emperors whose birthdays give rise to sacrifices.
At the beginning of the XNUMXth century, Marco Polo, in the Devisement du Monde, describes in particular the festivities on the birthday of the emperor of China Kubilai Khan.
The celebration of birthdays becomes rarer during the Middle Ages (the date of birth is moreover rarely known), the Roman Catholic Church being hostile to it because of its pagan origins and that birth recalls original sin, preferring to promote feast of the "patron saint" corresponding to his first name at baptism or at death (natalice or anniversarium funeral) considered as the dies natalis, "day of birth" (at the resurrection). The only exceptions: the "Nativity of Jesus Christ", the "Nativity of Saint John the Baptist" (Christian celebrations which recover the cults linked to the solstices) and the "Nativity of the Virgin Mary". However, it reappears episodically from the XNUMXth century (first astrological autobiographies in treatises due to Richard de Fournival, Henri Bate de Malines, "revolution of the nativity" in individual horoscopes in the XNUMXth century) and experiences a resurgence at the time of the Reformation: they are then considered as a good way of transferring attention to a date other than the feast day of the saint, in line with the rejection of the worship of saints and correspond to the renewal of horoscopes or sometimes to the playfulness of children of the princely courts who wish to celebrate this day. Nevertheless, in the XNUMXth century, many codes of good manners of Catholic orientation still favored the feast of the " patron saint », the celebration of the anniversary gradually spreading to the bourgeoisie and then to the working class in the XNUMXth century.
Quote from the Colombian writer Gabriel García Márquez (1917-2014): "I had to swallow my tears when they sang 'happy birthday' and I had, for no particular reason, a thought for the little one." in Memory of my sad whores (2004).