General Question

Atheros's avatar

Why do we celebrate birthdays?

Asked by Atheros (320points) August 11th, 2010

I had my birthday 10 days ago, and today I got an interesting question. I started thinking why exactly do we celebrate birthdays? Or even get presents? Or wishes that all our hidden dreams should come true?!
You don’t have to do anything to have a birthday, except just, you mustn’t die!

So do we actually celebrate not dying in the past year?

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26 Answers

BoBo1946's avatar

Ummm…. celebrating your entry into the World!

CMaz's avatar

I celebrate my birth anniversary.
Since you only get one birth day.

And, it is to recognize, the world has in it, a wonderful person.
It’s always good to recognize positive outcomes.

By the way, I do not like celebrating my anniversary. ;-)

Atheros's avatar

Yeah, I get that, but why do we celebrate birthdays annually? There was only one birth day after all… You don’t get born every year.

ninahenry's avatar

Milestones are built in, and it is tradition. It would be weird to celebrate my 21st birthday but no others, or my 30th, 80th, etc. There are different reasons to celebrate for different ages.

NaturallyMe's avatar

Probably the same reason we celebrate any important occasion annually? In honour or remembrance of that special day. I don’t know. Because it’s a good excuse to have a party or get special treatment or presents? :)

Aethelwine's avatar

Good question. I really don’t have an answer, but I’d like to share something that relates to the question.

My husband called me from work this morning to wish me a happy birthday, though it’s not my birthday, it’s my son’s birthday. It was me after all that did all of the hard work to bring him into this world. That should be celebrated, right? ;)

chyna's avatar

It’s the one day a year you can show your appreciation of a person. It might as well be their birthday as it would be easier to remember than another random day during the year.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

Life has often been hard for people – people found reasons to celebrate amidst the darkness…birthdays, weddings fit the bill.

Thammuz's avatar

Because in the end egocentrism is in everyone and we all want to be told how great we are and how all our friends are happy to know us. That’s why i don’t have birthday parties, i don’t need to be told that!

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

My birthday was 9 days ago… and I asked a somewhat similar question. :)
I celebrate birthdays because I believe it’s a positive thing to take a day out of the year to appreciate someone’s existence. Sure you were born, everyone is born, but you have a life that is worth celebrating.

I think it’s good to take a day out of the year to appreciate and celebrate the year of life that you’ve just had the privilege to experience.

consuelo's avatar

@TheOnlyNeffie is right! It’s nice to take a day for yourself out of every year. I mean think about it. There are holidays to celebrate all sorts of things every year. Why not have a day where you can go to a restaurant cough, cough, Cheesecake Factory and get a free slice of cake! :)

Happy belated, btw!

Frenchfry's avatar

I think that is is celebrated every year that you made it whole year and survived. Sounds like a good reason to me.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

And oh yes, happy belated birthday to you, @Atheros :)

marinelife's avatar

“Birthdays date way back in history to a time when people originally feared evil spirits. These evil spirits were thought to be more active on the day of your birth. Family and friends would gather in a circle around the birthday person and would chant and sing bringing them nothing but good thoughts. The giving of gifts was another to bring even more cheer and goodwill to ward off the evil spirits.

Noisemakers were also thought to have been used at these parties as another way of scaring evil spirits away. Torches or candles would be lit believing they were sending a prayer to the gods and when the candles were blown out it was thought that the smoke carried these prayers or wishes into the heavens, where they thought the gods lived, so they would be granted.

Looking back through history the only documented birthdays recorded are of kings and other noble dignitaries. The poorer people and especially children did not celebrate at all. Historians have explained this, as only nobility was wealthy enough to be able to afford such an extravagance as a party.”


Atheros's avatar

@consuelo & @TheOnlyNeffie Thanks :)

Good reasons given in the posts above, still I’m not quite satisfied yet. I mean, I love my life, and I appreciate every single day. If I could, I would celebrate each and everyone as well.

@jonsblond Good answer, I think you totally got what I mean. I would would much rather celebrate a good grade I get in school for example, than a “very special” day when I realize that I haven’t died in the past year.

flo's avatar

No need for it. It goes even further sometimes. Reminding people of one’s own birthday, being mad at people for not spending enough….not good. Especially at work!

Austinlad's avatar

I think of each birthday not so much anymore as a celebration of my birth but more of a celebration of the achievement of completing/starting another year of life.

Atheros's avatar

@Austinlad Yep, I can understand that exactly. But what kind of achievement is this? It it just you, well, being…

Austinlad's avatar

@Atheros, yes, that plus any accomplishments I can point to: how I helped and supported my friends, family, co-workers, etc.; how well I’ve done my job; goals reached or ones that need renewing; mistakes I’ve made that I now have a new year to avoid making again, and on and on. Most people celebrate the arrival of a New Year on January 31, and so do I, but that’s a global celebration. My birthday is a very personal one.

lapilofu's avatar

Why do we celebrate any event, really? And especially why do we celebrate anything annually? The year is an arbitrary construction. Sure, it roughly corresponds to the seasons, but not with precision to the day. And besides, there are other ways to measure time besides the seasons. We could just as easily celebrate something by it’s anniversary in the lunar year—in fact many cultures do. Or we could celebrate birthdays every 5 years. Or even every 3 years, why not? Nothing special about 5. All holidays are pretty arbitrary as far as I can see—you can question them all, or you can just enjoy them for the social excuse to celebrate.

BoBo1946's avatar

interesting facts from Wiki

“Happy Birthday to You”, also known more simply as “Happy Birthday”, is a song that is traditionally sung to celebrate the anniversary of a person’s birth. According to the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records, “Happy Birthday to You” is the most recognized song in the English language, followed by “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and “Auld Lang Syne.[1] The song’s base lyrics have been translated into at least 18 languages.[2], p. 17

The melody of “Happy Birthday to You” comes from the song “Good Morning to All”, which was written and composed by American siblings Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893.[3] They were both kindergarten school teachers in Louisville, Kentucky, developing various teaching methods at what is now the Little Loomhouse.[2][4], pp. 4–15 The sisters created “Good Morning to All” as a song that would be easy to be sung by young children.[2], p. 14 The combination of melody and lyrics in “Happy Birthday to You” first appeared in print in 1912, and probably existed even earlier.[2], pp. 31–32 None of these early appearances included credits or copyright notices. The Summy Company registered for copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R.R. Forman. In 1990, Warner Chappell purchased the company owning the copyright for U.S. $15 million, with the value of “Happy Birthday” estimated at U.S. $5 million.[5] Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claims that U.S. copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal unless royalties are paid to it. In one specific instance in February 2010, these royalties were said[6] to amount to $700.

In European Union-countries the copyright in the song will expire December 31, 2016.[7]

The actual U.S. copyright status of “Happy Birthday to You” began to draw more attention with the passage of the Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft in 2003, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned “Happy Birthday to You” in his dissenting opinion.[8] An American law professor who heavily researched the song has expressed strong doubts that it is still under copyright.[2]

mattbrowne's avatar

Because rituals help people to stay healthy.

SowhatifimfromWV's avatar

The same reason we celebrate new years and independance day.

kaitlyn's avatar

greed. most people don’t consider it a ‘good’ birthday unless they get some good presents.

richarddg's avatar

After births, birthday celebrations (ideas of wishes,candles, and so forth) was probably created from the ideas of paganism—this celebration became profitable to merchants and used as a marketing tool. Profitability continued and so did the celebrations up to the present now. To further my reasoning, I am taking into account marinelife earlier comment about the kings and nobles (the wealthy) who were the only ones capable of affording the celebrations, which eventually became the practice of common people. Lastly the earliest historical birthday celebration is NOT the same as the first birthday celebration, something like this is nearly to impossible to find (no explanation needed), which is why people cannot say for sure where birthday celebration derived from.

btw I don’t celebrate birthdays and most traditional events, I think its silly, I would rather celebrate a day I feel good about myself, just like you Atheros

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