Multicoloured balloons

Candles, cake, smiles, laughter, music, friends, balloons – all for you on that special day. Your ego gets a warm bubble bath on your birthday, and why not? It is your birthday!! But have you ever wondered what it all really means?

Reading this article, you are going to realise that there is so much more to the birthday subject than meets the eye.

We are going to discuss:

  • When you should celebrate your birthday
  • Why you should or should not celebrate it
  • How you should celebrate it

Let us begin!

When you should celebrate your birthday

Birthday vs birthdate: definition and comparison

A man who is confused by numbers.

I am sorry to tell you this, but what you have been celebrating most of your life is your birthdate, not your birthday.

What is the difference?

First of all, let me tell you that the comparison we are about to make between the two words is based on logic, which may or may not defy their conventional definitions. This is how we do things on the Taken for Granted.

Now, birthdate is the date you were born in: April 6th, 2011; September 11th, 2020 and January 1st, 2022 are all birthdates. Birthday, on the other hand, is the day you were born on; Monday, Thursday and Friday are a few birthdays.

That should be the logical definition of the two words. However, it seems that dictionaries and society in general consider them the same. Collins dictionary states that birthdate ”is the exact date on which you were born, including the year” and defines birthday as ”the anniversary of the date on which you were born.” Cambridge dictionary defines the words in more or less the same way.

Excuse me, but I still cannot see ”day” in any of these definitions. Week day is missing!

Real birthday vs fake birthday

The case is such for a reason: while your birthdate (the numbers) never changes, your birthday (the week day you were born on) does every year. Your real birthday (when the week day you were born on is in alignment with your birthdate) happens every few years or so, depending on when you were born. We are not here to discuss the nuances of the Gregorian calendar, but if you want to learn more about it, this website is a good start.

Let us give an example. Imagine you were born on Saturday, January 1st, 2000. This is your real birthday. However, the first of January will fall on Monday in 2001; Tuesday in 2002; and Wednesday in 2003. You will have to wait until 2005 for the first of January to fall on Saturday again.

So which one should you celebrate? Birthdate? Birthday? Both? What would be the rationale behind your choice?

That is what we are going to discuss next.

Deciding when to celebrate the special day

What is the point of celebrating your birthday if it is not you real birthday? Does it not matter that you were born on a certain day of the week and not the other? If it does not, why should the month or the year? Why should it matter whether you celebrate your birthday on April or December instead of your birthmonth? Why should our birthdays matter at all? 

It is true that if you decide to celebrate your real birthday, you will be celebrating it less often, but would that not make it all the more special? Would that not be a strong motivation for you to celebrate your birthday in ways you had never done on your birthdates? Would you celebrate your wedding the same way if it happened every year as you would if it did only once in your lifetime?

It all depends on your life philosophy. This is a personal matter and so you should decide whether to celebrate your birthdate or birthday.

If you are in love with life as much as I am, you will celebrate both. Every excuse to celebrate is a good excuse, but to be honest with you, I would celebrate my birthday a little (a lot more, actually!) differently.

It is just not the same!

Going beyond the deterministic view of birthdays

Time machine

In a previous article, we talked about how important it is that you choose who you call family because sometimes those who are not blood related to you can act far more like family than those who are.

Why should your birthday be any different?

Imagine that you could choose your date of birth. Would it be the same date as the one you were born on? You could choose a date based on the numbers you like. If you like number nine more than number one, would you not prefer to be born on September instead of January? Or, if you feel like going ultra-nine, being born on the ninth of Spetember?

Some people have much stronger motivations than number-philia. Imagine that your life had been full of negativity until a certain event occured. From then on, your life was increaisngly positive, hopeful and full of wonderful things. Would it be an exaggeration if we said that this was the moment you were born or at least given a new life?

The last statement is especially true when you keep in mind that it is coming to life that you celebrate on your birthday, all the while assuming that life is good and so worth celebrating. if your life had not been good until that moment when everything started changing for the better, why should it not be considered your real birthday?

I never wanted to jump the gun, but this is exactly what we are going to focus on in the next section.

After all, the when is related to the why, and vice versa.

Why you should or should not celebrate your birthday

An obvious but not so obvious question

Morning sunshine. Woman in the balcony spreading her arms wide towards the sun.

Why do you celebrate your birthday? This may sound like an obvious question, but this is one of those moments when the dubious hides in the obvious.

You celebrate your birthday because you celebrate the fact that you were born. You were given life. But is life worh celebrating? If yes, there must be something or some things that make life worthwhile.


It is difficult to find an answer, is it not? More difficult than you expected.

As I am writing this, I feel the same. The only answer I can think of is that we celebrate life because we can feel, unlike someone who is dead and thereby cannot. We celebrate life because we can see, hear, touch and smell. We are conscious of the the limitless opportunities and experiences life might have in store for us. It is exciting. It is something worth looking forward to.

But hold on a second.

We are saying all this with the implication that everything we experience thanks to being alive is pleasant. As you already know, this is far from the truth. Being able to feel and comprehend what is happening to us is a double-edged sword. We are able to feel joy and contentment, but also pain and anguish.

When you celebrate your birthday, you celebrate it on the assumption that life is nice and that you are lucky to be alive. It is not always like that, and you know it.

An April fool’s gift

Gift box. Fool's Day.

So, why would you celebrate being alive? You cannot celebrate joy without celebrating agony because both are part and parcel of being alive. This leaves only one logical possibility: you either celebrate life because you have a good life, or you don’t – unless you like celebrating how painful your life is, which; though masochistic, is also fine, as long as you are happy with it.

Seriously, do you think your life; or at least most of it, has been a good ride? If so, it makes perfect sense to celebrate your birthday. What if you think the opposite? Should you stop celebrating your birthday?

The logical answer should be yes. However, as with a lot of things in life, logical is not always the right answer. If your life is really that bad (which I doubt it is!), why would you make it worse by not celebrating it? Would it not be better to laugh all that pain and anguish off and make the best of the little you have?

I know it is easier said than done; but when you really think about it, it all depends on your perspective. Even if you are not satisfied with your life, you can do something about it.

Your birthday is an opportunity to remind you that as long as there is life, there is hope.

How you should celebrate your birthday

Personal act vs cultural act

A group of friends celebrating a birthday party.

Your birthday is supposed to be all about you. It is as personal as it can get. But does the way you celebrate it show it?

Show what?

That it is your birthday, not someone else’s.

Cake and candles is how everyone does it. This is cultural. It is how society does it. But is your birthday not a personal event first and foremost? If when you celebrate your birthday matters; if it matters that you were born on a different day and month than everybody else, so should how you celebrate it.

The how should be as personal as the when.

Since you are king or queen on that day, you get to call the shots! But how can you personalise your birthday? Here are a few ideas.


Chocolate birthday cake.

Everyone should have a taste of you on your birthday — I sincerely hope you are not taking my words literally, though! What I mean by this is to let others experience more of who you are in the food you serve on your birthday.

Do you care about animals and the environment? Buy a vegan birthday cake instead of just cake! What is your favourite flavour? Chocolate? Then your birthday cake should be a vegan chocolate cake. Also, do not just buy any snacks. Buy your favourites! If you are an athlete, buying healthy food would make more sense; serve fruit salad instead of crisps! If you are a chef, cook the food you will be serving! Personalise your food!


Birthday party venue with lots of lights

Balloons, birthday cones, confetti – all this is nice. But since you decided to make your birthday as personal as it should be, you will tailor them to your tastes. Balloons, for example, should be in your favourite colour; your family and friends’ birthday cones should be in theirs. If you want to take this a step further, put name stickers on each birthday cone so everyone will feel a little bit special on that day, too, not just you!

As for the surroundings, it depends on what kind of person you are. If you like the outdoors, throwing your party somewhere near a lake or just in the backyard of your home would be perfect! Are you more of an indoor person? Home is where the cake is! If you are feeling a bit fancier, a birthday venue would also do very well.

Just do not forget to watch the weather forecast in case you are planning to throw your party outdoors! Rain can be a very intrusive invitee.

Other ideas

Boy holding a loudspeaker.

Finally, if you feel like it, you can add something special to your birthday. Something that you think is so important to do it on the day that is supposed to be all about you. Your family and friends are an excellent start. The people who are there for you and always have been.

Personally, I would make a birthday speech, but it will not be just be any generic speech in which I thank everyone for attending. Remember, birthdays are personal. I would, for example, keep my birthday speech as up to date as possible. Has your best friend been recently promoted? Mention that in your birthday speech and express how proud you are of him or her. Have you been struggling with something personal lately and your father has offered you good advice on how to deal with it? Mention how grateful you are to have such an amazing father, and how valuable his advice was in overcoming your struggles. And so on.

Just bear in mind that the birthday speech idea depends on how many people you invite. Inviting too many people to your birthday will not only make your birthday speech impractical in terms of length but also less personal, which is exactly what your birthday is not about. Only invite the near and dear, and mention something unique about each attendee in your speech. It does not have to be long. A sentence or two will suffice.

Final word on birthdays

Candle on someone's palms. This symbolises hope for a better birthday and life.

In this article, we took an unusually critical look at the when, why and how of birthdays.

As a conclusion, it is worth keeping in mind that we should celebrate the day we came to life as much as what happened after it: the nice memories we have had, the people who made living worthwhile and the struggles that we overcame to be where we are today.

If your life has been a nice ride so far, your birthday is an opportunity to be thankful, and to look forward to more pleasant memories and successes.

If your life has been a rough ride so far, your birthday is an opportunity to remind yourself that there is still hope to turn your life in a different direction. I have been there; and I know how it feels like, but believe me when I say that when there is a will, there is a way. I am not saying this only to comfort you, but changing your life is a real possibility as long as you do something about it. It will come. You just need more time.

I wish you a very happy next birthday — or birthdate — or both!  

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