Birthdays are celebrated in a variety of ways in the United States. A birthday is considered a special day for the birthday person, so the person will often get special treatment from friends and family.
Children are usually very excited about their birthdays. At a
very early age, children know when their birthdays are and how old they are. Parents often host a party on their children’s birthdays. They will invite school friends, neighbors, or family members. It is expected that the people who are invited to a child’s birthday party will bring a present for the birthday child, unless they are told not to. The birthday party will undoubtedly feature a birthday cake topped with lighted candles, one candle for each year. As the cake is brought to the table, everyone sings “Happy Birthday.” When the cake is set before the birthday boy or birthday girl, he or she is supposed to make a wish (without telling anyone what it is) and blow out the candles. If all the candles go out with one breath, then the wish is supposed to come true. Ice cream is usually served with the cake. Children often open their presents after the cake and ice cream are served.
Adults also celebrate their birthdays, though not as regularly as children. If someone wants to celebrate his/ her own birthday, he or she may plan a party and invite friends or family. It is more likely that an adult will have a party if the birthday is a “big” one, such as for an age that ends in 0 or 5. Another “big” one is the age of 21 when a person is considered to be an adult. Sometimes adults get gifts at a birthday party, but not always. And while it is customary to say “Happy Birthday,” it is
not usually appropriate to ask an adult how old he or she is. At work, colleagues may celebrate a birthday by giving a group card, flowers, cake, or by taking the person out to lunch. Colleagues will often wish the person a happy birthday. However not all work places celebrate birthdays, and, in fact, many adults don’t want to celebrate their birthdays. Some people don’t like the reminder that they are continually getting older; others just don’t like being the center of attention.
Singing “Happy Birthday to You” when cake, flowers, or presents are given is a long-standing tradition. The song was written by two American sisters in 1893, and has been translated into several languages around the world.