Fun Birthday Facts
Fun birthday facts are a terrific source of trivia. From leap years to country traditions to “Happy Birthday” the song, there is a lot to learn about birthdays – those personal anniversaries that celebrate both birth and aging, renewal and the passage of time.
Everyone Gets One
One birthday riddle ponders: “What goes up and never comes down?” The answer, of course, is “Your age.” They happen like clockwork yet each one is unique. You can never have the same one twice. It’s impossible.
Did you know you can also only have one “Golden Birthday”? From age 1-31, a person encounters his/her “Golden Birthday” one time only: On the day in which their age matches the day of their birth. Thus, if you were born on March 15, your “golden” birthday would be when you turn 15; for January 7, when you turn 7; and so on. This particular birthday is also known as one’s “Lucky Birthday,” and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence.
Other fun birthday facts involve people born on a leap day. Every four years, a day is added to February to make 29 days instead of 28. If you’re born on this date, then technically you only have a birthday once every four years. This creates a conundrum for some and fun for others. For example, on your 21st birthday, you could claim to be only 5 years old!
Gilbert and Sullivan had fun with this very fact in their comic opera The Pirates of Penzance, in which pirate-apprentice Frederic believes he has come to the end of his indentured period upon turning 21. However, being born on February 29th in a leap year, he’s told that technically, he wouldn’t be freed for another 60+ years!
Stumped: Fun Birthday Facts
Indeed, birthdays and trivia make a good pair. For instance, did you know the Guinness Book of World Records cites the most recognizable song in the English language is “Happy Birthday”? It’s true. American sisters Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill (wrote the song in 1893), adapting it to another one of their melodies titled “Good Morning to All.” The catchiness of the tune should be of no surprise, as the sisters composed “Good Morning to All” as a simple song for their kindergarten students to learn. As it turned out, it’d be a tune for all ages – everywhere. It’s also copyrighted.
How can birthday traditions be different but the same? Many traditions around the world share a common theme, one of looking towards the future and wishing for more celebrations to come.
- In China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong: Noodles are eaten in honor of a person’s birthday. The noodles are uncut and are made extra long to signify a long life.
- In (Ireland http://travel.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Planning_Trips_to_Ireland): Birthday boys and girls are given “birthday bumps,” where they are lifted upside down and “bumped” on the head (gently) as many times as they are old – with one more bump given for luck.
- In England: Similar to Ireland, the person is held by his/her hands and feet and then lowered to the ground for a “bump.” Each bump is a year: “then one for luck, two for luck...”
- In New Zealand: Birthday claps are given, where everyone claps a number of times to match the guest-of-honor’s age – with one more clap added in anticipation of next year.
- In Israel: Children are placed in a chair and hoisted up by the grown-ups; the chair is lowered and raised a number of times to correspond to the child’s age – with one more added for luck.
Wrapped up and tied with a bow are fun birthday facts concerning cakes and gifts. The origin of many is debatable however, with theories dating back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, as well as religious ceremonies. Nothing can be said with 100% certainty, but here are a few “did you know” tidbits that are fun to discuss.
- Birthday candles: In 18th-century Germany, birthday candles were first placed atop birthday cakes for Kinderfest (a celebration for children). Extra candles were added to represent “upcoming years” and consequently, good fortune.
- Candle smoke: No definite origin, but there was a belief that candle smoke brought a person’s prayers up to the heavens. Thus, when a candle was blown out, the prayer was sent.
- Cake gifts: In Medieval times, cakes in England were baked with symbolic objects inside and a person’s fortunes were found in the piece they got (e.g. coins=riches, thimbles=no marriage). Today, this tradition continues, only with coins and candies and less doom and gloom.
- Birthday gifts: Possibly inspired by Christmas; also perhaps by the way nobility received gifts on their birthdays. In time, the tradition would open up to the masses, with every birthday seen as significant and a day to be recognized.
Did You Know?
Birthday cakes: Ancient Greeks used to make honey cakes in honor of Artemis, Goddess of the Moon.
The cakes were round and when illuminated with a candle, each looked like a perfect, full moon.
This last bullet in particular highlights how universal – yet singular – a birthday is. Everyone has a birthday to call his or her own and each year. The day should be celebrated and embraced. As Emily Dickinson once said, “We turn not older with years, but newer every day.”