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 built 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.
A birthday cake with lighted candle, one candle for each year, will undoubtedly be a part of the celebration. 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 makes a wish (without telling anyone what it is) and blow out the candles. 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. 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 reaches adulthood. 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 cake, flowers, 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.