The seven unspoken rules of birthdays

Via Flickr user freakgirl.

Via Flickr user freakgirl.

A birthday in the U.S. is a time for cake, presents, and subtlety telling people the day before that it’s your birthday tomorrow.

A birthday is only one day; the birthday celebrations can go much longer.

Do rules for birthdays exist? Is there a statute of limitations for how long you can celebrate it? What if a birthday falls near a major holiday?

My birthday is April 7, a date that falls during Passover about once every two years. During Passover, there are certain dietary restrictions that forbid cake, most ice cream, and basically any food you eat during a birthday. I don’t care much about my birthday, but if I did, I would probably wait to celebrate until after Passover ended.

Unwritten rules exist for when and how to celebrate birthdays in different situations. I’m writing them down.

  1. If your birthday falls on a weekend, that weekend is yours to celebrate.
  2. If your birthday falls on a Monday or Tuesday, celebrate the preceding weekend and/or on your actual birthday. If your birthday falls on a Thursday or Friday, celebrate that weekend and/or on your actual birthday. Got a Wednesday birthday? You get to choose which weekend is yours.
  3. A birthday can be celebrated within the week before the actual date and within the week after. That’s a two-week window to fit in parties and dinners. (Exceptions are summer birthdays. See rule #5.)
  4. Your birthday falls during Christmas/Chanukah/Valentine’s Day/some other gift-giving holiday. Don’t gripe that people only get you one present for both your birthday and the holiday. Just get over it. The best you can do is hope that people give a bigger present because of the double celebration, but don’t get too down if they don’t. It’s just a gift.
  5. Summer birthdays are tricky because it’s possible that there aren’t a lot of people around to celebrate. It’s vacation season, so your friends and family may be out of town. Either wait until August or September when everyone returns from vacation, or wait until the closest possible time after your birthday when the appropriate people are in town. If everyone you want is in town during your summer birthday, rule #3 applies.
  6. After your birthday, you log onto Facebook to see the many happy birthday comments from Facebook friends. Don’t write a blanket status thanking everyone at once for their wishes. Not everyone will see that status, and it’s lazy. Comment back each person, even if you only say, “Thanks.” It’s proper Facebook etiquette.
  7. Don’t post a status saying, “It’s my birthday today!” It sounds needy. Birthday-related photos — cakes, parties, etc. — are more than allowed.

Did I get the birthday rules right? What are some other unwritten rules?

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