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Choosing the Best Birthday Gift for Friends and Family

Celebrating the anniversary of one’s birth is commonplace in many cultures and religions around the globe, and dates back to ancient Rome. Who doesn’t love a birthday party? In addition to birthdays, a Name Day celebration, popular in many European and Latin American countries, is held on the feast day of the Saint for which the person is named. Sometimes a baby will be given the name of the saint who is celebrated on the day of his or her birth, so that the name day and birthday coincide. Birthday festivities typically include a party and gifts for the honoree, and frequently a favorite meal rounds out the celebration.

In many cultures and religions, reaching a particular age milestone is significant. Certain birthdays throughout a person’s life represent specific cultural and legal conventions. For example, in the United States legal adulthood is reached at the age of 21. Other legal rights such as obtaining a driver’s license or being able to vote occur at other age-specific milestones. In Judaism, boys and girls become obligated in their religious commandments and are also finally regarded as part of the Jewish community at the time they celebrate their bar (for boys) or bat (for girls) mitzvah at the age of 13 or 12, respectively. For many centuries, the Japanese have been celebrating a Coming of Age Day each January to congratulate anyone who reached the age of 20 in the previous year and to help them understand they are now adults. In the United States, a young girl’s 16th birthday is marked with a Sweet Sixteen party while some Hispanic American countries celebrate a girl’s 15th birthday in similar fashion. Hindus in India replace a boy’s 12th or 13th birthday with a “thread ceremony,” representative of his coming of age. The list of birthday customs goes on. Consider these other interesting birthday factoids:

A leaper, also known as a leapling, is someone who was born on February 29. For legal purposes, this person’s legal birthday could be either February 28 or March 1 in common years. While a host of celebrities and notable people have been leapers, only one notable person is known to have both been born and died on February 29 - Sir James Wilson (1812–1880), Premier of Tasmania.

The time zone and place of a person’s birth typically determine how the birth event is officially recorded, but the timing of Daylight Saving Time can result in an instance of multiple births where a baby who is born second is recorded as having been born anywhere from one minute to one hour before the sibling who was born first.

Today, certain religious groups, including Jehovah’s Witnesses abstain from celebrating birthdays as they are considered pagan and contrary to their religious beliefs.

People who have birthdays on or near a major holiday may celebrate a half-birthday instead. Half-birthdays, generally celebrated six months prior to the actual birthday date, allow the person to celebrate their birthday without it being overshadowed by the holiday.

Birthday celebrations have a superstitious origin in that it was believed evil spirits sought out someone who was celebrating a birthday. Friends and family visited the birthday person to offer good wishes and happy thoughts, and thus protect him or her from these spirits.

Whether the celebration is a pagan tradition, religious observance, or milestone marker, gifts and cake have been part of the festivities for a very long time. Make someone’s next birthday a special event by sending or serving a gift of New York style original cheesecake, or perhaps a German chocolate cheesecake, or one topped with fresh strawberries. Consider this one last fact: A cheesecake delivery just in time for the party is a delicious, easy way to bestow Happy Birthday wishes on just about anyone.

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