It’s a sunny day, or maybe it’s cloudy. Friends and family have gathered, smiling and giving hugs, or perhaps the enjoyment lies in taking time alone to relax. Favorite foods may be eaten, such as cake or ice cream, homemade soup or takeout, and one will likely sit through the beloved embarrassment of people singing that iconic song, shouting the well-known lyrics for all to hear. No matter how one chooses to celebrate their birthday, it’s their day. It’s an opportunity for people to show appreciation for each other, an excuse to receive gifts and let go of worries, and a time to look forward to. Why should this excitement be limited to one day a year?
Ever since I can remember, my sister and I have begged our mom to let us celebrate half birthdays. In case the reader is wondering, one’s half birthday occurs about 183 days (half of a year) after one’s birthday. This day is calculated by adding 6 months to a birthday, which means that yes, even those unfortunate souls born on August 30 have a half birthday — it would be on March 2, or March 1 during a leap year.
Half birthdays may seem a little excessive at first. After all, every day of the year is already someone’s birthday; do we really need to add half birthdays to the mix? Then again, what sane person would look straight in the eye the chance to honor and indulge themselves and proceed to think, “Nah, I’ll wait another 6 months?!” If a child happens to have a birthday in the summer, they are unfairly deprived of the chance to celebrate that milestone with their peers at school. Half birthdays are the perfect solution for this dilemma, and they allow children to be recognized by their classmates regardless of when their birthday falls. Likewise, people with winter birthdays (especially in Minnesota) may be forced to deal with frigid weather conditions, causing them to miss out on the delight of an outdoor party or fun activities (swimming in a lake, playing yard games, sitting on restaurant patios, etc) that require warmer temperatures. Half birthdays grant these people the freedom to celebrate the way they want to, without being restricted by the weather or succumbing to cancellation.
These half-way-mark festivities can also be useful in pinpointing one’s exact age. Younger children especially can change notably over the course of 6 months, and a 4.5-year-old might look or act much different than when they first turned 4. Half birthdays give parents the opportunity to make more memories celebrating landmarks in their child’s development. On the other hand, once people reach their forties, fifties, and sixties, neither half birthdays nor birthdays matter as much, yet birthdays are still observed every year. What’s the harm in throwing in another office party 6 months later? Additionally, the dismal truth must be acknowledged that after a certain point, birthdays become sad. While often indicating a new beginning, they also can signify the end of something: turning 11 means relinquishing all hope of getting into Hogwarts; turning 12 means giving up most kids’ menu privileges; turning 40 means realizing old age; turning 60 means admitting old age. There needs to be a middle ground, an in-between celebration that can be light-hearted, exciting, and free of any underlying disappointment which the significance of a birthday may bring. By recognizing half birthdays, people can fully enjoy and appreciate themselves as they are — no tugged heartstrings attached. Besides, anyone would agree that 49.5 still sounds younger than 50.
Some might lobby against half birthdays, fearing that the extra celebrations would spoil children and cause them to take for granted the specialness of a birthday. While this would probably be the case if one celebrated their birthday every day, every week, or every month, I can’t see how anyone would deem six months, or about 183 days, to be an insufficient amount of time for a kid to wait (that said, I respect all opinions… including my mother’s). If the reader is yet to be fully convinced of the appeal in recognizing half birthdays, let one also be reminded of the excruciating isolation we all experienced last spring and summer during quarantine. Surely the separation endured has kindled in us all a desperation for any reason to celebrate, dress up, or spend time in-person with family and friends, and half birthdays are the perfect way to quench our thirst for social interaction (and receive more presents, of course).
Finally, I will ask the reader an honest question. Wouldn’t you be flattered if someone — a family member, friend, or neighbor — cared enough to remember your half birthday and wish you well on that day? Haters can hate on the pettiness and frivolity that they may attribute to the holiday, but ultimately, half birthdays give us a chance to show gratitude for the people in our lives and spread joy to others’ days. Imagine how wonderful it would feel to be the first to wish someone a happy half birthday, especially if they themselves forgot. The occasion doesn’t need to be an outrageous, host-20-kids-over-for-a-sleepover, rent-a-bouncy-house, plan-the-day-months-in-advance sort of thing — just a bit of recognition would be nice. After all, aren’t you glad that I am alive today, having made it through another 6 months?