A birthday party is a celebration of the anniversary of the birth of the person who is being honored. The tradition started in the mid-nineteenth century but did not become popular until the mid-twentieth century. Birthday parties are now a feature of many cultures.
In Western cultures, birthday parties include a number of common rituals. The guests may be asked to bring a gift for the honored person. Party locations are often decorated with colorful decorations, such as balloons and streamers. A birthday cake is usually served with lit candles that are to be blown out after a “birthday wish” has been made. The person being honored will be given the first piece of cake. While the birthday cake is being brought to the table, the song “Happy Birthday to You” or some other birthday song is sung by the guests.
At parties for children, time is often taken for the “gift opening” wherein the individual whose birthday is celebrated opens each of the gifts brought. It is also common at children’s parties for the host to give parting gifts to the attendees in the form of “goodie bags”. Children and even adults sometimes wear colorful cone-shaped party hats.
Birthday parties are often larger and more extravagant if they celebrate someone who has reached what is regarded in the culture as a milestone age, such as transition from childhood to adulthood. Examples of traditional coming of age celebrations include the North American sweet sixteen party and the Latin American quinceañera.