How People Feel About Bdays: Totally Reliable Birthday Statistics

flat lay photography of desserts
Photo by Karley Saagi on

Years ago I was surprised by the lack of scientific rigor (or would it be mathematical rigor) that went into some of the research I was finding about birthdays. Now, I changed my major in college to avoid taking statistics (no joke). But, I still can recognize a small sample size or faulty reasoning. So, at the time, I decided to make my own contribution to birthday science by posting a survey on this biggest of days online. I invited my readers to respond, so I could generate some birthday statistics. They did. What surprises me now, though? People are still responding.

Apparently there are people who go on Surveymonkey and just fill out random surveys. Weirdly, I’ve had a bump in responses to the survey since November of 2020. So maybe COVID-19 lockdown had something to do with it? 

Or maybe Surveymonkey itself has people do it so that I’ll be driven to pay the fee to “go pro” and see all the answers. As it is, I can only see 40 people’s answers and the rest are deleted if left too long. Since I don’t want to pay $25 a month (or more!) for what was a lark anyway, I can’t tell you how many responses I’ve lost since opening the survey in 2016. However, I do know I don’t want the kindness of strangers who have taken the time to answer to go unappreciated. 

Thus, forthwith, and with great fanfare, I will now share my highly reliable, uber-scientific/mathematic, rigorously tested answers to pressing questions about birthdays.

Completely Reliable Birthday Statistics

To my initial surprise, 9 of my 40 friendly respondents (or 23.08%) said they do not “actively celebrate” their own birthdays. What an opportunity missed, I say! But at least it makes my birthday statistics more credible.

However, the majority of respondents do make the biggest deal about their own birthday (41.03%) with a “family member’s birthday (not furry)” coming second (23.08%) and a friend’s birthday a close third (20.51%).

Parties and cake were tied for top way to celebrate, but dinner with family or friends was a really close second (the difference between 22 responses and 21). No one in the survey went for spending their birthday in “quiet introspection.” But those who picked other and shared their ideas suggested they would want to celebrate with:

  • A fake ID
  • Sleepover with friends
  • Get money
  • Gifts
  • A drive-by sweet 16 (obviously a COVID response, unless they really meant that they wanted a car to drive!)

When asked to rank what they’d prefer to receive, gifts were no. 1 with phone calls and a surprise party next on the list. Social media greetings was fourth…so that tells me you should just pick up the phone and share some birthday love next time around!

The birthday statistic that made me happiest? The vast majority (61.54%) said the time to stop celebrating birthdays was “never!” I couldn’t agree more. 

Next time I write, I’ll share what people responded when asked what their best birthday gifts were!


Gift Giving Taboos

Birthday gift

Photo credit: / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

For many people part of the excitement of birthdays is the gifts. I’m not only talking about kids. Adults can get pretty loopy about the loot they receive too.

In the interest of helping out loyal readers of this blog, I’ve compiled a list of gifts to avoid for the superstitious and with attention paid to international customs:

  • It’s bad luck to give a clock or timepiece gift in China as the word for clock sounds like death.
  • Handkerchiefs are another bad choice (because you know you were ready to give those monogrammed ones you made!) as they are used to wipe away sadness and frustration and you don’t want to draw those to the birthday recipient.
  • Moroccans may not want their gifts in yellow, pink or violet as those are colors associated with death.
  • Put a small amount of money in a new wallet, purse, or piggy bank to give the receiver good luck or to ensure that they will never be without money (depending on which interpretation of the tradition you adhere to).
  • Shoes can be a mistake as they symbolize giving the birthday guy or girl the ability to walk away forever.
  • Giving an umbrella or fan is thought to be bad luck too (because the Chinese words for fan and umbrella sound like the word meaning to scatter or to lose).

Apparently, the way to counteract many of these superstitions is for the birthday boy or girl to pay the giver a token sum (even a penny). In this way they have paid for this item instead of getting it as a gift. Somehow that keeps the chi/fates/bad luck elves at bay.

And whether or not you are superstitious, you should probably steer clear of self improvement gifts. You might have the best of intentions, but you could easily offend your recipient by wrapping up that diet cookbook or bathroom scale as a birthday gift.

Need help with the wrapping of your now appropriately chosen gift? I blogged some suggestions in the past.