Birthday observance as a doctrine is not discussed in the Bible. In short, birthdays are not condemned in Scripture as being sinful. However, some claim there is indirect evidence that birthdays should not be observed by Christians. Let’s examine these claims.
Those who say that the Bible condemns birthday celebrations point to the fact that when it mentions birthdays it also mentions some terrible deeds. The Bible describes murder-executions as occurring on the birthdays of Pharaoh and Herod. However, tragedies linked with birthdays do not show that the proper observance of a birthday is displeasing to God. Pharaoh and Herod had people executed whenever they pleased. The fact that they chose to do this on one of their birthdays does not mean it is wrong to observe a birthday.
Some contend that birthdays are of pagan origin, and shouldn’t be observed for this reason, but this argument is not logical. Some pagans also had wild revelry and orgies at weddings and funerals. This does not prevent Christians from having weddings and funeral services, and it shouldn’t prevent us from having birthday parties that reflect right values.
Opponents of birthday celebrations point out that many ceremonies (like birthdays) and symbols we use in these ceremonies (such as candles) were first used by non-Christians in pagan ceremonies. However, just because something originated in such a culture does not automatically make it wrong. The pagans even had harvest festivals dedicated to pagan gods before God gave Israel the round of annual festivals, which were seasonal harvest festivals! Just because the pagans did it first does not mean that it is therefore forbidden.
Birthdays are basically anniversaries. We celebrate many kinds of anniversaries — weddings, dates of employment, dates on which congregations were founded, and so on. A birthday is the remembrance of the date of one’s birth and is just as acceptable as other anniversaries.
Inappropriate revelry and partying that occurs at some celebrations is condemned in the Bible regardless of whether the occasion is a birthday or some other activity. Any birthday celebrations should reflect godly values. However, because some people act unseemly during a celebration does not make the celebration itself wrong.
We can give gifts to our family and friends on their birthdays, and celebrate with a party. There is nothing objectionable with this kind of celebration, but we do warn against drunkenness and wild revelry common in some parts of our society. Common sense also tells us we shouldn’t foster an inordinate desire for gifts and selfishness in children. But a birthday celebration in itself is not automatically wrong.