Yom Kippur: When your birthday falls on the holiest Jewish fast day

Published date04 October 2022
Publication titleJerusalem Post, The: Web Edition Articles (Israel)
Some birthdays are more prevalent than others – the 10 most common birthdays in the United States all happen to fall in mid-September, a suspicious nine months after New Year's Eve, give or take a few days

Among all of the possible days that a baby can be born, there are some that make for better birthdays than others – to what degree a child has won or lost the birthday lottery may depend on factors like the culture and faith they are born into.

I myself grew up in a household where both Christmas and Hanukkah were celebrated in a relatively secular manner, but, having been born in the middle of December, am no stranger to the drawbacks of having a birthday in the midst of the American holiday season.

December babies often receive 1-for-2 "combination gifts" intended for both our birthdays and this or that holiday, and those around us tend to be too exhausted and preoccupied with all of the ongoing seasonal events to devote the same time and effort that siblings and peers born during other months receive by comparison.

When your birthday falls on Yom Kippur

All of that said, I've got no room to complain. After speaking with a number of people born on both 10 Tishrei as well as Gregorian dates that have fallen on Yom Kippur, I'm forced to conclude I've actually got it pretty good in the birthday department. Though there are some who have found ways to take the date of their birthday in stride, in general, feelings toward having a birthday on Yom Kippur range from relative indifference to downright disdain.

"It sucks," explains Tamar*, whose September 28 birthday has fallen on the holiday several times throughout her life. "Yom Kippur is a day when everyone is quite focused on themselves. Everyone is at home fasting, and even if you can meet with friends afterward, it's not an appropriate day for any kind of real celebration."

The struggle seems to be particularly acute during childhood, when birthdays tend to bear more significance than they do later in life. Growing up with a birthday that gets lost in the chaos of a month filled with joyous holidays is a gift compared to one that falls on a day whose entire purpose is to atone and repent. Tamar said she "felt like she missed out" in years where her birthday has fallen on Yom Kippur.

Shira's Gregorian birthday is at the beginning of October, and she shares a similar sentiment. "The special feeling of 'It's my birthday' is not the same when it's on Yom Kippur."

"The special feeling of 'It's my birthday'...

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