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How to Celebrate Birthdays in the USA

*Channels my inner 50 Cent*

Go, go, go, go, go, go

Go, shorty

It’s your birthday

We gon’ party like it’s your birthday

We gon’ eat cake like it’s your birthday

And if there’s no cake, it’s really not a birthday!

…Yes, you just bore witness to the beginning and end of my rap career. And no, the name of this blog is not misleading; I am here to talk about how to celebrate birthdays in the USA (and maybe provide an ad lib along the way). As a country made up of different people from all over the world, it’s not unusual to assume that a vast amount of birthday traditions exist here. But, birthday celebrations in America are actually as universal as 50 Cent’s ‘In da Club.’ And this is a good thing! 

With certain birthday traditions being common practice in the USA, it only allows for bigger and better celebrations. Read below to learn more about how they celebrate and how you can make it even greater by sending cake and other gifts to your special someone in America.  

Birthdays in the USA: white cake with cherries and pink and white balloons.

Why Do We Celebrate Birthdays in the USA?

Presently, birthday celebrations are popular, if not mandatory, amongst us average Joes. But, if we travel back in time, history would suggest that birthday festivities were often reserved for people in positions of power, pharaohs, kings and queens, and public figures. Making a stop in pre-industrial America, birthdays were only for rich people and national heroes. And it wasn’t until the 19th century that ‘normal’ people also wanted to wave their hands in the air like they just don’t care. 

The shift began with the celebration of children’s birthdays. And with the widespread production of post-industrial clocks, birthdays became a big part of how Americans conceptualized time. Age also eventually became a medium that separated kids into different grades and patients into different health categories at hospitals. So, by the 20th century, birthday celebrations became a nationwide tradition. 

Milestone Birthdays in the USA

Every year of life is a celebration. However, some birthdays are considered more significant than others, whether for cultural, religious, or other reasons. Have a look at a few milestone birthdays I’ve listed below and how each one of them would typically be celebrated in the USA:

1-Year-Old: The Birthday for Parents

Honesty hour, the first birthday really is a celebration for the parents. And, I mean, who wouldn’t want to celebrate successfully raising a child for one whole year? Of course, the birthday baby gets to have their fun too. One of the best traditions I’ve come across was ‘Smash Cake.’ And, yes, it’s exactly what you think it is. The baby gets to destroy their birthday cake while consuming more sugar than their parents would allow on a normal day. 

And with our help, you can send your favorite soon-to-be one-year-old a birthday cake to America! 

16 Years Old: Cue Teenage Angst

Do you remember that show that used to air on MTV, ‘My Sweet 16’? Where every guest would throw a tantrum if their parents bought them the wrong color Lamborghini? Well, I’m happy to report that most American 16th birthday parties are far from those fiascos. 16 means more freedom but also more responsibilities. It’s the age where most Americans get their driver’s license (sang it like Olivia Rodrigo?) while still experiencing the often awkward ups and downs of being a teenager. Not only is this the plotline for every Netflix coming-of-age movie, but it’s also the reason why turning 16 is such a big deal. 

In Latin American culture, a girl turning 16 is thrown a ‘quinceañera’ to celebrate her entry into womanhood. So, 16th birthday celebrations in the USA depend on what the birthday person wants, cultural traditions, or religious beliefs.

21 Years old: Legal Eagle

Although many don’t hold off until they’re 21 to drink, it is the legal drinking age in America. That tells you just what you need to know about 21st celebrations in this country. And because most American youths are at college around the time they turn 21, booze is a more significant part of the celebration than the birthday song. 

While I’m sure your American recipient won’t be needing any alcohol gifts from you for a while, you can always send them some cake for hangover munchies? 

Fun fact: A cake called the Hair of the Dog Rum Cake is said to be one heck of a hangover cure! Cake really can do it all. 

30, 40, 50 and Beyond: Decade By Decade

I have made it known to anyone who will listen, just how intimated I am by the age of 30. Watching ‘13 Going on 30’ at a young age will do that to you. But, although 30 and I will have to settle our differences in a dance battle at some point, many Americans live to celebrate their ‘decade’ birthday milestones. Celebrating 30 and beyond is about doing something adventurous just as much as throwing a birthday bash. 

Many friends plan surprise birthdays in the USA for their loved ones who reach this age. And, although they may not be as keen to blow out candles, cake (or a dessert of some kind) is guaranteed to make an appearance. 

Birthdays in the USA: Friends cheering as birthday person blows out their candles.

Popular Cakes for Birthdays in the USA: The Top 5

Now that you have a better idea of how Americans like to celebrate their birthdays, let’s get to the only thing that matters! Cake! Okay, not really, but it’s definitely the yummiest part of any soiree. While Cakes Overseas doesn’t believe in choosing favorites, I’ve made this list for the greater good. For any soul trying to send a cake to the USA while stuck between deciding on icing or cream, red velvet or chocolate, sprinkles or no sprinkles, below are the top 5 cake flavors ranked by state popularity

Number 5: Carrot Cake 

One of my personal favorite flavors, and it just made the list. Loved by the people of Alaska and New Mexico, I could argue that it should rank a little higher, but I’ll take what I can get. Carrot cake is life! 

Number 4: Sponge Cake

We have the Californians, New Yorkers, and Delawareans to thank for this placement. Served in New York’s ‘Crumperie,’ it has been a popular dessert in the USA since the 1920’s. And it is clearly still a confectionery that Americans can’t get enough of. 

Number 3: Molten Lava Cake

Would you believe that this delicious, melt-in-your-mouth dessert was made by accident? And although Instagram didn’t yet exist, it was claimed to be the viral dessert of the 90’s. Today, its chocolatey ganache goodness still makes it the cake of choice for the people of Iowa, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Texas, and Virginia. 

Number 2: Strawberry Cake

The love story between the USA and strawberry shortcake began around 1847, as the earliest recorded recipe can be found in the famous Miss Leslie’s Ladies Recipe Book. And, what do you know, they’re still going strong. Now known as ‘strawberry cake,’ this flavor is loved in 7 American states, including Tennessee, Arkansas, and New Hampshire.  

Number 1: Ice Cream Cake 

You could argue that ice cream and cake are entirely separate desserts; I know I did. But, when you consider that 41% of Americans claim that ice cream is their favorite dessert, and cake is their second favorite, ice cream cake…takes the cake? Loved by 10 states in the USA, this contestant won fair and square (despite not really qualifying in the first place). 

Plain Happy Birthday Cake in Front of Shiny Pink Streamers

The Cherry On Top

American birthday traditions aren’t too extravagant and they ultimately come down to personal preference, age, and cultural beliefs. But, no matter what age your American recipient has reached, or how they plan to celebrate, I promise, they’re going to want cake! 

Make it easy for yourself and for them by ordering a cake with us! I promise none of my rapping will be involved (unless you request it!). 

Woo-Hoo! You’ve learned all about Birthdays in the USA!

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