According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, aesthetics “has come to be used to designate, among other things, a kind of object, a kind of judgment, a kind of attitude, a kind of experience, and a kind of value.” The discussion of aesthetics in birthdays can be used for multiple aspects of birthdays. The most obvious being the question, “what makes a good birthday party?” To look at this question, it must first be discussed the societal and cultural standards that have come about for birthday parties. When a person thinks of a birthday party they usually think of a child’s birthday party. This usually includes some kind of a theme, games or activities, balloons, pièce de résistance, a birthday cake. For young children a birthday party is the ultimate opportunity to not only show off how cool one is, but also to get a lot of great presents. Every child wants to have the coolest birthday in their grade, because they know the cooler party, the better the presents. This is why they stress over every aspect of their party, what kind of cake, what is the theme, where to go, etc. For many children, the ultimate birthday party comes with a fun activity for the children to do (my best birthday party as a little kid was at a place where they had a lot of bouncy castles and pokemon on the birthday cake), dinner, a delicious birthday cake with a cool design on it, presents for the birthday child, and goodie bags for the other children. These goodie bags allow the other children to not feel left out when the birthday child has gotten a lot of presents, and also to have a lasting impression even after the main party is over. Children also want to have cooler parties than their friends, in a sort of one-upmanship so common among little kids. These last two parts of the best birthday party for little kids leads to the next discussion, the best birthday party for teenagers.

As children get older their tastes start to change, and this reflected in their birthday parties. They no longer like childish activities like running around and doing activities, and so their birthday parties have changed to reflect their new tastes and interests. Often these parties include going out for dinner, getting money or whatever teenagers give each other as opposed to the toys that were so cherished as little kids. These parties are a reflection of how teenagers want to be more mature than they were as little kids, and they need ways to show this off to people. Some traditions remain, such as the birthday cake, but kiddy things like goodie bags are gone. However, teenagers cannot do things like drink beer or drive out to places like adults, so they must simulate these experiences in a more childish way. They will have a party, but not in the same way a little kid does, but rather with mature things that they think are cool. However, one tradition remains that starts to disappear from birthday parties as people get older, and that is the birthday child being the complete center of attention. All others must pay attention to them and the aspects that remain from the little kid birthdays such as a big cake or a thing to do with friends still remain and are still just as important to the birthday child. This starts to disappear as people move into adulthood, however.

Once a person becomes an adult, a birthday becomes far less of a celebration of oneself and more of a day that is a break from work, if they even get that, and a little bit of a treat for themself. Adult birthdays may involve a day off of work, a shopping trip, a spa trip, fishing, a sports event, some time with the family, or whatever else adults do (I’m not an adult!). The party may be a dinner out with some friends, but hardly ever the extravagance had in a child’s party.

An opinion of one can be formed by these parties from others. If a party is too boring or mundane, those invited will think the birthday child is too lame, and if it is too crazy they will think the child is weird. These can become a popularity contest, and this comes from the associations we have with birthday parties thanks to society. Societal and cultural norms have decreed that certain things are acceptable for these celebrations, certain things are necessary, and certain things are forbidden. An appreciation of what makes a birthday party is lost among many people, as they do not think about the various things that go into making it. The concept of a perfect or even good birthday party is a problem because it creates ideas of what a birthday party has to be. While obviously not a huge deal, it is representative of a larger problem in society that has come about by the necessity to determine what is good and what is bad.