Happy Birthday! Have there ever been two sweeter words in the English language? Short, sweet and straight to the point. This greeting packs a lot of love and best wishes for the New Year. We all know how the song goes ? Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday Dear (insert loved one's name here), Happy Birthday to you. It's a short birthday wish diddy with a long history. Did you know that according to Wikipedia, the 1998 Guinness Book of World Records records "Happy Birthday to You" as the most recognized song in the English language, followed by "For He's a Jolly Good Fellow". The song's base lyrics have been translated into at least 18 languages.
The melody of "Happy Birthday to You" comes from the song "Good Morning to All", which was written and composed by American siblings Patty Hill and Mildred J. Hill in 1893. Patty was a kindergarten principal in Louisville, Kentucky, developing various teaching methods at what is now the Little Loomhouse; Mildred was a pianist and composer. The sisters created "Good Morning to All" as a song that would be easy to be sung by young children. The combination of melody and lyrics in "Happy Birthday to You" first appeared in print in 1912, and probably existed even earlier. None of these early appearances included credits or copyright notices. The Summy Company registered for copyright in 1935, crediting authors Preston Ware Orem and Mrs. R.R. Forman. In 1990, Warner Chappell purchased the company owning the copyright for $15 million, with the value of "Happy Birthday" estimated at $5 million. Based on the 1935 copyright registration, Warner claims that the United States copyright will not expire until 2030, and that unauthorized public performances of the song are technically illegal unless royalties are paid to it. In one specific instance on February 2010, these royalties were said to amount to $700. In the European Union, the copyright of the song will expire on December 31, 2016. The actual American copyright status of "Happy Birthday to You" began to draw more attention with the passage of the Copyright Term Extension Act in 1998. When the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Act in Eldred v. Ashcroft in 2003, Associate Justice Stephen Breyer specifically mentioned "Happy Birthday to You" in his dissenting opinion. So, while the history of the Happy Birthday Song is interesting, there's much more to a throwing a successful birthday celebration. Let's not get ahead of ourselves. The first thing to determine is what sort of birthday celebration you have in mind. Will it be formal or informal? A formal birthday celebration often takes place in a fine restaurant or in the well-appointed home of close friend or loved one. An informal birthday celebration would most likely be held in a small restaurant or bar, or even at the park or the beach. So, what are the ingredients that make the birthday celebration a smashing success? First, you must have close friends and family. If the party isn't a formal, sit down dinner, it's permissible to allow each guest to bring another guest, provided they rsvp so the host/hostess knows how much food and drink to plan. An informal birthday can be a free-for-all with each guest bringing wine, beer or liquor ? and a friend, of course. Occasionally, the host might ask guests to each bring a dish of their favorite food. From macaroni and cheese to the friend who always brings the obligatory bag of chips, sharing the cost and the work of catering is a great way to keep the birthday celebration budget from bursting. So, now that you've determined whether the party will be formal or informal, the next step is attire.
There's No Such Thing As The Birthday Suit
When it comes to parties, ladies and gents, please dress accordingly. Although it was popular in Victorian times, wearing white to a lawn party is a sure fire plan if you want to wear your whites only once. Stick to comfort, especially in the 21st century when everyday is casual day. Fine ladies hats and gloves, like those found in the AMC TVs incredibly popular Mad Men, have been out of vogue for more than 50 years. And ladies, please, no heels on the lawn. The weight of the body (no matter how slight) resting on the heel of the shoe compacts it into the grass and likely ruins a perfectly good pair of Jimmy Choo high heels. Instead, opts for a summer dress and sandals ? and don't forget the bug spray. Scratching mosquito bites is no way to spend a celebration. Guys can wear shorts and sandals. A smart straw hat always looks stylish and allows the women at the party to see when you're staring at them ? or as Patty Stanger of Millionaire Matchmaker calls it "the five minute flirt." Haven't heard of it? Here's how it goes. You causally stare at a woman you find attractive, then when you catch her eye, smile slightly and look away. Wait 10 minutes and look back. If she's now trying to catch your eye, you've got her. More on the art of flirting another time. Now, back to the party. Perhaps the most critical element of the party (besides food) is the decorations. Now's your chance to go all out. Think balloons, streamers, fresh flowers, picture frames as placemats, balloons, party favors ? you name it and it's absolutely appropriate. There is just one final element to add to the party mix ? the gift. On occasion, the gift may just be your presence. If you live far away or went to extreme measures to make the event, then no gift is required. When in doubt about the perfect gift, check your friend's Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest pages. There you'll find lots of clues about what they've recently been up to and news about any new hobbies or relationships. I see this as the upside to social media. Let's face it, it's not critical to know that your hairdresser just checked-into The Wishbone Restaurant in Chicago. But, if you spend a few minutes perusing their social media stations, you'll walk away with a satisfying secret ? the answer to the perfect birthday gift!