Not-So-Forgotten Birthday

aka: Forgotten Birthday

Timmy: Don't worry about forgetting that my birthday was today, Mom and Dad. It's OK.
Dad: What?! Forgot your birthday?
Mom: We'd never forget your birthday, Tommy!

A major character is sure everybody's forgotten his or her birthday (or perhaps a similar occasion) and wanders around in an angry funk until surprise! They not only remembered it, they threw a Surprise Party!

The instigating factors in this plot are often that the character who is having a birthday often never actually comes out and says that it is their birthday ("Hey, guess what day it is?" or "Isn't today a special day?"), and the other characters further complicate by answering ambiguously ("Seems like any other day to me.")

These sorts of plots are fueled by Poor Communication Kills because they could be resolved by one of two simple actions. Main Character: "Hey, it's my birthday!" or Supporting Character: "Happy Birthday, [character]!" then saying they hadn't heard anything about a party yet. However, then there wouldn't be much episode to be had.

A subtrope of Birthday Episode. May overlap with The Complainer Is Always Wrong. For the version about the birthday of a marriage (anniversary), see Forgotten Anniversary.

If the birthday is truly forgotten, or if nobody cares about it, it may lead to One-Person Birthday Party. Contrast Ironic Birthday, when the birthday character is stressed or depressed about something other than their surprise party.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Keroro Gunsou: Keroro does this to Natsumi in one episode, while Fuyuki insists that Natsumi wouldn't enjoy it. Much to his chagrin, he finds his sister not only has a good time at the party, but completely fell for the ploy.
  • Mai-HiME episode 10. Made somewhat more surprising for the audience (and thus less Anvilicious) by not revealing what exactly Mai is upset about until the very end.
  • IGPX: Occurs completely by the book in an early episode to Amy, who has had workaholic parents her entire life and only recently made friends with the members of the team. In something of a subversion, her (absent) parents actually do forget her birthday.
  • Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate struggles to pull this off with the extra impetus that the place that the birthday girl, Ayumu, is trying to convince him to admit that he knows is where they're planning to hold the party, so Hayate has to get her to vacate the premises first. Nagi then manages to call her back for the actual party.
  • Played for Drama in one episode of Sailor Moon S, used to facilitate Chibiusa/Rini's Face-Heel Turn. She is shown a memory of everyone seemingly forgetting her birthday and uses that loneliness and depression to transform into Black Lady. Sailor Moon tries to use her magic to reveal the second part of the memory, that everyone really did remember it, as an "I Know You're in There Somewhere" Fight. She's convinced it's just a lie and it doesn't work.
  • School Rumble. The class celebrates Tenma's birthday but they don't know Harima was born a day after. Yakumo is the only one who remembered and even gave him a present.
  • In Rosario + Vampire, when Tsukune's birthday was coming up, and he wanted to ask Moka to spend the day with him. At the same time, he was disappointed that she didn't seem to remember it herself. After some misunderstandings and a close call with the Monster of the Week, he woke up in the hospital on his birthday, for Moka to reveal that she hadn't forgotten and to give him his present... and a Love Confession!
  • Inverted in Rurouni Kenshin. Kenshin believed he had forgotten Kaoru's birthday when she was actually expecting him to propose during a holiday that served for the purpose.
  • Unluckily, in Tamako Market Tamako's birthday falls on 31st of December. In the first episode, everyone temporarily forgets they were going to Tamako's house for her birthday when Dera chokes on mochi. Tamako says something like that happens every year, because New Year's Eve is such a hectic day at the market.
    • Apparently Mochizou has a drawer full of presents he has failed to give Tamako, though it's not obvious how much of that is due to forgetting instead of the obvious nervousness.

    Comic Books 
  • This happens to Donald Duck in "The Duck that Never Was", a Don Rosa comic story celebrating the 60th anniversary of Donald's creation. However, the "forgotten birthday" plot is really only briefly touched upon and Donald, unlike most of the examples of the trope, does directly tell his nephews that it's his birthday when they pretend they've forgotten.
  • A Little Archie Comics story presented a subversion of this. Veronica tells Archie that she thinks her dad has forgotten it's her birthday - and he has, because he's busy making plans for next week's Founder's Day celebration. Fortunately for him, Archie thinks he's planning a surprise party for Veronica and rounds up everyone to take part in it.
  • The main story of the Rocket Raccoon comic "Storytailer" begins with Rocket throwing a One-Person Birthday Party for himself, apparently believing that none of the other Guardians of the Galaxy remembered his birthday. Groot cheers him up by giving him a Treasure Map, prompting the two of them to search for the chest. When Rocket finds and opens the chest, a birthday cake rises out, and the other Guardians emerge from the shadows to wish him a happy birthday. Rocket actually bawls from disappointment, since the chest didn't have money inside.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Averted in Call Me, where Lisa Turpin mentions shopping for Harry's birthday and comments that she doesn't do pretending to have forgotten because she thinks it's mean.
  • In Harry Potter and the Bonds of Time, Sirius is annoyed because Ginny knows about Harry getting her a surprise birthday present.
    Harry: She doesn't know what it is.
    Sirius: She was supposed to think you forgot her present! James would be ashamed of you. He got Lily to fall for it! Birthday and anniversary! She didn't talk to him for a week!
    Ginny: And he considered it a good thing?

  • In The Smurfs 2, the Smurfs prepare a surprise party for Smurfette, but make it look like they have forgotten about her birthday, which unfortunately sets off the whole "time-travel-to-rescue-Smurfette-from-Gargamel" plot.
  • Played with in McFarland, USA. It's subverted when Coach White really forgets the cake and is late to his daughter Julie's birthday dinner (due to an extended cross country practice), then played straight with her surprise quinceanera.

  • There was a Garfield kids' book where Garfield thought everyone forgot his birthday, but what actually happened was that Garfield himself forgot which day his birthday was on and misremembered it being one day earlier than it really was; the party happened on the correct day.
  • In Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, Harry thought his friends had forgotten his birthday, but it was actually the result of an I Never Got Any Letters plot. The Dursleys forgot or ignored his birthday for real, however. (The Dursleys usually remember Harry's birthdays, if only to give him insulting presents such as Uncle Vernon's old socks.)
  • Subverted in Patricias Secret by Ruth Dagget Leinhauser. Patricia thinks her father has forgotten her birthday since he doesn't mention it. She didn't have a calendar. It was actually the following day.
  • Subverted slightly in Donna Parker: Special Agent, by Marcia Martin. Her family remembers that it's her birthday, but her best friend has apparently forgotten, except that she hasn't; she's organized the surprise party.

    Live Action TV 
  • Our Miss Brooks: Inverted in the episode The Birthday Bag. Miss Brooks forgets her own birthday, while everybody else remembers and throws her a surprise party.
  • An early episode of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers revolved around Zack thinking his friends forgot his birthday, only to find out they had a huge surprise party planned.
  • I Love Lucy
    • In one episode, Lucy asks Ricky to not acknowledge her birthday, then complains and storms out when he does as she says.
    • In another episode it turns out Ricky has taken precautions against this, by always keeping a box of chocolates and a birthday card hidden in the closet, which he calls his "emergency present."
  • In Sister Sister, the twins' depression over the forgotten birthday, combined with a well-placed message from a rich uncle (along with a bit of the wealth), results in them being stranded in Chicago during a snowstorm, having to use their twin powers to make it home to Detroit on the back of one train ticket. And yes, they did start bawling like Lucy when the surprise was sprung.
  • This was subverted in the short-lived series Molloy. The titular character, who was about to turn thirteen, innocently thought that her father and stepmother were pretending not to remember the occasion because they were planning a surprise party, and took to bursting into different rooms in the house acting shocked and thrilled... only to find them empty. Turns out the entire family really did forget, and weren't even home because they were out taking a drive in the dad's new sports car. note 
  • Wanda At Large: Subverted in this short-lived sitcom. The titular character doesn't want anyone celebrating her birthday. She sees the lights in her apartment go off (it's just her friends) and she calls the cops. When the cops break in, and one friend mutters "Happy birthday," her only response is to look at the cops and say "Well? Shoot!"
  • Doubly subverted in Saved by the Bell: they actually do forget Screech's birthday, and they spend the episode making it up to him.
  • In one episode of Full House, everyone really does forget about Kimmy's birthday because D.J. is so wrapped up in plans for the anniversary of her first date with Steve, which happens to be on the same day. Once D.J. realizes her error, the Tanner clan immediately pulls out all the stops to throw a party on very short notice - complete with toilet paper decorations and a hash brown "cake" pulled from the freezer. She's delighted by the party until a comment from Steve tips her off to what really happened, and is hurt by the realization, but everything gets sorted by the end of the episode.
  • In That '70s Show, Red and Eric really did forget Kitty's birthday, and then tried to pretend like they were planning to invoke this trope all along by giving her some cheap presents they'd bought at the gas station at 11:40 P.M. She sees right through it, leading to:
    Eric: Dad. No!
  • Malcolm in the Middle
    • Happens to Dewey, of all people. He is the youngest child in the family, but he doesn't complain. Then, his parents decide to induce Lois's labour (she is pregnant at the time) so his new brother will get born on the same day. So he spends the whole day trying to clue Hal, who is oblivious, in to the fact that it is his birthday. In the end, he makes sure his father never forgets again by announcing over the loudspeaker in front of hundreds of people that Hal forgot his son's birthday. Hal quickly leaves the convention after everyone starts giving him a disgusted look.
    • Being the nice guy that he is, he makes sure it doesn't happen to his little brother. He spends all day (and Hal's credit card) to set up a birthday party just for Jamie.
  • Happens to Pierce in the Community episode "Mixology Certification". The rest of the group convinces him it happened otherwise. Or do they?
  • In Married... with Children, they forget Kelly's birthday until they're reminded by learning of her plans to watch a movie with her date for the occasion. Al then devises a plan to have an excuse to always forget: They'd invite Kelly to watch a movie with them, she'd refuse in favor of her date, and the Bundys would use this as an excuse to forget her birthday every year after that. The plan backfires because Kelly decides to cancel the date instead. Al and Peggy's only relief was that Bud didn't have friends to remind them of his birthday.
  • An early EastEnders plot deconstructed this trope, with a family planning a surprise birthday party to cheer up their depressed daughter who runs away and spends weeks living on the street because she thinks everyone forgot.
  • In The Fresh Beat Band, Marina thinks everyone forgot, but she's wrong.
  • In Tower of Terror, Abigail Gregory slightly overreacts to her birthday being supposedly forgotten. She kills off her sister and four other people with witchcraft, leaving their cursed ghosts trapped in limbo for sixty years. Little stuff like that. Oh, and it turns out that a surprise party had been planned all along.
  • In a later episode of Family Matters, Steve goes through a bit of a depression when everyone forgets his 20th birthday. When Carl finds out, he tries to make it up to him.
  • In Drake & Josh. Drake forgets Josh's birthday for real. At one point Josh thinks Drake is planning a surprise party - which he is, but it's for his girlfriend, whom he's been dating for less than a week. The rest of the episode features Drake trying to make up for it, and of course things go horribly wrong, until Drake ends up planning a party for Josh.
  • On A Different World, Whitley is sure everyone forgot her 21st birthday and is upset that her boyfriend Julian attended a business dinner instead of celebrating with her. (It probably would have helped if she had told Julian that it was her birthday.) Kim and Jalessa hastily plan a surprise party in the dorm while Ron and Dwayne plan to "kidnap" her. The kidnap plot fails, Whitley gets tipsy on cheap wine, and ends the night celebrating with the girls at a diner.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Garfield once spent his entire birthday walking around corners faking a surprise, expecting Jon and Odie waiting for him with a birthday cake, only to find nothing there. Depressed, thinking that everyone forgot, he decides to go to bed. That's when Jon and Odie spring the surprise.

  • In Another Case Of Milton Jones, Milton makes a throwaway mention of the entire nation of Britain pretending to forget the Queen's official birthday. Despite this, a later episode shows that they forget his birthday every year.

  • In Pokémon Live!, Misty is upset with Ash because he never took her to the movies for her birthday as he promised. At the end, he makes it up for it by giving her the Diamond Badge he just won.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983): Orko, of all characters, believes everyone has forgotten his birthday and nearly runs away. note 
  • In one episode each of Captain N: The Game Master and the children's program Today's Special, a character (Mega Man and Scott the living mannequin, respectively) feels left out because they are not truly alive and therefore cannot have a birthday. Special surprises are prepared for each; in the Mega Man example, it means a chance to become a living being.
  • Quack Pack had such an episode. Instead of Donald Duck getting depressed because Huey, Dewey and Louie "forgot" his birthday, however, Donald gets incredibly angry at them because he thinks they're doing something illegal behind his back. They get sent to a correctional facility as a result.
  • The Fairly Oddparents plays with this in the above-quoted "Boys in the Band"; apparently, Timmy's birthday was actually the day after that depicted in the episode.
    • The trope was initially inverted in "Birthday Bashed". Timmy became 13 and had to hide it from Jorgen to avoid losing his fairies. It became no easy task, as it seemed his parents remembered and he had to get rid of anything they brought for the party. It was eventually revealed they were celebrating another thing and really had forgotten Timmy's birthday. That, among other things, was held by Jorgen as a reason to believe Timmy would still need fairies.
  • An episode of Johnny Test has Dukey thinking Johnny has forgotten his birthday. As it turns out, Johnny's just waiting until he buys a present before he acknowledges it.
  • In The World of Strawberry Shortcake (1980), some of her friends do forget Strawberry's birthday, but even she doesn't seem aware that it's her special day (to be fair, Strawberry's said to be turning six). Once they're reminded and start to arrange a party, they deliberately keep it a secret from her and turn down her lunch invitation so they can set it up; she thinks no one likes her anymore, but is directed by the narrator to the party when he can't bear to see her that sad. Notably, this plot isn't the whole focus of the story, but instead sets up the circumstances that allow the evil Purple Pieman to force the kids to give him all their berries (he sells them a magic watering can they give to her as a gift — it appears empty but generates water when you tip it. It's just that he's the only one who knows how to stop the flow...)
  • In an episode of KaBlam!, Henry and June celebrate their birthdays (since they were drawn on the same day, they were celebrating theirs on the same day). June gets Henry a remote-controlled car, but Henry forgot June's birthday! He makes up for it in the end, though.
  • The Flumps: Happens in an episode of this UK pre-school stop-motion series. Unusually, it's shown from the point of view of the rest of the family, trying desperately to conceal the truth from Grandpa Flumph. The educational purpose of the episode seemed to be explaining synonyms for "keeping a secret".
  • On Total Drama World Tour, Cody is so used to people forgetting his birthday that he forgets it... but Sierra doesn't. Awwwww.

  • Looney Tunes has a variation, in the 1967 cartoon "Fiesta Fiasco." Daffy Duck finds out Speedy Gonzales and his mice amigos are having a party to which he is not invited, and attempts to crash it by creating a storm cloud to rain on it... only to find out in the end it was a surprise party for his birthday, which he forgot about.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Moe'N'a Lisa" Homer forgets he made plans to take Moe fishing on his birthday. Moe is devastated until Lisa, who sees a rich artistic side to Moe, decides to write about him for school.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic inverts the trope in the episode "Party of One." Pinkie briefly loses it when the others drop excuses not to attend her spur-of-the-moment party. It's only at the end that Pinkie realizes it's her own birthday, and the others had made plans to throw her a surprise party well in advance.
  • In an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Pooh (sticky with honey) accidentally pulls several pages off Rabbit's calendar, leading Rabbit to mistakenly believe it's his birthday and misinterpret his friends' activities as preparations for a surprise party. Angst ensues when he concludes they've forgotten, but fortunately there's a party on his actual birthday the next week.
  • The short-lived English cartoon series The Pondles had an episode in which the main character, Pip, is led to believe that everyone had forgotten his birthday — though Pip, when hints don't work, breaks tradition by actually telling everyone he meets what day it is. Whereupon they enthusiastically wish him a happy birthday but regret that they're too busy to celebrate it. Of course, what they're busy with is preparing his surprise party.
  • Inverted in Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island: Daphne apparently spent so much time getting ready for her talk show, she didn't realize her birthday had arrived until the other Mystery Inc. members showed up and surprised her.
  • On the King of the Hill episode "Hank's Dirty Laundry," Bobby assumes his parents are buying him a birthday present while shopping for a dryer. (His birthday is a month away.) He later, on a different day, assumes his birthday party is that day. (It isn't.) He bemoans to Luanne that he "can't believe my parents forgot my birthday." Luanne says that "they've still got a whole month to remember." Hank and Peggy's new dryer is then delivered and Bobby believes it's his birthday present and loves it.
    • Another episode has Dale buy a weather balloon. Bill asks if it is his birthday. Hank corrects him, but only to realize his birthday was in fact last week. He first apologizes before wishing him a "happy belated birthday".
  • Roger Ramjet had one. By the end, the American Eagles kids surprised Roger during a nap that scared him to jump out the window. Everybody came to the surprise party even his arch-rival Lance Crossfire, and his arch-nemeses Noodles Romanoff and the No-Goods who rigged his birthday cake to explode on Ramjet, harmlessly, because Ramjet's birthday also falls on April Fools' Day.
  • In As Told by Ginger, Ginger's closest friend, Macie Lightfoot, has a 13th birthday that really is forgotten by her incredibly absent-minded parents. Although they are truly upset that they forgot such an important event, they then proceed to give her a birthday that caters more to small children than to their daughter's appropriate age (even giving her a swing set which she was years beyond). Despite this, Macie still thinks it's wonderful gift because she's just happy that they acknowledged her birthday.
  • An episode of Kipper, an animated show targeted at young audiences about a dog by that name, features Kipper and his friends throwing a surprise party for their friend Jake, but him thinking that they forgot his birthday.
  • The Angry Birds Toons episode "Another Birthday" featured a pig who tried to remind everyone that today was his birthday, but all the pigs ignored him or didn't care. At the end of the episode, the pig unhappily returns home for the night, only to find the other pigs throwing a surprise birthday celebration for him.
  • Code Lyoko. The premise: About three days after it happened, Yumi gives Ulrich the cold shoulder. Odd tells Ulrich this too late. Ulrich tries to make up with Yumi on Lyoko, failing, but the ending helps remedy this. Ulrich gives Yumi a gift. The gift ends up being Kiwi's, though.
  • An episode of Archer has the titular character (a super-spy) get offended when his co-workers seemingly forget about his birthday. The sub-plot only lasts about five minutes, though, as it's quickly revealed that they did remember and his boss/mother got him a Cool Car as a gift.
  • The Transformers Rescue Bots episode "Little White Lies", Chief Burns' children pretend to forget that it was his birthday when they were trying to make him a surprise party and order his favorite cake. Unfortunately, this "little white lie" caused perilous results.
  • In one episode of Doc McStuffins, Doc and the toys threw a surprise party for Hallie to celebrate her birthday and show how much they appreciated her hard work. Doc asked Hallie to take off her glasses so they could finish setting up for the party without her seeing.
  • In "Happy Birthday, Dog!" on WordWorld, Dog believes everyone has forgotten his birthday, but they're planning a surprise party.
  • This happens near the end of The Little Rascals episode "The Case of the Puzzled Pals", when Spanky explains that the now-broken microscope was a gift intended for the surprise birthday party he's planned at the treehouse.
    Alfalfa: But whose birthday is it, Spanky?
    Spanky: It's your birthday, Alfalfa!
    Alfalfa: Mine? Of course! That's the one clue I overlooked.

Alternative Title(s):

Forgotten Birthday