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A Birthday, Not a Break

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Whether or not you want the cake, you're getting a slice.
"Oh, man. Not on my birthday."
Lilo Pelekai, Lilo & Stitch: The Series ("Amnesio")

Something awful happens. The lovers finally break up, the heroes get captured, a beloved character dies, The Bad Guy Wins... and after the smoke clears, one of the characters suddenly remembers that today is their birthday.

Used to heighten the dramatic irony of something so tragic happening on what is supposed to be a happy day, and symbolizing how the character(s) will never be the same.

Alternately the character is aware it is their birthday, in fact, there's a party just for them. But during the party there is an attack, a conversation between two characters, a revelation, etc. that disturbs (and often ends) the party. Basically the party is used as a reason to have all the characters be in the same place. That way they are conveniently together when the supervillain attacks instead of needing to be called, especially crucial if the characters are adults with day jobs or secret identities and wouldn't naturally be spending time together without a cause. This party is why the people who have been avoiding each other will finally have to talk. This gathering of people is how the secret comes out (someone reveals it not knowing it's a secret or someone being drunk both common causes) and the revelation has more of an impact because now everyone knows not just the few people it effects.


Compare/Contrast Ironic Birthday, which is when the bad thing in question has to be kept a secret, and the character in question doesn't remember their own birthday until the party. Not to be confused with Birthday Party Goes Wrong, where it is the party itself that goes south rather than that something unrelated to the party causes trouble. Related to Dangerous 16th Birthday, Worst Wedding Ever (when Played for Drama) and Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday (when the horrific events happen because it's a special day, birthdays included.) See Shoddy Shindig for boring parties.



    open/close all folders 
  • There's a Public Service Announcement showing a little girl's birthday party. The girl and her mother are both excitedly waiting for her father to get back with the birthday cake. They run out to the driveway when they hear a car door slam, only to find a police officer instead of the father. The mother bursts into tears while the girl struggles to understand what's happening. The now grown up girl explains that her father was killed by a Drunk Driver and she now spends her birthdays visiting his grave.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Black Butler: Ciel's tenth birthday was the day his house burned down with both of his parents inside. He was also kidnapped and taken off to be a slave and, oh sure why not? A human sacrifice to a satanist cult.
  • The climax of Chainsaw Man starts on Denji's 17th birthday. It's the day Makima kills Power and reveals to him that he killed his father, and everything he had ever known and loved was set up by her to be destroyed at the end. This, combining with Aki's death just a few days ago, drives Denji into despair and he ends up relenting free will to Makima, resulting in Pochita having to return to take back control of their body. He's later revived by Power, who sacrifices herself to give control over his body back to him and then has to go into hiding now that Makima's true intentions for him are out of the bag.
  • Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods: The entire fight with Beerus takes place in the midst of Bulma's birthday party. When all is said and done, however, Beerus does have the decency to apologize to the Z Fighters for ruining the party before taking his leave.
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: When Ed and Al have just gone through a traumatic experience at Laboratory 5 and are both still injured, Ed remembers that it's his birthday.
  • Tessa winds up having the absolute worst birthday in Dancing Very Merry Christmas. First she has to cancel her planned birthday party for a mission. Then the mission goes horribly wrong, partly because of her, and she winds up kidnapped by the antagonists. The ensuing romantic rescue by her crush, Sousuke, almost makes up for it... Until he bluntly confirms her worst fears—he's in love with Kaname, not her. It's at that point that Tessa breaks down in tears.
  • InuYasha: Kagome was dragged into the whole mess with the Shikon Jewel and the Feudal Era on her fifteenth birthday.
  • In My-HiME, a relatively light-hearted example happens when Mai has to take part in a make-up cooking exam and fight an Orphan on her birthday, and in a sound CD, Nao ends up getting everyone at Mai's room drunk. She briefly notes that this might be the worst birthday for her ever, having no idea how bad things will get for her before the end of the series.
  • Naruto spends his 17th fighting for his life against Sasuke at the conclusion of the Fourth Great Ninja War, which ends up costing him his right arm.
  • Happens in the first anime adaptation of Negima! Magister Negi Magi. Asuna dies on her birthday.
  • If one keeps track of the dates in Neon Genesis Evangelion, they would find that Kaji’s death happens a day before Misato's birthday, December 8th, which is only revealed in All There in the Manual.
    • Toji's 15th birthday, December 26th, is the same day End of Evangelion starts.
  • The final episode of Nurse Angel Ririka SOS takes place on Ririka's eleventh birthday. Ririka undergoes a Heroic Sacrifice on her birthday.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, Blue misses out on her 17th birthday during the Emerald arc because she happened to be Taken for Granite at the time.
  • In Saga of Tanya the Evil, the Duchy of Dacia invades The Empire requiring Tanya and her newly formed Rapid Response Mage Battalion to launch a counterattack on them, it's a staggering 50.000 infantry soldiers VS 48 aerial mages. All this happens on Tanya's "on paper" birthday. Tanya herself however, consider the attack as 'surprise gift' from Dacia because she got a chance to get a 'life fire exercise' for her newly formed battalion.
  • Star Driver seems to avert this at first, telling you relatively early in episode 6 that it's Sugata's birthday. Then the episode turns out to be a Wham Episode. And then Takuto's narration at the end of it reveals that it's his birthday too. While his friend cries over a seemingly dead Sugata.
  • Tokyo Ghoul:
    • Tokyo Ghoul has a very subtle example, for those paying attention. December 20th is the date given for the day Kaneki broke under torture and decided to give up on his humanity, embracing his Ghoul nature and gaining several dramatic physical changes in the process. It also happened to be his 19th birthday, adding to the symbolism of his "rebirth".
    • In the sequel, Kuramoto Itou spends his birthday taking part in a high-risk combat operation, fighting a Cute and Psycho Monster Clown. He makes no mention of it in-series, leaving this fact to be noticed by readers that are paying attention.
    • The sequel strikes again, with the climatic battle between Kaneki and Arima taking place on the eve of their shared birthday. It concludes with Arima dying in Kaneki's arms, having committed suicide on his 33rd birthday.
  • Yatterman Night: Leopard's 9th birthday was absolutely normal until her mother started succumbing to her illness. Then she discovers the truth about her lineage, goes looking for help by sneaking into Yatter Kingdom, gets shot at by her heroes, and ends up watching her mother die in the end. And that's just the beginning of her troubles...
  • The Movie for Yes! Pretty Cure 5 kicks off when Bunbee drops in on Nozomi's party, starts a fight and steals her birthday cake, leading to the Cures going to the Land of Sweets, where the Dessert Queen has been taken over by Mushiban.
    • Likewise, the climax of the story of KiraKira★Pretty Cure à la Mode takes place upon Ichika's birthday. The girls fight Noir, who is then betrayed by Elisio, who rids the world of happiness. Eventually, the Cures break out of his brainwashing and defeat him.
  • Zombie Land Saga: Sakura Minamoto dies less than a week after her 17th birthday and is revived a decade later as a zombie.

    Asian Animation 
  • Happy Heroes: In Season 7's two-part finale, a complication leads to the Supermen evacuating Planet Xing at the request of several of its inhabitants, with their non-biological mechanic father Doctor H. watching over preparations for a party that the citizens are preparing for their birthday for when they get back. The Supermen would rather be on the planet celebrating their birthday.

    Comic Books 
  • In Ultimate Fantastic Four, Victor Van Damme, aged 11, had his father drop his entire family history on him, and then leaves him alone in the parlor. Several hours later, Victor realizes that it's his birthday.
  • In Trese, it is only after a major battle with an old war demon that the heroine, Alexandra Trese, and her companions remember that it is her birthday. By this time, a lot of damage has been done to the city, Trese herself is recovering from some battle wounds, and her two sidekicks have very nearly been murdered by their own father.
  • In Persepolis, Marjane finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, is falsely accused of stealing a brooch, and runs away from the only place she had to stay, effectively rendering herself homeless, on her eighteenth birthday.
  • This is part of the premise behind the DC classic For the Man Who Has Everything. Superman is attacked with a fake birthday present sent by Mongul, and when Batman, Robinnote  and Wonder Woman unsuspectingly come for the party, they are forced to fight him to save Superman.
  • Wolverine's nemesis Sabretooth makes it a point to track down the former on the day of his birthday, no matter where he is, and fight him.
  • Superboy (1994): Superboy learns that Cadmus' previous twelve failed attempts to clone Superman had been secretly preserved in stasis chambers, has to fight S-01 when he gets accidentally released and misunderstands the situation due to his Bizarro-like imperfect state, has to watch S-01 degenerate and die after starting to get to like him and then returns home to a surprise birthday party as it is the first anniversary of the day he escaped from his Uterine Replicator and he is therefore now one year old.
  • Batman: Black and White: In "Good Evening, Midnight", the Bat-Signal summons Bruce to deal with a bus hijacking just as he was about to sit down to dinner; the presence of a cake with a candle indicates that it's his birthday.
  • The Girl From The Sea: Serena's birthday party goes less than smooth. Her parents let her rent their massive cruise liner, but a rogue selkie's attempt to crash the ship sends Serena overboard, where she nearly drowns. For extra irony, her screams for help can't be heard over the sound of guests singing Happy Birthday.

    Fan Works 
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic Fanfic Pinkie Pie, and Nothing More explains her behavior in "Party of One" this way. Basically, her parents decided to send her away from the farm to pursue her dreams, without giving her any choice in the matter. When she asks why they sprung this on her birthday, she receives a blank stare and realizes they forgot.
  • In the surprisingly good Young Ones fanfic The Unforgiven, this trope gradually unfolds through Miranda Balowski's journals and memorial service: she spent her sixteenth birthday giving birth to Vyvyan, and her parents threw them both out of the house shortly afterward.
  • In How I Became Yours, Katara miscarries her unborn son Kuzon a day before her birthday. Unfortunately, her choice of emphasizing the timing makes her come off as unsympathetic.
  • Another example with Katara is The Stalking Zuko Series, in which the events of "The Southern Raiders," as well as the murder of Katara's mother, took place on Katara's birthday. Luckily, the Gaang later has a proper birthday celebration for her.
  • In A Month of Sundays, it's revealed that the day that the story takes place (April 29th) what with all the madness regarding Foundation X, Gamou, Damballa and the crazy Kamen Rider Mannequins, Jun Shigeno states that it's her birthday. It's subverted because she knew that today was her birthday—she just didn't tell anyone about it.
  • In the InuYasha fic Beyond Tomorrow, chapter 7 reveals that Arina's Start of Darkness occurred on her eleventh birthday. Her mother walked in on her father having an affair with one of the female servants, and in the ensuing argument, Arina's father attacked her mother and brutally beat her on the spot; when Arina witnessed this, she ran for her life.
  • We Are All Pokémon Trainers:
    • DS and Mezzo's 20th and 16th birthdays, respectively, occur during the time they're stuck in the mindscapes.
    • PEFeDOS during the PMD-R arc is awakened and begins her sadistic testing once again on Tagg's 21st birthday.
    • It repeats with Tagg ending up in Ransei 600 years in the past due to concentrated April Fools shenanigans on his 22nd birthday. Herbert, also in the same situation, has his 16th birthday the next day.
    • Straw gets attacked by Shadow!Crewe on his 18th birthday, which was purposely invoked by Aelia For the Evulz.
    • Sarah was accidentally kidnapped, and subsequently held captive for several days, on her 17th Birthday alongside Ren's Treeko by an Illusion grunt.
  • Ashes of the Past reveals this to be the case for the events of Pokémon Heroes, as it took place on Ash's 13th Birthday. As a result of Latios' sacrifice in the original timeline, Ash didn't do anything for his later birthdays.
  • In chapter 24 of the Lucky Star fanfic I Was Kagami Hiiragi, Dr. Nagisa Kishimoto explains to Kagami how her sister, Yuka Miyakawa, became the way she is. When Yuka turned nine, she was brought on a "vacation" by her uncle to a cabin in the woods. Upon reaching their destination, said uncle proceeded to rape and torture her for two days until a pair of hikers heard her screaming, came in, and saw what was really going on. Long story short, things only went downhill from there.
  • Persona EG has Zodiac Shadows that target victims on their birthdays and pull them into Zodiac to be attacked. Anyone who will be attacked will receive a birthday horoscope on the Canterbook app that will read "You are going to die today." Then they are pulled into Zodiac to be attacked by their zodiac. Victims can only escape by being rescued or killing the zodiac with a persona. All of the main characters are attacked on their birthdays and awaken their own personas to fight back against the shadows.
  • In Common Sense, mainly due to constant attacks from the competent Rocket trio, Ash's birthday passed by without him realizing it.
  • With This Ring: September 17, OL's birthday is celebrated with the Team stopping a break-out at Belle Reve. To fair, he didn't tell anyone that it was his birthday.
  • Life Ore Death has the traditional mission on Wally's birthday, but averts this for the other two birthdays that occur on-screen. M'gann's birthday celebration in October is spread over several days, but is uninterrupted by missions. Even before either of those, Ferris turns 20 in August, and Kaldur takes her to Atlantis as a present while the others prepare a surprise, with no criminal activity occurring at any time.
  • In the Fairy Tail fanfic The Spirit Doll, when Nashi's 7th birthday comes up she has a breakdown because it's the first time it would be without her mother who is currently missing and has been for weeks.
  • Another Fairy Tail example, in Change of Fate the guild is celebrating Lucy's fifteenth birthday, everyone is being cheerful for her. That is until Mirajane and Elfman return to the guild bruised and in tears. They inform the guild that Lisanna is dead. This brings a halt to Lucy's birthday party. For her part, Lucy doesn't care about the party. She is more upset that one of her closest friends is gone.
  • In Spectator, Radi, District Three's Tribute for the 74th Games, starts out with a particularly bleak example of this, as the 74th Games began on her birthday and she gets killed in the opening bloodbath.
  • Luke's birthday in Power Rangers Take Flight coincides with the Rangers taking the Project: Jetman space station back from the villains.
  • In Blind Courage, Princess Zelda hates her birthday because her mother died on her seventh birthday.
  • Marinette Dupain-Cheng's Spite Playlist sees Adrien officially emancipate himself from the Agreste family on his eighteenth birthday. He has to remind his mother of the significance of the date before leaving the manor for the last time.
  • On Alice's 20th birthday in WonderShock, Sander Cohen leaves her and all the attending guests of his play trapped in Fort Frolic, causing ensuing riots and killings while Alice is caught in the middle. She even mentally notes that, considering her luck, of course something like this would happen on her birthday.
  • Weiss' birthday in Boop the Snoot for Critical Damage! consists of her being forced on the run, losing her planet, her family's company, her father getting captured and tortured, not knowing if her mother and brother survived or what not, getting hunted by Hyperion, and just to end a shitty day, getting run over by Ruby. Yeah, this easily qualifies as the worst birthday ever.
  • In the Junior Officers chapter "Margaret's Story", the last straw that gets Margaret to disown her father occurs on her birthday.
  • In An Emperor's birthday, the prequel to Sleuthing Trickster of Crafts, Kanji Tatsumi was looking forward to his birthday, especially spending time with his teammates, his wife Naoto who was returning from a case, and his son Ren. But that night while Ren volunteered to head out and get more coffee, Kanji received a phone call that his son had been arrested for "assaulting" a man.
  • A Growing Fire In My Heart: In chapter 6-8, Ember and her friends Aquafire and Blitz are invited to Ponyville to celebrate Spike's birthday. Despite a few rough spots, everyone has a fun time and Spike especially loves Ember's gift to him. Unfortunately, the good times soon come to an end when a dragon messenger interrupts the party to inform Ember that her father has died in his sleep.

    Films — Animation 
  • The main plot of Arlo the Alligator Boy begins on Arlo's fifteenth birthday, when he discovers he's not from the swamp, but from New York City, and his biological dad is still out there.
  • In the Prologue of Brave, on Merida's sixth birthday she and her parents are attacked by the monstrous bear Mor'du and her father ends up losing a leg.
  • The Emperor's New Groove
    • Virtually the entire film-in which Kuzco almost dies numerous times, undergoes a Baleful Polymorph, is days long distance away from home, has his worldview questioned for the first time in his life, and passes Despair Event Horizon-happens on his eighteenth birthday and the days before and after.
    • Also parodied. After discovering that the villain Yzma and her Dumb Muscle sidekick Kronk have coincidentally showed up at the same diner he and Kuzco have stopped at, Pacha buys her a surprise birthday cake and song from the wait staff so that he can use the distraction to make a break for it. When Yzma and Kronk leave the diner, this exchange happens:
    Yzma: Oh, this entire mess is all your fault!
    Kronk: What'd I do?
    Yzma: If you hadn't mixed up those poisons, Kuzco would be dead now! There'll be no more diversions until we track that llama down and kill him!
    Kronk: Said I was sorry. Can't just let it go... not even on your birthday?
  • Sleeping Beauty: The main conflict of the movie begins when Maleficent casts a curse on Aurora that on her 16th birthday, she will prick her finger on the spindle of a spinning wheel and die. Merryweather alters the curse so that Aurora doesn't die, she just falls into a Forced Sleep which can be broken with True Love's Kiss.
  • Storks: Nearly happens to Tulip, who thinks Junior was coming to wish her a happy birthday when he was actually coming to fire her. Junior can't bring himself to do it, so instead, she's Kicked Upstairs to the (defunct) letters department.
  • The Wallace & Gromit featurette The Wrong Trousers opens on Gromit's birthday. Not only does he get lousy gifts, it's the day Wallace advertises he's renting out the spare room and Feathers McGraw moves in, kicking off a series of events that leads to Gromit moving out.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Batman Begins, Bruce Wayne has a party on his birthday. Before that he has to save Rachel from the baddies and demolish half the city escaping from police. Nevertheless, he makes it home in time for his celebration party... only for the League of Shadows to set Wayne Manor on fire and nearly destroy the city with Scarecrow's fear toxin.
  • The Hong Kong film, Burning Ambition have a mob boss being attacked by enemy mooks while he's celebrating his daughter's birthday, where both his daughters and younger son who's having the birthday celebration with him have to fight off the mooks to protect their father. By the end of the fight, the son and the younger daughter (who is the birthday girl) dies trying to save their father.
  • In Godzilla (2014), the Janjira incident that resulted in the death of Joe Brody’s wife occurred on his birthday.
  • In The Room, Johnny finds out his fiancee Lisa cheated on him with his best friend on his birthday. He ends up killing himself over it.
  • In Big Game, most of the second and entire third act take place on Oskari's thirteenth birthday. His family even made it into tradition - to become a man, you have to hunt down a "big game" the day you turn 13.
  • Tree of Happy Death Day has to relive her birthday over and over because she is being killed on that day.
  • In Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Hermione remembers that it's Harry's birthday after the ¡Three Amigos! has escaped a Death Eater attack.
  • In The People Under the Stairs, on the day of Fool's 13th birthday, he and two grown-ups break into the house of two greedy landlords to get money to pay their rent and his mother's operation. They find something much more disturbing instead.
  • Happens in Mrs. Doubtfire - twice!
    • Early on in the film, Daniel Hillard (Robin Williams) throws a big party for his son Chris's twelfth birthday, despite his wife Miranda (Sally Field) saying Chris can't have a party due to his bad grades. The party ends up becoming a wild mess, with farm animals roaming around thanks to a traveling petting zoo, and loud music leading to the police coming to respond to a noise ordinance violation. Their neighbor Gloria calls Miranda to come home from work early, leading to the party ending early and Daniel and Miranda getting into a big fight over it, leading to her wanting a divorce, setting the film's plot underway.
    • Later on, it's Miranda's birthday, and she's invited her kids, her new boyfriend Stu, and their housekeeper Mrs. Doubtfire (unbeknownst to her that she's actually her ex-husband Daniel Disguised in Drag). As a prank, Mrs. Doubtfire laces Stu's jambalaya dish with the pepper he's allergic to. But among seeing Stu choking from the pepper, Mrs. Doubtfire has a change of heart and performs the Heimlich maneuver on Stu, dislodging the piece of tainted shrimp from Stu's throat and saving him... but gets his Latex Perfection mask as part of his "Doubtfire" disguise dislodged. Miranda is absolutely horrified by this revelation that she gets very angry and upset and grabs the kids and leaves the restaurant in a fury.
  • Eternals: On Dane's birthday, after celebrating with friends and receiving a ring with his family crest from Sersi, Sersi and Sprite are attacked by the Deviant Kro while walking home at night. Sersi has to spill the beans to Dane about the Eternals and their mission, and she and Sprite leave him to join up with the other Eternals.

  • Book Of Brownies begins with the princess of Fairyland getting kidnapped on her birthday.
  • Near the beginning of The Impossible Virgin, a Modesty Blaise novel, Sir Gerald Tarrant is facing the prospect of being given the boot as a scapegoat for a foul-up by an incompetent colleague. The day on which the axe is expected to fall is his birthday, but with everything that's on his mind he doesn't notice until someone points it out. Fortunately, Modesty decides to save his career as a birthday present.
  • In book 5 of the Nintendo Adventure Books series, it's Peach's 99th birthday (in fungus years). She puts on some enchanted sneakers, which make her run off, and the Mario Bros have to track her down and rescue her.
  • Happens a couple of time in the Tortall Universe by Tamora Pierce:
  • In A Series of Unfortunate Events, when the Baudelaires are in jail for allegedly killing Jacques in The Vile Village, Klaus suddenly remembers that it's his 13th birthday.
    • Violet goes through the same thing in The Grim Grotto when they return to the abandoned submarine.
  • In The Great Gatsby, after Tom, Jay, and Daisy have their big confrontation, Nick Carraway recalls that he just turned thirty today.
  • Percy Jackson and the Olympians:
  • Enola Holmes: Enola is horrified by the day her mother chose to ran off on. Slightly subverted, in that her mother had her reasons...
  • The Tale Of Magic:
  • PK Pinkerton in The Western Mysteries comes home to find his parents scalped, his father dead and his mother dying. He doesn't remember it's his birthday until he sees his favorite kind of cake on the table. Red licorice strings spell out "HAPPY 12th BIRTHDAY PINKY".
  • In Wintersmith, Tiffany only realizes that the day Miss Treason dies is also her birthday once it's all over and she realises Death called her Tiffany Aching, aged thirteen.
  • Mid-way through the book Holes. On Zigzag's Birthday, everyone is in on Stanley and Zero's "agreement" of digging holes in exchange for Reading Lessons. Zigzag, being the type of camper he is, doesn't take no for an answer when he offers to dig Stanley's hole for him, and when push came to shove, got rather vicious on Stanley for not taking a cookie he had offered him in exchange. Zero however would not have any of it and nearly strangles Zigzag to death for hurting Stanley.
  • The Cloak Society:
    • The game begins in protagonist Alex's twelfth birthday, as he's undergoing his first mission for the titular supervillain team. Kind of an Inversion, though, because if anything his parents probably meant this as a way to make the milestone more significant.
    • In the sequel, Villains Rising, Mallory mentions in the middle of their activity that it's her birthday. At least Alex gets some cupcakes to celebrate.
  • In Dresden Files, Dresden's birthday (Halloween) is a night of magic and the supernatural. Naturally, this means that he spends his birthdays trying to save the world. In one story, he's stopping necromancers from achieving godhood when his brother wishes him a happy birthday and Dresden's surprised anyone remembered.
  • Used to heighten the emotion of the final confrontation in The Malloreon when the characters realize that the captured prince will be turning two years old on the day of the EVENT.
  • In The Witchlands, Vaness doesn't get to kick back and relax on her birthday, since she's an Empress and it's the most important public event of the year - not to mention the ever-rising threat of assassins.
  • Yours Truly: Truly was looking forward to her birthday at the start of the book. She expected to receive a breakfast of sourdough waffles with butter and syrup, only to be informed that she'll be spending the day helping to volunteer at the Freeman Family Farm with the sap harvest.
  • In the Fairy Oak series:
    • Tomelilla's birthday party marks the eve of the first attack of the Terrible 21st.
    • When Titch turns nine, he learns the truth about the Captain's past, has to deal with Adelaide Spleenworth and almost drowns and is electrocuted while trying to save Nibbler.
  • David Copperfield: Little David Copperfield, already a half orphan sent away from home to school, is told his beloved mother is dead on his birthday.
  • A Little Princess: The news that Sara's father died penniless after a bad investment arrives on her birthday. Among all the things that are taken away by the owner of Sara's boarding school to compensate for the loss of money she has retroactively become, Sara's birthday presents are the first to go beacause the school's owner had paid for them expecting to get the money back on the next payment for Sara's upkeep.

    Live-Action TV 
  • All in the Family: "Edith's Fiftieth Birthday" is marked by a visit by a rapist. Chilling words when the rapist tells her "Happy birthday!" upon learning of what that day is, seemingly more determined to give her his "present".
  • The final episode of The Bite takes place on Rachel's birthday and has her desperately searching for a cure for the zombie virus after she's infected with it.
  • The Brittas Empire: An epic Trauma Conga Line (including temporary blindness, death of an aunt, death of a pet, loss of life savings) for Colin is revealed halfway through to have took place on his birthday.
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Played for Laughs. The events of the Season 7 premiere are revealed to have taken place on Officer Debbie Fogler's birthday — including the part where she and Captain Holt were held at gunpoint by a would-be political assassin. (Just to make things worse, it's also presumably the birthday of her murdered twin sister.) Despite this, she declares it her "best birthday ever", due to the fact that she actually helped to crack the case and then got assigned her favourite task (collecting traffic cones) at the end of it.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Virtually every time Buffy's birthday is celebrated on-screen, it's followed by a supernatural tragedy or crisis she has to deal with. In season 6, Spike lampshades it and remarks that since bad things always seem to happen on Buffy's birthday, she should just stop celebrating it.
  • In the CSI episode "Appendicitement", Henry's surprise birthday dinner at Harry's Hog Hideout is disrupted by a car accident, the restaurant having been closed by the health department, and the discovery of the corpses of restaurant personnel. Those last two things turn out to be related.
  • Doctor Who:
    • "Death in Heaven": It's revealed that the evil plot of the day and all its traumatic events are, in fact, the Master's idea of a Surprise Party for her arch nemesis, the Doctor. The day ends with Osgood and the Master dead, the Doctor breaking down in tears after his hopes of finding his missing native planet were crushed once again and his parting with Clara, who has been his closest friend for years. Made worse by how he was completely unaware that it's his birthday until the Master pointed it out.
    • "Fugitive of the Judoon" takes place on tour guide Ruth Clayton's birthday, when the thuggish Judoon invade her home of Gloucester searching for a fugitive. Not only is Ruth's husband Lee killed, she turns out to be the titular fugitive and is forced back into her true identity.
  • The Electric Company (1971): The "Spidey Super Stories" short "The Birthday Bandit" was one who was determined to ruin children's birthday parties. Dressed in a gaudy lime green outfit, the Bandit breaks into a home and steals the cake, ice cream decorations and presents, all while telling what he's doing a la Dr. Seuss. (A radio news show later reveals that the boy was completely heartbroken when the party was literally stolen from him, thereby fitting the trope.) Spidey stops the Bandit while attempting another heist, but not before the Bandit erroneously concludes that an extra-large cake for the party is a trap.
  • Firefly: In "Out of Gas", the crew is celebrating Simon's birthday when a mechanical error injures Zoe and temporarily disables Serenity.
  • In an episode of Friends, Phoebe has to break the news to Precious, the woman whom Mike was in a relationship with while he and Phoebe were separated, that not only are they getting back together (thus ending his relationship with Precious) but he also proposed to her. Precious then remarks "This is the worst birthday ever!"
  • The season two finale of The Good Place reveals Eleanor died on her birthday.
  • How I Met Your Mother:
    • Ted is guilty of causing this twice with his ex-girlfriend Natalie, both times not even being aware that it was her birthday. The first time he breaks up with her, he does it by leaving a message on her answering machine, which is played in front of everyone at her surprise birthday party. The second time, he does it publicly in a restaurant, again not even being aware that it was her birthday. Understandably upset he did it twice and didn't even consider it was her birthday both times, Natalie uses her Krav Maga skills to beat him up.
    • Tracy's (i.e. the titular's mother's) boyfriend Max, her first big love, dies on her 21st birthday. She's devastated.
    • The final season (except for the last two episodes) takes place entirely over Robin and Barney's wedding weekend, so many of the plots involve all the characters being together for the wedding (or, in Marshall's case, trying to get to the wedding). However, this means that what is usually a year's worth of episode-worthy events occurs in the span of a little over 72 hours. This includes multiple sets of cold feet on behalf of both the bride and groom (with both attempting to escape at least once), Robin's reunion with her rarely mentioned, never seen mother, Marshall's journey from Minnesota to the wedding in New York by car, bus, foot, and eventually car again, Barney escaping and teaching two teenagers how to "be awesome" and subsequently getting the hangover of a lifetime, an argument that nearly ends Marshall and Lily's marriage, and - most notably - Ted finally meeting the Mother (who had already met Marshall, Lily, Robin, and Barney before that). Ted notes that it was the longest weekend of his life.
  • In an episode of Malcolm in the Middle, Malcolm gets sick of being repeatedly bullied by a big kid at school and gives him a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown. Not only does it turn out that the kid is much younger than he looks (so he claims, at least, but none of the school staff deny it), making Malcolm feel incredibly guilty for beating him up, he follows up with "THIS IS THE WORST BIRTHDAY EVER!"
  • In The Orville, Kelly and Bortus have their birthdays within days of one another. They receive a signal from a pre-space flight world and engage in First Contact. Unfortunately, the locals are obsessed with astrology and consider anyone to be born on the same month as Kelly and Bortus to be dangerous criminals. Kelly and Bortus spend their birthdays (and that entire month) in an internment camp for individuals like them. The crew does, however, throw them a party after they come back.
  • Our House: In the second-season opener of the 1986-1988 NBC domestic drama, 13-year-old David and his class go on a field trip on his birthday and stop at a rural church for a picnic; there, David makes friends with the janitor and are inside the church when a massive earthquake strikes. In the aftermath, the janitor is gravely injured after a gas line blows up inside the church and is blown outside. David goes to the hospital and holds a bedside vigil by the man's bedside, but he ultimately dies from his injuries. (Two classmates are also badly hurt when they are caught in the church's tower during the explosion, but both of them survive and recover from their injuries.)
  • Towards the end of the second season of Rome, Cassius and Brutus offhandedly remember that it is Cassius' birthday in the immediate lead-up to a battle. They both remark that the battle will interfere with any kind of celebration that day, and promise to have a big event the next year. Both Cassius and Brutus know this is little more than a hopeful lie they are telling themselves, since they fully expect to die during the battle, and do.
  • Rossi on Criminal Minds doesn't celebrate his birthday because a serial killer will give up the name and location of one of his victims to Rossi in person on his birthday.
  • Murray the cop in Pizza is willing to arrest anyone for any reason, so in one episode, after confronting Habib for apparently setting off fireworks (which Habib doesn't do a good job of denying, on account of being deaf and having soot-stained hands), he then gets into a shouting match with Habib's Hot-Blooded cousin Rocky, before furiously stating that "Today's me FUCKIN' BIRTHDAY!!! I DON'T NEED THIS SHIIIIIIT!!!" He then arrests Rocky and throws him in the car, where he's already detaining DJBJ and Davo Dinkum.
  • Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: In "The Assignment", Miles O'Brien finds out that an alien presence has possessed his wife's body and the alien will kill Keiko if he doesn't help them kill the aliens in the wormhole. It's O'Brien's birthday and at his party he's surrounded by friends he can't tell about his problem because the alien will kill Keiko in an instant. The alien later subtly hints that she could use Keiko's body to harm their daughter as well.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: "Parallels" starts with a surprise birthday party for Worf, who soon finds that he has been unknowingly traveling between alternate universes midway through the episode. Deanna Troi claiming to be his wife at one point is a big clue...
  • Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms: Bai Qian is kidnapped and almost drowned on her birthday.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959):
    • "The Shelter", Dr. Bill Stockton's birthday party is interrupted by a nuclear alert, followed by all the guests desperately trying to break into his fallout shelter, which has only enough room for Stockton's family. The alert turns out to be a false alarm, but the relationships between Stockton and his friends are damaged, perhaps irreparably.
    • In "It's a Good Life", being unable to relax and do what he wants on his birthday for fear of provoking the local six-year-old Reality Warper is the final straw that pushes Dan Hollis into a meltdown that winds up getting him killed by said reality warper.
    • In "Hocus-Pocus and Frisby", Somerset Frisby is abducted by aliens on his 63rd birthday. They plan to bring Frisby back to their own planet as the most impressive specimen that humanity has to offer. As they have no concept of lying, the aliens believe all of his outrageous tall tales about his past accomplishments.
    • In "The Incredible World of Horace Ford", the title character is fired from the toy company by Mr. Judson on his 38th birthday after he refuses to take a leave of absence because of his increasingly erratic behavior. That night, Horace returns to Randolph Street where he turns into a 10-year-old boy. His childhood friends then beat him up for not inviting them to his birthday party.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985):
    • In "If She Dies", Paul Marano gets into a car accident on his birthday. He is uninjured but his young daughter Cathy ends up in a coma.
    • In "Examination Day", on his twelfth birthday, Dickie Jordan wishes that he will do well on the government's mandatory intelligence test. After the test is conducted, he is found to be too intelligent and he is killed by the government.
    • In "Grace Note", Rosemarie Miletti's beloved younger sister Mary dies of leukemia several days before Rosemarie's birthday. The last thing that she does before she dies is give Rosemarie her birthday present: a locket with Mary's picture.
  • Ultraman Leo: MAC gets utterly annihilated on a team member's birthday.
  • In Victorious, in one of her stories about her brother, Cat implies this happened at her last birthday. She was expecting to get a bike as a present, but when she got home her brother had shaved his head. This resulted in her parents spending the rest of the day shouting at him.

  • In "Joe Bean", sung by Johnny Cash, the title character (guilty of robbery and murder) gets hanged on his birthday. The song ends with the prison staff singing "Happy Birthday, Joe Bean" as the gallows lever is pulled.
  • In "It's My Party", sung by Lesley Gore, the singer's boyfriend steps out during her birthday party to propose to someone else.
  • Taylor Swift discusses this in two tracks off of Red (2012).
    • "The Moment I Knew" is about the narrator's boyfriend blowing off her birthday party even though he promised he'd be there, which is the final nail in the coffin for their relationship.
      What do you say,
      when tears are streaming down your face
      in front of everyone you know?
      And what do you do when the one who means the most to you
      is the one who didn't show?
      You should've been here,
      and I would've been so happy.
    • The 10-minute version of "All Too Well" mentions the same incident, revealing it was specifically her twenty-first birthday, and that her father could only watch sadly while she kept hoping he'd show up.
      He watched me watch the front door all night,
      willing you to come.
      And he said, "It's supposed to be fun...
      turning twenty-one."

    Pro Wrestling 
  • A running gag is to have a wrestler take an especially harsh thrashing if a show happens to fall on their birthday, bonus points if the thrashed are a baby face and even more it is also in their hometown.

  • In Julius Caesar, Cassius realizes it's his birthday right before the battle where he's killed, after having noticed a ton of bad omens about the battle.
  • "See, I'm Smiling" is one of the most depressing songs in The Last Five Years, which itself is basically Love Hurts: The Musical. It's here that Cathy has a massive fight with her husband, realizing their marriage is damaged beyond all hope of repair, and she finally voices her (correct) fears that he's cheating. The fact that this is all happening on her birthday is just the cherry on top.

    Video Games 
    Visual Novels 
  • In CLANNAD, Kotomi Ichinose's parents died in a plane crash on her birthday.
  • In The Fruit of Grisaia, Sachi Komine's parents were run over by a truck in front of her on her birthday, killing her father and leaving her mother in a coma.

    Web Animation 
  • Parodied in DEATH BATTLE!. Deadpool and Pinkie Pie were made to fight each other on the former's birthday, much to his annoyance. After Pinkie finds out, she throws him a birthday party in Ponyville, abruptly ending the fight much to Wiz and Boomstick's confusion.
  • In GoAnimate "Grounded" videos, Caillou will have this happen to him. Sometimes he'll do something bad and wreck his chances, but most of the time, groundings are his presents.
  • RWBY: In "Alone Together," when Yang assumes that Weiss doesn't understand loneliness because she comes from a large family with a lot of closeness, Weiss tells her what the Schnee family is really like to live with by using her tenth birthday as an example. Her mother called out her father for missing Weiss's birthday dinner, leading to Jacques snapping and admitting he only married her for the family name. His wife is so devastated that she turns to drink, eventually becoming a drunkard who can never be relied on to show up or support any of her recitals or social events.

  • Inverted in chapter four of Angel Down, which is a slower placed Slice of Life collection of vignetes covering Ariel's birthday, setting it apart for the comics usual action heavy tone.
  • This Channelate strip plays this for laughs, with someone deciding that it's best to break bad news to someone in a good mood...
  • In Unsounded, Duane Adelier and his daughter were heading home on her birthday, when they were both brutally murdered by a group of muggers. One of the last things Daune saw before his eyes were gouged out was his daughter's lifeless corpse lying in front of him.
  • Sluggy Freelance: In "Stick Figure Tales of Cotton", Dr. Ironologue is squashed by a giant gorilla and then remarks that it was ironic because it's his birthday, but the others don't buy it. It's a lot less subtle than the usual example.
  • In The Young Protectors, Kyle ends up having to deal with a crisis on his birthday, because turning 18 makes him fair game for supervillains, which the Annihilator exploits to spring a Honey Trap, use Kyle's power to communicate with a Demon Lord, and open a Hellgate.
  • Although not quite in the trope's order, Grace of El Goonish Shive learns that her 18th birthday is the next Saturday while she's being held captive by Damien, from another captive. Prior to that, she didn't even know how old she was.

    Web Original 
  • Worm:
    • Taylor just can't catch a break.
      Kurt: [chuckling] I'd offer you a drink, but that'd be against the law. How old are you, anyways?
      Taylor: Fifteen.
      Danny: Sixteen.
      [Taylor turns to look at her dad]
      Danny: It's the nineteenth. Your birthday was a week ago.
      Taylor: [remembering she was fighting the Slaughterhouse Nine then] Oh.
      Kurt: That's the saddest goddamn thing I ever heard.
    • Later, Taylor is celebrating another birthday when Jack Slash begins his attack, heralding the end of the world.

    Web Videos 
  • Whenever it's a birthday for a member of Hat Films, a special video goes up of the other two planning a "special treat" for the birthday boy. Recent birthday videos have essentially been the other two members physically and psychologically torturing the third with "birthday quizzes", where wrong answers end in destroyed gifts and having to eat food with a new ingredient that makes it taste disgusting. Ironically, their previous birthday videos just involved opening fanmail.

    Western Animation 
  • The Adventure Time episode "Seventeen" takes place on Finn's seventeenth birthday. There are relatively few guests at the party, because the Candy Kingdom has gone on lockdown in response to the looming threat of Gumbald. Said party is then crashed by a mysterious Green Knight who tries to kill Finn and turns out to be a resurrected Fern, as well as Lolly and Gumbald himself. Gumbald tries to attack and brainwash Princess Bubblegum before being scared off by Marceline. After Gumbald leaves with Lolly and the Green Knight in tow, Finn declares the day to have been his worst birthday ever.
  • Amphibia: On Anne's 13th birthday, Sasha pressured Anne into stealing a music box Marcy had seen in a thrift shop. The music box turned out to be magical, and transported Anne, Sasha, and Marcy to Amphibia.
  • Avatar: The Last Airbender: Played for Laughs. The series finale takes place on the day of Sozin's Comet, the most important day of the war since it started one hundred years ago. When Sokka infiltrates a war balloon, he gathers the staff in one place by claiming they have an important birthday to celebrate. It turns out that it actually is one of the officer's birthday, and he's touched "the general" remembered. So not only did he have to serve on this crucial military operation on his birthday (though he probably considered it an honor), he gets dumped into the sea with the rest of the staff.
  • Bob's Burgers: In the episode "Eat, Spray, Linda", it's Linda's birthday and she's having a rough day. While her family works hard to make a perfect spa day, she's sent out to fetch groceries so she doesn't peek and ruin the surprise. She ends up stuck behind a woman at the counter who takes forever to buy her items (and stole her place in line!), has the family car pinned between two giant vehicles in the parking lot, locks her keys and phone in the car by accident and herself out of the vehicle as a result, gets gum in her hair, no one will give her the time of day to use their phone to call home, she rips her pants and ends up wearing a plastic grocery bag as a diaper, ends up on a bus going to the wrong wharf and ends up hours away, walks home for miles on end, gets sprayed by a skunk (twice), breaks her glasses, has to ride in the back of a horse trailer to get close to home, and runs into the same snooty woman at the grocery store, refusing to let her have passage through a street blocked off for a chalk festival all because she hadn’t been "nicer" in line, and is called a hag not two minutes later. It gets better at the end after her family, who have spent hours looking for her, come home to find her crawling through the kitchen window she just broke in through and finally is able to have her spa day. And Bob learned more about her in the hours he spent searching for her from various places and people, partially thanks to the kids Gene, Louise, and Tina.
  • In the BoJack Horseman episode "Say Anything" the story follows Princess Carolyn for a day, during which she loses a client and a movie deal, gets excited for a relationship only to have it crumble, and ends with her staring out her office window and her phone ringing to reminder today is her birthday. And she's 40.
  • The very first Couch Gag ofThe Critic has Jay waking up to his mother calling him and telling him that she and his father have decided to leave him out of their will feeling that he already has enough money. She then adds “Oh yes, and happy birthday.”
  • This happened on the Dexter's Laboratory segment "Dial M for Monkey" in the banned episode "Barbequor", where Barbequor and his herald the Silver Spooner attacked the Earth while Monkey was having a birthday party thrown for him by the other heroes, who kept trying to stop Monkey from fighting them so he could enjoy his birthday while they try (and fail) to handle it themselves. Even after saving the day, Monkey doesn't get to enjoy his birthday because he then has to give The Infraggable Krunk a ride home and is having a hard time accomplishing the task because Krunk can't remember where he lives.
  • The Grand Finale of DuckTales (2017) happens on Webby's birthday. Her party is actually a cover to raid F.O.W.L., which she's downright thrilled by due to her fondness for adventuring. But then things take a turn for the worse and she's kidnapped, she discovers two clones of herself named May and June (who she's told to stay away from), she herself turns out to be a clone of Scrooge McDuck, and she nearly sees her family destroyed by a megalomaniac determined to rid the world of adventure.
  • The Elena of Avalor series finale, "Coronation Day", takes place on Elena's coronation, which is also her birthday. Team Ash picks this day to attack Avalor.
  • In Jurassic World: Camp Cretaceous , Eddie, one of the scientists, gets killed by dinosaurs on his birthday.
  • Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts: On her thirteenth birthday Kipo's friends try to make it a fun day, but Scarlemagne's henchmen make even a day at an amusement park a fight for their lives. It's also the day Kipo notices the odd changes her body is having, which began the episode prior.
  • Mighty Max's two-part series finale sees Max celebrating his birthday...which is also the day Skullmaster kicks his apocalyptic plan into action.
  • Miraculous Ladybug: Marinette's grandmother Gina and Adrien's best friend Nino were akumatized on, and in fact because of, the heroes' respective birthdaysnote . Their classmates Alix and Nathaniel and teacher Miss Bustier were all akumatized on their own birthdays.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode Secret of My Excess, Spike turns into a giant rampaging monster and nearly destroys Ponyville on his birthday. Justified in that this happens because it's his birthday: dragons in this setting grow larger and more feral if they get too greedy, and the large number of presents he's given accidentally sets that off.
  • The Owl House has the episode "Understanding Willow" where it's revealed that on her birthday, Amity was forced by her parents to break off her friendship with Willow, or else they would pull some strings so that Willow could never attend Hexside. And she was a child when this happened.
  • In the Regular Show episode "Free Cake", Mordecai and Rigby try to throw a surprise birthday party for Skips, but they unwillingly interrupt the ritual dance he performs for the Guardians of Eternal Youth on each birthday in order to stay immortal, which nearly kills him. Fortunately, the two of them give the guardians the chocolate cake that they got for Skips' birthday party and he gets spared.
  • Happens to Michelangelo in a third-season episode of the classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series, appropriately titled "Michaelangelo's Birthday", when Shredder and his mutant minions Bebop and Rocksteady make several attempts to undo the mutations of him and his brothers.
  • The Teen Titans (2003) Season 4 episode "Birthmark" has the rest of the Titans discovering it's Raven's birthday, only for her to want to completely avoid the day in general due to it being the day foretold that she is to become the portal for her father Trigon to arrive on Earth and turn it into his own personal domain. Due to the machinations of a Back from the Dead Slade, the first stage of this prophecy comes to pass, as she is covered with the markings that will enable her to become said portal and is given a nightmarish vision of Trigon's supposedly-inevitable victory.
  • Young Justice (2010):
    • Wally's sixteenth birthday party is interrupted when four giant flying ice fortresses start trying to freeze the entire country. He initially regards this as a good birthday, since it will give him a chance for a team-up with the Justice League, but grows disappointed when the blizzards knock out all transportation services, resulting in him having to run a transplant heart from one coast to the other in time for a little girl's surgery. He barely manages it after being tricked by the girl's Evil Uncle, and collapses in exhaustion right afterward.
    • Dick's fourteenth and nineteenth birthdays are detailed in the show's tie-in comic. The first appears to be fine: his crush kisses him on the cheek because his best friend was kind enough to inform her, and he has a huge party at his house. His nineteenth, however, quickly devolves from a couple routine missions to recruit a new member and prevent a possible assassination to all of that, plus several high-profile Leaguers and Superboy going missing, the city of Metropolis being cut off from the rest of the world, and what appears to be an alien invasion.

    Real Life 


Video Example(s):


Murray's Worst Birthday

Murray the Cop had a rough day on his birthday. He arrested DJBJ for dancing in front of the kids in his undies, then arrests Davo Dinkum for theft, and Rocky had gone a step to far, making Murray upset, so he arrested him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / ABirthdayNotABreak

Media sources:

Main / ABirthdayNotABreak