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Ironic Birthday

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"It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to..."
Lesley Gore, "It's My Party"

An Ironic Birthday occurs when a character has had to make a tough decision or has just lost something of extreme value to him, and upon walking into a room is greeted with a surprise birthday party. This is not a celebration that makes everything all right; this is about the character having to pretend to enjoy what should be a happy time while secretly suffering. He's grateful to his friends, but a party is the last thing he needs.

Compare Died on Their Birthday, which also intertwines birthdays with a dose of irony. Compare and contrast Birthday Hater, where someone just flat out hates their birthday for one reason or another; the difference is that, for this trope, the reason for not wanting to celebrate is more recent and likely temporary, whereas a Birthday Hater's motivation is often much more long-standing. Contrast One-Person Birthday Party (when the character is suffering because nobody else showed up to their party) and Forgotten Birthday (when the character is sad only because they don't know about the surprise party.). If their birthday is miserable but they don't have to act cheerful for a party, it's A Birthday, Not a Break. Can lead to Crying at Your Birthday Party.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Also not the victim's birthday: In Mazinkaiser, Baron Ashura infiltrates the Photon Power Laboratory disguised as Professor Yumi, and walks in on Yumi's surprise birthday party. To make matters worse, all the presents remind him of Baron Ashura, including a Baron Ashura-themed dartboard. He dashes out, screaming that he is, in fact, Professor Yumi.
  • Naruto was born on the day that his hometown was attacked by a demon, an attack that claimed many lives, including those of both his parents — and since that demon was sealed inside of him, most of the villager treats him like he was the monster responsible. During the Final Battle, the villain tries to taunt him by noting that it's the day before the anniversary of his parents' death, claiming their sacrifice was pointless. This backfires when Naruto counters that it's also his birthday, and the anniversary of his parents' victory of saving their son.
  • In the Negima! Magister Negi Magi anime the girls and Negi throw one for Asuna in episode 23. Because she sold her life to the devil exactly ten years before, she'd known for years that this was her last day alive. She sulks the whole episode until she goes back to a surprise party for her, and she celebrates with them. Her death minutes later is the most shocking event of the entire series.

    Comic Books 
  • Sensation Comics Featuring Wonder Woman: In "Wonder World" Diana first meets Riley when Riley is beneath a pier trying to stop crying and put on a happy face to rejoin her friends for her birthday gathering.

    Fan Works 
  • The Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfed Behind: The Departure" takes place around Empath's 155th birthday, when all the Smurfs in the village end up being lost in time, similar to the events that took place in Season 9 of The Smurfs (1981) cartoon show. This leaves him coming home to an empty village save for his friend Polaris Psyche.
  • In Obito-Sensei, the events of the story cause Sakura to forget her own birthday and she would have left it past if Ino and Naruto didn't convince her to have a party. All in all, it managed to be an enjoyable day minus the turmoil she's facing about choosing to be a Fake Defector for Konoha.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Not a birthday, but in District 9 Wikus walks into a surprise party to celebrate his promotion as he slowly turns into an alien.
  • Reversed in Godzilla (2014). Joe is told of his birthday by his wife before they go off to the power plant where they work. Hell breaks loose when the plant is breached and his wife dies.
  • In Left Behind (2014), the Rapture takes place on Rayford Steele's birthday.
  • Inverted in Pet Sematary (2019); Ellie dies on the day of her 9th birthday party.
  • In Spider-Man 2, Peter just lost his job, and just had a bad day overall, and comes home to a (heartwarmingly pathetic) birthday party.
  • XX has "The Birthday Party", in which a mother has to cover up her husband's suicide so as not to spoil the party for their daughter - Hilarity Ensues.

  • In The Berenstain Bears And Too Much Birthday, things go wrong for Sister Bear during her 6th birthday party, such as being the first one out at Going to Jerusalem/Musical Chairs, being teased at Spin the Bottle for not wanting to kiss anyone except Brother, being unable to accept the prize for Pin the Tail on the Donkey because it's her party and it wouldn't be polite, having her new birthday blouse soaked by a friend's squirting flower, and getting motion sickness from riding the rented ponies and merry-go-round. But the last straw comes when she's initially unable to blow out any of her birthday candles and her friends tease her with saying she'll end up having six cubs when she grows up, and she begins to cry, sadly telling Mama all the mishaps that occurred to her throughout the party. But she cheers up when the others remind her she hasn't opened her presents yet, and by the end, Sister gets to learn the true importance of birthdays.
  • In the Left Behind book Kingdom Come, Cendrillon Jospin's parents realized that their child would not become a believer by her 100th birthday, which in the Millennial Kingdom period means an automatic death sentence to Hell, so they celebrated her birthday before the day that she would die. She still went to Hell nonetheless.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A notorious episode of All in the Family involved Edith Bunker arriving to a surprise birthday party after being attacked by a rapist.
  • The second season of Atypical has Casey's sixteenth birthday, which she is not interested in celebrating, or joining in any of the traditions. Elsa organizes a party for her, which she didn't want. She did her best to have fun and even started to enjoy it, when she's discovered Elsa's invited the whole of the Clayton track team, who had recently been picking on her and even inking mean things on her trainers because Izzie's boyfriend made a move on her and tried to turn it on her. Understandably, Casey loses her temper at this point.
  • Breaking Bad:
    • The first episode pretty much revolves around this trope. Walter White comes home from the hospital on his 50th birthday, having just learnt that he has terminal cancer, to find a surprise party in his living room.
    • A season 5 episode features his 51st birthday (with a lampshade hung on how long a year it's been), celebrated for Walt Jr's sake despite the fact that he and Skyler are barely on speaking terms. The Cold Open to that season shows his 52nd birthday, "celebrated" alone, in a diner, travelling under a fake ID.
  • In Season 2 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy pretends she's okay when her mother (who doesn't know about Angel) celebrates with a movie and a birthday cupcake.
  • Possibly inverted in the Firefly episode "Out of Gas," where everything goes to hell during a surprise birthday party for Simon.
  • Frasier, who had two: one where he was trying not to accidentally stand up a woman for the third time, and one where he accidentally (with a little help from Roz) revealed his entire sexual history to the waiting party-throwers.
  • In Gilmore Girls, Paris winds up breaking up with her boyfriend Jamie, whom she had been cheating on, on his birthday. (Though she doesn't give any indication of knowing that it's his birthday...which is better or worse, depending on how you look at it.)
  • In How I Met Your Mother, Ted wants to fire his former boss Hammond, but events keep getting in the way, including a surprise birthday party for Hammond, and the next day another surprise birthday party for Hammond (many employees having missed the first). This trope's usual effect applies more to Ted than to Hammond, who just seems pleased.
  • On L.A. Law, Roxanne catches Arnie cheating on his wife with a client while his wife and friends are outside waiting to give him a surprise party for his 39th birthday. He has to quickly and frantically put on his clothes while Rox angrily berates him, and they both have to pretend to be happy and excited when everyone yells "Surprise!"
  • It is not his birthday, but for B.J., in the M*A*S*H finale, it might as well have been. He had made every attempt to get home in time for his daughter's birthday (he had not seen her since she was an infant). He got a third of the way there before having to turn around and come back to fulfill Potter's request for another surgeon. The 4077th then throws a substitute birthday party for his daughter.
  • In Smallville, there has not been a single perfectly happy birthday shown. Lex Luthor's 12th birthday involves an empty party. Clark's 16th birthday was fine for him at the time but Chloe saw him kissing Lana and left crying. He misses his 17th birthday because he is stabbed by an Ax-Crazy teenager with his powers. His 19th birthday was not long after Jonathan died. Chloe's 18th birthday involves being possessed by a Wicked Witch who proceeded to bloodily torture Clark. Her 22th birthday was after she suffered through a long Trauma Conga Line, and Zatanna had the bright idea to transform her into Lois. And Clark didn't show up for the party.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Assignment", Chief O'Brien's birthday party takes place while his wife is secretly possessed by a Pah-wraith.

  • "It's My Party" by Lesley Gore. The singer loses her boyfriend Johnny to Judy, who shows up at the birthday party wearing his engagement ring.

    Mythology & Religion 
  • The Bible: In the Book of Job, although the text never specifically states that the seven sons' appointed feasting days happened on their birthdays, it is implied that at least on one of them — the eldest son's birthday — that tragedy had struck all Job's first ten children in one day when the house fell upon them and killed them.

  • Pretty much the plot of the Jonathan Larson musical tick, tick... BOOM!.
  • Inverted in the 1993 musical of Tommy: As 4-year-old Tommy, his mother, and her new lover celebrate her 21st birthday, her presumed-dead husband arrives and breaks up by engaging in a fight between him and the boyfriend that soon leaves the boyfriend dead... all the while the mother tries turning Tommy away from the fight toward the mirror... with which he witnesses said fight by looking at it, after which the parents soon get surprised by what they see before the father gets arrested. Whoops!

    Video Games 

  • Tazel in At Arm's Length is the recipient of one of these in the story "Light The Candles."
  • The titular character in Flan Wants to Die has this, where she celebrates her 695th birthday, but she is more so disillusioned of her immortal life, given that most of the people she had known in the past were long dead.

    Western Animation 
  • Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law plays with this. He is convicted and sentenced in the murder of Dyno-Mutt, goes to jail, goes through his years of appeals, ends up on death row, goes through catharsis and healing experiences as he makes peace with his lot in life, goes to the electric chair and surprise! This was all a set up for his birthday party. Where this becomes a straight example is that the prison marriage to Magilla Gorilla was real.
  • This happened to Pingu in "Pingu's Birthday." The gang plays "Blind Man's Bluff" at Pingu's birthday party, and Pingu is not managing to find anyone and win the game. He tries to enjoy himself, but it's difficult with the others making it hard for him to win. But when Pingu's mother brings out the birthday cake, Pingu feels much better and enjoys the rest of his birthday.
  • Star Wars Rebels: Ezra Bridger was born on the day The Empire was formed. On his seventh birthday, that Empire took his parents away (and they would later die in a prison breakout). In "Empire Day", on Ezra's fifteenth birthday, he encounters a friend of his parents who is on the run from the Empire, and he and the rest of the crew try to get him out of danger. In the events that follow, Ezra taps into The Dark Side of the Force in a bout of fear and anger during a clash with the Inquisitor.
  • Teen Titans features the extreme example of Raven's friends celebrating her birthday, while she knows it signifies the end of the world.