Etiquetteer is always pleased to hear from readers, and has received a couple thoughtful responses to a recent column on how to observe the birthday of someone who has died.
"I enjoyed your recent column about honoring someone's memory on their birthday or on the anniversary of their death.
"I'd like to respond from a Jewish perspective if I may. In the Jewish faith, it is very important to remember loved ones who have died. To do so we traditionally light a special 24-hour candle called a yartziet candle at sunset the evening preceding the day that the loved one died. So if I'm lighting a candle for my father who died on March 29, I would light the candle at sunset on the 28th. All Jewish holy days begin at sunset the day before. Now it is Perfectly Proper to light a yartziet candle to honor a loved ones birthday if you are a Reform Jew. Orthodox Jews only light candles on the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Being a Reform Jew myself, I light yartziet candles to mark my parents birthdays as well as their deaths anniversary. It gives me great comfort. Also, I have a dear grandmother who was an atheist and I know she would NOT want a candle lit for her memory on any day. So to honor her, I like to put her picture next to my blooming house plants on her birthday. Just because she loved her plants so much. I don't think there is a right way or a wrong way to honor your loved ones who have died. I think it's improper not to remember them at all."
Would it be pedantic to observe that one has but one birthday and that thereafter one can only celebrate its anniversary?
Yes, rather. But then it's our pedants who keep us up to the mark.