Reader Response: Birthdays of the Deceased, Vol. 15, Issue 51

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.

First off:

"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."

And then:

Dear Etiquetteer:

Would it be pedantic to observe that one has but one birthday and that thereafter one can only celebrate its anniversary?

Dear Pedantic:

Yes, rather. But then it's our pedants who keep us up to the mark.