Some holidays are "celebrated" because a famous person that did something special in the past, died that specific day. I always thought that maybe it would be better to celebrate their birth rather than their death.

What's the origin of doing this? Is there something special that makes sense for this?

  • 5
    One practical factor is that the death of a famous person is often more accurately known as his/her birthday.
    – Greg
    Mar 31, 2016 at 2:53
  • I think saints' days in the Catholic Church are death anniversaries. Tradition says Saint Patrick died on the 17th of March. Apr 1, 2016 at 3:05

1 Answer 1


Death anniversaries are as old as the hills. It is a prominent practice in traditional East Asian cultures, owing to ancestor worship. It is called 忌辰, 忌日 or 命日, all meaning "day of mourning". In China, such practices predate recorded history. Conversely, these cultures didn't traditionally celebrate individual birthdays; births and ages are counted as the start of the year.

Death anniversaries are also celebrated as part of Orthodox Christianity, originating from their theology.

Perhaps the most famous death anniversary is Good Friday.

The reason why death anniversaries are a big deal is the same as why anniversaries are a big deal. Years are the longest natural cycle that has significance on human life, so it's a better time than any to revisit past events.

  • Except that you can't really call Good Friday an anniversary, because it's a moveable feast :-)
    – jamesqf
    Mar 31, 2016 at 17:24
  • Before births were a thing tracked by governments, it was probably much easier to remember the day a famous person died then to figure out when they were born, especially if they were not famous at birth.
    – user15620
    Mar 31, 2016 at 19:34

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