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A famous desperation plot for Sitcom Writers. A major character is sure everybody's forgotten his or her birthday (or perhaps a similar occasion) and wanders around in an angry funk until surprise! They not only remembered it, they threw a Surprise Party!
The instigating factors in this plot are often that the character who is having a birthday often never actually comes out and says that it is their Birthday ("Hey, guess what day it is?" or "Isn't today a special day?"), and the other characters further complicate by answering ambiguously "Seems like any other day to me."
What can make these especially infuriating for the viewer is that the entire situation could be defused by a simple: Main Character: "Hey, it's my birthday!" or Supporting Character: "Happy Birthday, [character]!" then saying they hadn't heard anything about a party yet." However then there wouldn't be much episode to be had.
For the version about the birthday of a marriage (anniversary), see Forgotten Anniversary.
This trope can be a subtrope of The Complainer Is Always Wrong.
Anime & Manga
- Keroro Gunsou: Keroro does this to Natsumi in one episode, while Fuyuki insists that Natsumi wouldn't enjoy it. Much to his chagrin, he finds his sister not only has a good time at the party, but completely fell for the Forgotten Birthday ploy.
- Mai-HiME episode 10. Made somewhat more surprising for the audience (and thus less Anvilicious) by not revealing what exactly Mai is upset about until the very end.
- Inverted in episode 7 in the first season of Beyblade, (well, in the dub version at least) Tyson is so excited about his match with Kai, he forgets about his own 13th birthday.
- IGPX: Occurs completely by the book in an early episode to Amy, who has had workaholic parents her entire life and only recently made friends with the members of the team. In something of a subversion, her (absent) parents actually do forget her birthday.
- Hayate the Combat Butler: Hayate struggles to pull this off with the extra impetus that the place that the birthday girl, Ayumu, is trying to convince him to admit that he knows is where they're planning to hold the party, so Hayate has to get her to vacate the premises first. Nagi then manages to call her back for the actual party.
- In one episode of Sailor Moon S it's Usagi's birthday and when she drops an unsubtle hint about what she wants for a gift, Mamoru reveals that he didn't know it was her birthday so he gets a huge slap in the face from her. Turns out she never actually told him when her birthday was.
- School Rumble. The class celebrates Tenma's birthday but they don't know Harima was born a day after. Yakumo is the only one who remembered and even gave him a present.
- Subverted in Rosario to Vampire, when Tsukune's birthday was coming up, and he wanted to ask Moka to spend the day with him. At the same time, he was disappointed that she didn't seem to remember it herself. After some misunderstandings and a close call with the Monster of the Week, he woke up in the hospital on his birthday, for Moka to reveal that she hadn't forgotten and to give him his present... and a Love Confession!
- Inverted in Rurouni Kenshin anime. Kenshin believed he had forgotten Kaoru's birthday when she was actually expecting him to propose during a holiday that served for the purpose.
- This happens to Donald Duck in "The Duck that Never Was", a Don Rosa comic story celebrating the 60th anniversary of Donald's creation. Though the "forgotten birthday" plot is really only briefly touched upon and Donald, unlike most of the examples of the trope, does directly tell his nephews that it's his birthday when they pretend they've forgotten.
- Daisy Duck once forgot her own birthday.
- This issue of Betty and Me used the plot.
- A Little Archie Comics story presented a subversion of this. Veronica tells Archie that she thinks her dad has forgotten it's her birthday - and he has, because he's busy making plans for next week's Founder's Day celebration. Fortunately for him, Archie thinks he's planning a surprise party for Veronica and rounds up everyone to take part in it.
- This happens in the Hellblazer issue "Forty".
- In one Harry Potter fanfic, everyone forgets Hermione's birthday because it happens to coincide with Talk Like a Pirate Day.
- In Sixteen Candles, the main character's birthday is forgotten by everyone due to the furor caused by her sister's impending (and last minute) wedding.
- In Know It or Not, Aditi's birthday is missed by her best guy friend for a date with Mehgan— she doesn't take it well.
- A plot of many Little Golden Books.
- There was a Garfield kids' book where Garfield thought everyone forgot his birthday, but what actually happened was that Garfield himself forgot which day his birthday was on and misremembered it being one day earlier than it really was; the party happened on the correct day.
- In Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets, Harry thought his friends had forgotten his birthday, but it was actually the result of an I Never Got Any Letters plot. The Dursleys forgot or ignored his birthday for real, however. (The Dursleys usually remember Harry's birthdays, if only to give him insulting presents such as Uncle Vernon's old socks.)
- Subverted in Patricia's Secret by Ruth Dagget Leinhauser. Patricia thinks her father has forgotten her birthday since he doesn't mention it. She didn't have a calendar. It was actually the following day.
- In one of the Gossip Girl books, Eleanor Waldorf unwittingly schedules her wedding for Blair's birthday.
Live Action TV
- The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Everyone forgets Amy's sixteenth birthday while she's in New York. In the next episode, her mom( played by Molly Ringwald) is horrified when she finds out they forgot Amy's birthday and laments, "Everyone forgot my sixteenth birthday and it stayed with me forever!" Amy is mildly irritated, but she quickly gets over it.
- An early episode of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers revolved around Zack thinking his friends forgot his birthday, only to find out they had a huge surprise party planned.
- I Love Lucy did it a few times.
- In one episode, Lucy asks Ricky to not acknowledge her birthday, then complains and storms out when he does as she says.
- In another episode it turns out Ricky has taken precautions against this, by always keeping a box of chocolates and a birthday card hidden in the closet, which he calls his "emergency present."
- In Sister Sister, the twins' depression over the forgotten birthday, combined with a well-placed message from a rich uncle (along with a bit of the wealth), results in them being stranded in Chicago during a snowstorm, having to use their twin powers to make it home to Detroit on the back of one train ticket. And yes, they did start bawling like Lucy when the surprise was sprung.
- Hannah Montana: In this case, Miley and Jackson actually did forget their father's birthday.
- Molloy: Subverted. The titular character, who was about to turn thirteen, innocently thought that her father and stepmother were pretending not to remember the occasion because they were planning a surprise party, and took to bursting into different rooms in the house acting shocked and thrilled...only to find them empty. Turns out the entire family really did forget, and weren't even home because they were out taking a drive in the dad's new sports car.
- Wanda At Large: Subverted in this short-lived sitcom. The titular character doesn't want anyone celebrating her birthday. She sees the lights in her apartment go off (it's just her friends) and she calls the cops. When the cops break in, and one friend mutters "Happy birthday" her only response is to look at the cops and say "Well? Shoot!"
- Subverted by Saved by the Bell: they actually do forget Screech's birthday, and they spend the episode making it up to him.
- In one episode of Full House, everyone really did forget about Kimmy's birthday because D.J. was busy with the anniversary of her first date with Steve, which fell on the same day. Kimmy sees right through the others' attempt to do a birthday once D.J. realizes the mistake (it's a comment from Steve that tips Kimmy off), but they're forgiven.
- In That 70s Show, Red and Eric really did forget Kitty's birthday, and then tried to pretend like they were planning to invoke this trope all along by giving her some cheap presents they'd bought at the gas station at 11:40 P.M. She sees right through it, leading to:
- Malcolm in the Middle: Hal does this to Lois, his programmed watch didn't go off.
- Happens to Dewey, of all people. He is the youngest child in the family, but he doesn't complain. Then, his parents decide to induce Lois's labour (she is pregnant at the time) so his new brother will get born on the same day. Spending the whole day trying to clue Hal to the fact that it is his birthday who is oblivious to it. Poor Dewey...
- Being the nice guy that he is, he makes sure it doesn't happen to his little brother. Spending all day (and Hal's credit card) to set up a birthday party just for Jamie.
- Happens to Pierce in the Community episode "Mixology Certification". The rest of the group convinces him it happened otherwise. Or do they?
- In an episode of Married... with Children, the family decides to make tomorrow Seven's birthday since nothing his happening on that day. Turns out it is actually Al's birthday.
- In another episode, they forgotten Kelly's birthday until they were reminded by learning her plans to watch a movie with her date for the occasion. Al then devised a plan to have an excuse to always forget. They'd invite Kelly to watch a movie with them, she'd refuse in favor of her date, and the Bundys would use it as an excuse to forget her birthday in every year after that. The plan backfired because Kelly decided to cancel the date instead. Al and Peggy's only relief was that Bud didn't have friends to remind them of his birthday.
- An early Eastenders plot deconstructed this trope, with a family planning a surprise birthday party to cheer up their depressed daughter who runs away and spends weeks living on the street because she thought everyone forgot.
- Subverted in The Fresh Beat Band. Marina thought everyone forgot, but was wrong.
- In Tower of Terror, Abigail Gregory slightly overreacts to her birthday being supposedly forgotten. She kills off her sister and four other people with witchcraft, leaving their cursed ghosts trapped in limbo for sixty years. Little stuff like that. Oh, and it turns out that a surprise party had been planned all along.
- In Another Case of Milton Jones, Milton makes a throwaway mention of the entire nation of Britain pretending to forget the Queen's official birthday. Despite this, a later episode shows that they forget his birthday every year.
- In Pokémon Live, Misty is upset with Ash because he never took her to the movies for her birthday as he promised. At the end, he makes it up for it by giving her the Diamond Badge he just won.
- In an episode of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, this happened to Michaelangelo.
- He-Man and the Masters of the Universe: Orko, of all characters, believed everyone had forgotten his birthday and nearly ran away. 
- In one episode each of Captain N: The Game Master and the children's program Today's Special, a character (Mega Man and Scott the living mannequin, respectively) feels left out because they are not truly alive and therefore cannot have a birthday. Special surprises are prepared for each; in the Mega Man example, it means a chance to become a living being.
- Quack Pack had such an episode. Instead of Donald Duck getting depressed Huey, Dewey and Louie "forgot" his birthday, though, Donald got so ANGRY at them he thought they were doing something illegal behind his back. They were sent to a correctional facility as a result.
- The Biskitts did this one to the letter.
- The Fairly Odd Parents plays with this in the above-quoted "Boys in the Band"; apparently, Timmy's birthday was actually the day after that depicted in the episode. Retconned by the 77 Secrets special, which reveals Timmy's birthday actually is the same as Chip Skylark's, meaning Timmy was right all along.
- There was no retcon; the joke was that his parents didn't know his birthday.
- The trope was initially inverted in "Birthday Bashed". Timmy became 13 and had to hide it from Jorgen to avoid losing his fairies. It became no easy task as it seemed his parents remembered and he had to get rid of anything they brought for the party. It was eventually revealed they were celebrating another thing and had really forgotten Timmy's birthday. That, among other things, was held by Jorgen as a reason to believe Timmy would still need fairies.
- An episode of Johnny Test had Dukey thinking Johnny had forgotten his birthday. As it turns out, he was just waiting until he got his present before he acknowladge it.
- In The World of Strawberry Shortcake (1980), some of her friends did forget Strawberry's birthday, but even she doesn't seem aware that it's her special day (to be fair, Strawberry's said to be turning six). Once they're reminded and start to arrange a party, they deliberately keep it a secret from her and turn down her lunch invitation so they can set it up; she thinks no one likes her anymore but is directed by the narrator to the party when he can't bear to see her that sad. Notably, this plot isn't the whole focus of the story, but instead sets up the circumstances that allow the evil Purple Pieman to force the kids to give him all their berries (he sells them a magic watering can they give to her as a gift -- it appears empty but generates water when you tip it. It's just that he's the only one who knows how to stop the flow...)
- Dragon Tales: Done with Ord's birthday in the first-season story "Ord's Unhappy Birthday"
- In an episode of Ka Blam!, Henry and June celebrate their birthdays (since they were drawn on the same day, they were celebrating theirs on the same day). June gets Henry a remote-controlled car, but Henry forgot June's birthday! He makes up for it in the end, though.
- The Flumphs: Happens in an episode of this UK pre-school stop-motion series. Unusually, we're shown it from the point of view of the rest of the family, trying desperately to conceal the truth from Grandpa Flumph. The educational purpose of the episode seemed to be explaining synonyms for "keeping a secret".
- On Total Drama World Tour, Cody is so used to people forgetting his birthday that he forgets it...but Sierra doesn't. Awwwww.
- God, the Devil and Bob: God forgets the Devil's birthday, and Bob ends up playing therapist to the two of them.
The Devil: I'm supposed to believe that he forgot my birthday? He's omniscient!
- Looney Tunes has a variation. Daffy Duck finds out mice are having a party to which he is not invited, and attempts to crash it... only to find out in the end it was a surprise party for his birthday, which he forgot about.
- In "Moe'N'a Lisa", an episode of The Simpsons, Homer forgets he made plans to take Moe fishing on his birthday. Moe is devastated until Lisa, who sees a rich artistic side to Moe, decides to write about him for school.
- Another episode briefly makes use of this trope.
Homer: I can't believe I'm being mocked ... by my own family ... on my birthday!
Bart: It's your birthday?
Homer: Yeah, don't you remember? It's the same day as the dog's.
Lisa:[gasps] Oh, Santa's Little Helper! It's your birthday?! We have to do something special! Yes we do!
Homer:[muttering] Stupid lovable mutt.
- My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic: Played with in "Party of One," Pinkie briefly loses it when the others have excuses not to attend her spur-of-the-moment party. It's only at the end that Pinkie realizes it's her own birthday, and the others had made plans to throw her a surprise party well in advance.
- American Dad had an episode called "1600 Candles" in which Roger anticipates his 1600th birthday only to have it preempted by Steve's shenanigans. Of course it has the obligatory 16 Candles scene.
- Kim Possible: After being freaked out and then downright terrified by Shego's moodulator-induced mood swings from giddiness to weeping to fury, Drakken works up the nerve to ask "Did I forget your birthday? Is that what this is about?"
- In an episode of The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Pooh (sticky with honey) accidentally pulls several pages off Rabbit's calendar, leading Rabbit to mistakenly believe it's his birthday and misinterpret his friends' activities as preparations for a surprise party. Angst ensues when he concludes they've forgotten, but fortunately there's a party on his actual birthday the next week.
- The short-lived English cartoon series The Pondles had an episode in which the main character, Pip, is led to believe that everyone had forgotten his birthday -- though Pip, when hints don't work, breaks tradition by actually telling everyone he meets what day it is. Whereupon they enthusiastically wish him a happy birthday but regret that they're too busy to celebrate it. Of course, what they're busy with is preparing his surprise party.
- Inverted in Scooby Doo on Zombie Island: Daphne apparently spent so much time getting ready for her talk show, she didn't realize her birthday had arrived until the other Mystery Inc. members showed up and surprised her.
- On the King of the Hill episode "Hank's Dirty Laundry," Bobby assumes his parents are buying him a birthday present while shopping for a dryer. (His birthday is a month away.) He later, on a different day, assumes his birthday party is that day. (It isn't.) He bemoans to Luanne that he "can't believe my parents forgot my birthday." Luanne says that "they've still got a whole month to remember." Hank and Peggy's new dryer is then delivered and Bobby believes it his birthday present and loves it.
- Another episode has Dale buy a weather balloon. Bill asks if it is his birthday. Hank corrects him, but only to realize his birthday was in fact last week. He first apologizes before wishing him a "happy belated birthday".
- One episode of South Park had a Christmas episode spent convincing everyone to remember all the good things about Christmas, like gift giving and being with family. The credits had a cut to Jesus, sitting all alone, sadly singing "Happy birthday to me..."
- Happened to both Yogi Bear and Ranger Smith at different times.
- Roger Ramjet had one. By the end, the American Eagles kids surprised Roger during a nap that scared him to jump out the window. Everybody came to the surprise party even his arch-rival Lance Crossfire, and his arch-nemeses Noodles Romanoff and the No-Goods who rigged his birthday cake to explode on Ramjet, harmlessly, because Ramjet's birthday also falls on April Fools' Day.
- A Pup Named Scooby Doo: In one episode, the gang questioned a suspect about a letter and he said it was an apology letter to his mother and he was asked if it was for forgetting her birthday. It wasn't.
- ↑ Well it certainly wouldn't have been in character for He-Man to do so, though it would have been far more entertaining.