French Friday: Living the Year in Which You Were Born

On the morning of his birthday my husband woke up announcing that this was an exceptional birthday since he was the age of the year in which he was born, an event that could only happen once in a lifetime. And maybe not for everyone, he added, already calculating. Anything about math puts him in a good mood. I’m the other way around. But you know what we say about the irresistible attraction between opposites?

By the time the smell of fresh coffee, golden biscuits, and breakfast quiche – birthdays call for special treats – wafted through the house, my husband had already asked our friend Google for more information.

“So,” he said, reading from his phone, “I’m celebrating my Beddian birthday.”

“Your what?”

“Beddian. When your age matches the last digits of your birth year.”

“But, why Beddian?”

“This is a pretty cool story. Sad too. Still cool.”

And cool it is. Sad too.

In 2007 an artist who had also some interest for math was walking her grandkids in Manhattan. As often, she stopped by the neighborhing firestation, so the kids could admire the fire trucks. That day, Bobby Beddia, one of the firemen, announced that today was a very special day since he was turning the age of the year in which he was born, adding it could only happen once. The artist had never paid attention to the possibility and told the fireman that he should contact a mathematician to share his discovery. In fact she was already planning to approach one of her friends and surprise the fireman with the idea. Unfortunately, a few hours later Beddia and another fireman died extinguishing a fire, near Ground Zero. To honor his memory the woman continued her investigation. The result is a theorem called the Beddian theorem.

As I said les maths et moi ça fait deux or maths and me make two. So this is what I remember after reading the theorem: A Beddian Birthday can only fall in an even-numbered year and doesn’t happen to everyone of us.

My husband being my husband was very much into this Beddian theorem and called our kids to inform them about their own Beddian birthdays. The sad part, I realized, is that we won’t be with them to celebrate. The saddest part is that maybe they won’t even still be alive.

For the complete story about the Beddian theorem, the Beddian birthday, and of course fireman Bobby Beddia, read this 2007 article in the New Yorker. It’s the first article written on the topic. It’s short, compelling, totally worth reading.

Neither my husband nor I had ever heard of a Beddian birthday until now. When I searched for a potential photo to illustrate this blog post, however, I bumped into this greeting cards website.

Even young kids can celebrate Beddian birthdays

The American website Zazzle makes Beddian T-shirts and has a French version, although the message on the T-shirt is in English and the event doesn’t seem to be particulary celebrated in my native land.

Mes amis français, célébrez-vous? Et si oui, comment appelez-vous cet unique anniversaire?

At home, Beddian birthday or not, I had already planned a day of cooking and baking anyway, so all was good.

My husband has still time to prepare my own.


Did you know about the Beddian theorem?

Have you already celebrated your Beddian birthday?

Is there a chance you will?




%d bloggers like this: