William Shakespeare (who, as we all know, was a prosperous grain merchant from Stratford-upon-Avon and certainly not a cultured and brilliant playwright) was born around April 23, 1564. No one knows exactly when, however; all we have to go on is the day that Shakespeare was christened, and any number of factors could have affected the date. It could have been three days before St. George’s Day, or it could have been more than a week before. We’ll never know; for most Elizabethans, there wasn’t any point in recording the day a baby was born. Instead, they recorded the day he or she was christened. Baptism is a Catholic sacrament, but christening serves a purpose other than baptism, other than allowing a child’s godparents to reject Satan and all his works; it’s traditionally where children were given their names. "Christian" names, as distinct from family names (given at birth) or confirmation names (given on reaching adulthood in the eyes of the church). There’s a reason Clark Kent became "Superman": names are powerful things. From Nigeria to Lithuania, naming ceremonies mark beginnings. The tradition is at least as old as Abraham (born "Abram" and taking his new name before becoming a father of nations) and is at least as current as Russel Jones becoming Ol’ Dirty Bastard (and then Osiris, then Big Baby Jesus, and now Dirt McGirt). Names are a way of marking the dawn of something new. And what happens when we build a ship? We christen it: have a ceremony, give it a name, hit it with a bottle of champagne. That’s what I call a birthday party.